ANALYSIS: After over 1,000 days, Browns take a Sunday win

Jake Adams headshot

Jake Adams

It had been 1,029 days since the Cleveland Browns have won a game on Sunday. 

That changed this week when the Browns won a crucial divisional game against the Baltimore Ravens, and improved to 2-2-1.

It’s hard to imagine this, but the Browns are third in the AFC North, above the Steelers. Depending on how the season pans out, that week 1 tie could be crucial for either team. (Yes, we are talking about the Browns being contenders.)

Quarterback Baker Mayfield played an excellent game, as he passed with 58 percent completion, threw a touchdown and an interception. He also orchestrated the game-winning drive in overtime.

Greg Joseph had a tough day kicking, a continuing theme for this Browns team that could be undefeated with better special teams. Regardless, Joseph hit the most important one in overtime, even if it was a knuckleball 37-yard field goal.

The game was a barn burner, with only one touchdown scored by Rashard Higgins from a Mayfield pass. The rest of the scoring came from field goals. The afternoon was a roller coaster of emotions, which Browns fans have to be used to, considering they have won, lost and tied in overtime this year already.

All of these extra minutes could be problems as the team approaches the second half of the season. We saw wide receiver Rashard Higgins leave the game, at a position that is somewhat thin. Yes, the wide receiver corps is headlined by one of the best in the league in Jarvis Landry; however, the position has question marks beyond him.

Antonio Callaway is on a snap count after hamstring problems, and also has dropped some key passes this year. Undrafted rookie Derrick Willies filled in well for the injured Higgins but has limited first team reps.

The Browns have tried to combat this with the signing of Rod Streater and, maybe, Rishard Matthews in the coming days. Still, both will need time to acclimat to the team.

On the ground, running backs Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson Jr. took the majority of carries for 98 yards. Nick Chubb cooled off from his record day last week with only two yards rushing.

It’s hard to give more carries to Chubb when you have two other great backs. Hyde’s power running and Johnson’s catching ability make for a great one-two punch.

The defense redeemed itself from a sloppy game in Oakland. Denzel Ward, who was criticized by experts for his high draft selection, has been a stud. He had an interception and a blocked field goal, which were huge plays for the rookie.

The pass rush was at Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco all day and left him restless in the pocket. The linebackers had a great performance stopping the run and pass. Jamie Collins Sr. had 12 tackles and a sack. Christian Kirksey had a dozen tackles too, and Joe Schobert ended with eight tackles and two important pass deflections.  

Now that Cleveland has all of the skeletons out of the closet, can this team make the jump to become competitive?

The winless streak on Sunday, and in general, is off their backs now. The special teams finally came through, in a sense, and they did not lose because of missed kicks.

The quarterback position is showing signs of being steady with Mayfield. Great defense and a steady run game also have checked boxes. The O-line is improving with time, and Mayfield is becoming more comfortable.

Is this the Browns team we have been waiting for for the past decade? It could perhaps be, but time will tell.

Jake Adams is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected]