CINCINNATI — Baker Mayfield likes Paul Browns Stadium, for some reason.
He did it as a rookie, he did it last year in the final 11 seconds of the game, and he did it all day long Sunday as the Browns finally put together a complete game, just in the nick of time.
It might be a season-saver, as it gets them back over .500 at 5-4. But when you consider the week that was — post-Steelers loss, Odell Beckham Jr. drama, concerns over whether the Browns would be mentally ready to play — it was just dominating, and it started early.
You know, the Browns are a better football team when Denzel Ward is healthy and playing, and he came up with the play of the game. With Cincinnati about ready to take a 7-0 lead on the opening drive, Joe Burrow threw a ball to the 1-yard line, Denzel Ward stepped in front of it, picked it off, and went 99 yards for a touchdown. Cleveland would play from the lead the rest of the game.
They have been looking for explosive plays, and on this day, they got them. Besides the Ward pick-six, there was a 70-yard run by Nick Chubb that kind of padded the lead in the second half. Before that, a 60-yard touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield to Donovan Peoples-Jones that was perfectly thrown. All were huge.
We've been wondering about the defense because of the sub-par play despute the large price tag and signing bonuses and free agents. The defense finally came up with turnovers and sacks, with three of the latter belonging to charging corner Troy Hill. They added two interceptions and a fumble, and when you match that with the Browns' offense, it is a recipe to win anywhere, even in the AFC North.
Now, the Browns have chosen the path where this gets difficult: Trying to turn this season around on the road. The win today is big, but now a huge game is coming up next week, because all of a sudden, the New England Patriots are getting very good, very fast. They won again today, and it's never easy to beat Bill Belichick and the Pats in Foxboro, whether he has Tom Brady or not.
So that's where we are next week, but sit back and enjoy this one, because the Browns are complete again. That team that we loved in the second half of the season last year — and were wondering where it had gone — was back, and at the place where a couple of times in the early past they had ignited themselves: Right here in Cincinnati.
The Browns are back in the race in the AFC North. Now, it's off to New England.
Listen to Jimmy's best calls from today's game:
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