Published 1:18 AM EDT Sep 21, 2018
CLEVELAND — Baker Mayfield was unlocked from the bench and helped the Browns unlock free Bud Light for their thirsty fans as Cleveland overcame a two-touchdown deficit to defeat the New York Jets 21-17 on Thursday night, the franchise’s first win in 635 days.
The Browns' previous victory came on Dec. 24, 2016, when they beat the then-San Diego Chargers. They'd gone 0-18-1 in the interim, including the second 0-16 campaign in league history last year.
Mayfield, the top pick of the 2018 NFL draft, replaced concussed starter Tyrod Taylor before halftime — Cleveland was trailing 14-0 — and immediately ignited a stagnant offense in his regular-season debut. Mayfield was sharp and decisive all night, completing 17 of 23 passes for 201 yards. He connected on his first three NFL throws (for 47 yards), getting the Browns in position for a field goal before the half — and showed why the club made the surprising decision to take him No. 1 overall ahead of Jets counterpart Sam Darnold.
Mayfield even showed nifty hands, catching a two-point try from Jarvis Landry on a “Cleveland Special” type play to tie the game in the third quarter.
Given the lift he gave to the offense, the boost he gave to a crowd that groaned through Taylor’s first-half showing and the breakthrough in the win column, Cleveland coach Hue Jackson will be hard pressed to sit the rookie after vowing all spring and summer that Taylor would be the season-long starter.
"This crowd deserved to see that first win at home. And so that’s the thing I’m most proud of, we put it together for the fans at home," Mayfield said while on the NFL Network set following the game. "I felt the energy. That was an unbelievable feeling."
Free beer sprung from coolers around the city Thursday to celebrate the win, part of a Bud Light promotion.
Mr. Hyde: Cleveland running back Carlos Hyde successfully compartmentalized his personal life, fueling a Browns run game that began the night ranked fourth league-wide. As he was awaiting the birth of his child, Hyde consistently churned out large chunks of yardage on his way to a game-high 98 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner with 43 seconds left.
Jets grounded: Darnold had a poor performance. He looked fully in command at times but utterly failed to get the offense moving at others before throwing two mortal interceptions in the fourth quarter. The New York backs did a decent job picking up the slack as Bilal Powell (73 rushing yards) and Isaiah Crowell (2 rushing TDs) teamed up to keep New York in the game most of the night. However not the best look for Crowell, who played his first four seasons for Cleveland, after earning a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the second quarter after pretending to wipe his backside with the ball before launching it into the crowd.
- Mayfield makes sooner-than-expected NFL debut
- Jets' Crowell penalized for wiping butt with ball
- Browns debut new uniforms after years of waiting
Draft dividends: Mayfield wasn’t the only Browns rookie to make an impact. Corner Denzel Ward, who was drafted three spots after Mayfield, set up a field goal after stripping Jets receiver Robby Anderson and recovering the fumble in the third quarter. Antonio Callaway, who’s essentially replaced Josh Gordon as the Browns starting receiver opposite Landry, consistently threatened the defense with his deep speed. His impact wasn’t fully reflected by his four-catch, 20-yard stat line.
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