Oh. My. Goodness. What a game that was! And if anyone chose to play Baker Mayfield in their fantasy lineups this week, I applaud each and every one of you.
“Game of the Week”-level play from both teams, and overall, a great, heart-pounding game from beginning to end.
The first quarter started off with the Bengals receiving the football and Joe Burrow continuing to look like he’s been a pro for years, executing intermediate routes to Mike Thomas and Tyler Boyd before arriving at the two-yard line. It looked as if it’d be an immediate touchdown, but the football was tipped at the line of scrimmage and Browns linebacker B.J. Goodson came down with the football.
Cleveland’s offense began at the three-yard line and started to establish the rushing attack, until Baker Mayfield took a shot downfield towards Odell Beckham, Jr. that was intercepted by Darius Phillips. OBJ was injured on the play, and would miss the rest of the game, unfortunately.
(Editor’s Note: Odell Beckham, Jr. will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL.)
After a phantom defensive pass interference call against Kevin Johnson, the Bengals offense lined up on the goal line and Burrow kept it himself for the first touchdown of the game. (Sorry, Giovani Bernard fantasy owners.)
The Browns offense would subsequently march down the field, but failed to get past midfield and had to punt. The Bengals offense, however, was stopped by Myles Garrett, who strip-sacked Burrow to give the Browns great field position. Cleveland bogged down and settled for a field goal as the first quarter ended, with Mayfield finishing only 0-of-5 for no yards and an interception… Not good.
The Bengals offense continued to move down the field, but was stopped in the red zone by a blitz from Kevin Johnson and settled for a field goal. The Browns finally realized that their offense started with Kareem Hunt, so they began feeding him the football more, along with a great pass to Jarvis Laundry to keep the drive moving. The drive ended with a pass to Harrison Bryant in the end zone and the Browns tied the game up before the two-minute warning.
Starting from the 25-yard line, the Bengals marched down the field using their time outs wisely, and with 15 seconds left before halftime, Joe Burrow threaded the needle for a touchdown to Tyler Boyd, ending the half with a 17-10 Bengals lead.
The Browns started the second half with the football and came out very aggressive. Multiple play-action passes to Harrison Bryant and Jarvis Landry complemented the run game a lot better than the first half, and another trip to the red zone ended with a touchdown grab by Bryant.
On the following drive, the Bengals ran more quick passing options, and then ran a good option play where they faked a screen to Boyd, who then passed it to Gio Bernard for a solid gain. Another red zone trip for Burrow and Co., and a second stalled Cincinnati drive resulted in a field goal after a fade pass towards A.J. Green was broken up by Denzel Ward.
The Browns began with the ball at their 20-yard line at the start of the fourth quarter. Methodically moving downfield, along with the help of a penalty or two, some clever bootlegs and play-action, Baker Mayfield’s third touchdown pass went to David Njoku, while completing his 15th-straight pass after beginning the game 0-of-5 — an extremely impressive turnaround for Mayfield.
Joe Burrow continued to remind everybody why he was the first-overall pick, as he spread the football around to multiple receivers, notably to Drew Sample, along with a run to convert a first down. After calling a timeout, the Bengals offense continued where it left off, and the drive finished after Tee Higgins caught a short pass, bouncing off multiple Browns defenders with minimal effort into the end zone.
How does Mayfield and Co. respond? With trickery, of course! The Browns called a trick pass where Baker Mayfield tossed it towards Jarvis Landry, who faked the end-around attempt and instead threw it downfield to Donovan Peoples-Jones for a first down. Another Mayfield completion, coupled with a few runs, finished the drive with a touchdown pass to Hunt. Like clockwork, however, the Bengals moved downfield in a hurry-up offense, and the defense gave up a third-down play on a quarterback draw going into the two-minute warning.
Tensions were extremely high at this point for every single Browns fan and player, but yet again, the defense didn’t hold up and on 4th-and-inches, as Joe Burrow passed to Gio Bernard in the flat for a touchdown.
The score was 34-31 with a minute left on the clock, a field goal away from a tie in regulation.
This is the situation I personally was afraid of Mayfield being thrust into.
Starting from their 25-yard line and no timeouts, the odds were not in the Browns’ favor. On the first play, Mayfield almost got sacked, but kept the drive alive with a great first-down pass, followed by a sideline catch to stop the clock. The next play, Mayfield took a deep shot down the sideline to Rashard Higgins for another first down into the red zone. After spiking the ball and stopping the clock, the Browns chose to take a chance or two before settling for a field goal.
With 11 seconds left on the clock, Mayfield threw an absolute DIME to the end zone, caught by Peoples-Jones for the touchdown. One of the most insane plays of the game, and of the entire week — and not even a missed PAT from Mr. Double Doink could change the pure level of excitement and adrenaline from that game.
The Browns pulled off a nail-biter win and swept the Bengals to move to 5-2 on the season. A great record and great look for a young team needing this bounce-back win to stay alive within the division.
(Featured Image Credit: ClevelandBrowns.com)