If the 2014 playoffs are any indication, however, a single division can still have three teams make the playoffs. We aren’t here for that blast from the past, though; we are here to talk about what exactly went right, what exactly went wrong, and honestly, WTF happened in this game.
What Went Right
Baker Mayfield, for three straight quarters, played exactly like the quarterback everybody expected and desired from Day 1.
Five touchdowns and 297 passing yards is honestly more than anyone expected from Mayfield, including myself. Regardless of the Bengals’ defense, a divisional matchup is always tougher, and after a bad first quarter, Mayfield stepped up and completed 21 straight passes and rallied a comeback.
Who allowed him to do such a thing? The offensive line, of course!
The guys in the trenches kept Mayfield safe, allowing zero sacks and rarely allowing any pressure, giving Mayfield all the time in the world. Kareem Hunt himself had over 100+ yards from scrimmage, filling in nicely for injured Nick Chubb, and being reliable as a three-down running back. The wide receivers stepped up after the Odell Beckham, Jr. injury (hoping for a speedy recovery), and ironically, on National Tight Ends Day, Mayfield chose to throw three of his five touchdowns to tight ends… what a guy.
Speaking of tight ends, rookie Harrison Bryant showed up big against the Bengals with his two scores on the day, and if he keeps it up, I’d be surprised if he’s anything but the starter, if not this year, then possibly next. David Njoku also made himself noticed with his touchdown catch, but seems to be slowly phased out of the starting lineup… a shame, honestly.
Not a lot went right for a Browns defense that allowed so many points, but credit where credit is due: B.J. Goodson practiced those tip drills and caught a tipped ball for an interception. Also, Myles Garrett continues to dominate and increase his chances of becoming the Defensive Player of the Year with two more sacks and another forced fumble against the Bengals.
What Went Wrong
The defense… excluding Garrett and Goodson.
In all seriousness, there is no excuse for the secondary and linebackers to allow 406 passing yards to a ROOKIE quarterback. Yes, I know I have mentioned Burrow is playing like he isn’t a rookie, but at the end of the day, he still is, and the Browns defense could not fully exploit his inexperience like the Baltimore Ravens defense did a few weeks ago. It’s a real shame to admit that as well, considering it’s a division rival.
Also, I did sing Baker’s praise about his performance for three quarters, but in the first quarter, he played horribly. Mayfield underthrew a pass for OBJ which ended in an interception and did not look right at all, giving the Bengals multiple chances to really get the game out of hand. Luckily, he did a full 180 and won the game, but still… this is the “what went wrong” part.
The lack of tackling on the defense also played a huge part on a few plays, but that’s starting to get nit-picky, and nobody likes that.
There are a few WTF moments in this game.
First and foremost, Jarvis Landry should be the backup quarterback moving forward. Kidding, but the Browns pulled off another trick play that resulted in a first down, and Landry again improves his career passer rating while continuing to be a great receiver for Mayfield.
Now, continuing the nice October/Halloween tradition of trick-or-treats, the Bengals pulled their own trick play with a fake receiver screen to Tyler Boyd, who then passed it to Giovani Bernard for a first down. Basically, both teams are doing everything possible to win.
Rashard Higgins is another WTF guy, as he caught all six of his targets for 110 yards and a touchdown?! I understand Landry and Beckham were the starters entering the game, but I think Higgins is proving that he deserves more reps, regardless of the OBJ injury.
Another WTF receiver is Donovan Peoples-Jones, who stepped up after the OBJ injury as well (drink to how many times I reference the injury), and made that insane game-winning catch to seal the victory.
This game was arguably one of the best games in Browns history within the last five years, minimum.
Overall, it was a good win by the Browns.
Like I mentioned in my Week 7 preview, I stated how this would be a good bounce-back game for Mayfield and company, and I was right… but I was almost wrong.
If the Browns fail to sign or trade for secondary help, this team is not going far into the playoffs, no matter what.
(Featured Image Credit: ClevelandBrowns.com)