CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns took on the Cincinnati Bengals in the Battle of Ohio, and it was a hard-fought effort by Cleveland under prime-time lights. The defense, riddled with injuries, struggled—and will be an issue the Browns will want to address sooner than later—but for the first time in a long time, the offense seemed to click.
It was easy to be discouraged after Sunday’s game against the Ravens. They looked atrocious. But patience is a virtue and the Browns may have set an offensive tone for the rest of the season in the 35-30 win over Cincinnati on Thursday night.
What went right?
“Everything” might be a sufficient answer to that question, but there are specifics that should be addressed.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski’s offense, which brought the promise of fluid play action and a scheme perfectly fit for quarterback Baker Mayfield, got a chance to shine against the Bengals. In Cleveland’s first possession, Stefanski called back-to-back play-action roll-outs that left Mayfield looking like the rookie version of himself in the best possible way.
Mayfield’s offseason body transformation showed its value as he looked speedy and mobile in the pocket.
The success Mayfield had more than makes up for the late interception thrown in the fourth quarter on a bad read. Now is not the time to make mountains out of molehills and progress comes in fits and starts, so Mayfield’s pick gets a pass tonight.
Odell Beckham Jr. was able to get involved early, and Mayfield found him deep for a 43-yard touchdown bomb. Mayfield split the ball well between a plethora of offensive weapons, utilizing Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, KhaDarel Hodge and most importantly, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Mayfield’s ability to divvy up the passes helped his solid outing, completing 16 of his 23 attempts for 218 yards.
Chubb, who is—and should be—the focal point of the Browns offense, ran for 125 yards in his 22 carries and scored two of Cleveland’s five touchdowns.
Chubb was complemented in the backfield by Kareem Hunt, who ran for 86 yards on 10 carries and racked up 15 more receiving yards, scoring two touchdowns of his own.
The Browns backfield is dangerous and Stefanski showcased what happens when you rely heavily on the run game with such weapons as the Chubb-Hunt duo.
Thursday night’s victory against the Bengals should serve to solidify the Browns’ identity.
Dedication to the run game is exactly what was missing last season.
Yes, the Browns played the Bengals led by a rookie quarterback (Joe Burrow is going to be good, by the way), but Thursday night’s win should be something the team takes with them as they move forward in the season.
Washington, watch out, the Browns may have just found themselves.
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.