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Nick Camino commentary: Cleveland Browns back on track amid adversity with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots next on the lineup

3News’ Nick Camino impressed with Browns over the past week, but challenges remain in weeks ahead.

CLEVELAND — Editor's note: Video in the player at the top of this story was originally published after the Browns beat the Bengals on Nov. 7, 2021.

It was starting to feel like the old Cleveland Browns last week that die-hard fans know all too well -- no, not the Brian Sipe days or the glory years of Bernie Kosar, Kevin Mack, Ozzie Newsome and regular appearances in the AFC Championship Game.

Last week felt like an unfortunate familiar combination of Braylon Edwards, Eric Mangini, the winning (and losing) of introductory press conferences, Romeo Crennel, Pat Shurmur, a historic 0-16 season, Johnny Manziel trips to Las Vegas and Hue Jackson all bottled into a few days. And who could forget George Kokinis?

A nightmare, really.

Drama-filled days sparked by Odell Beckham Sr., social media posts calling out Baker Mayfield, the end of the OBJ era in Cleveland, questions about the quarterback position, more injuries and the potential to fall below .500 -- and even worse, 0-2 in the AFC North Division.

RELATED: Cleveland Browns sign All-Pro OG Wyatt Teller to 4-year contract extension

Credit: AP
Odell Beckham Sr. watches during the second half of an NFL football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Cleveland Browns Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

Football-wise, probably the most adversity faced since Kevin Stefanski took over as head coach of the team.

Yet unlike most Browns teams from 1999-2018, these Browns showed up on Sunday in Cincinnati in a big way when they needed it most. A season that felt as if it were on the brink, right back on track following a 41-16 drubbing of Joe Burrow and the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

A refreshing Browns defensive unit that flew to the football all afternoon, including a 99-yard pick-6 touchdown by Denzel Ward, quarterback sacks and constant pressure in the Bengals’ offensive backfield.

Credit: AP
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) scrambles during an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Cleveland. The Cardinals won 37-14. (AP Photo/David Richard)

RELATED: Cleveland Browns RBs Nick Chubb and Demetric Felton test positive for COVID-19; both players vaccinated

Mayfield zipping passes all over the field and never questioning his shoulder health as he went 14-of-21 through the air for 218 yards and two touchdowns. 

A ground attack, led by Nick Chubb, that rushed for 153 yards as a team and two touchdowns.

It was the Browns most complete game of the season and it came when they needed it most.

Next up: It’s the 5-4 New England Patriots. An identical record as the Browns. A team still in the shadow of the Tom Brady-era, yet maneuvering their way to a solid start with Bill Belichick still at the controls. A docket that includes four wins in their last five games, highlighted by a road victory at SoFi Stadium against the Los Angeles Chargers as well as an overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys and a 19-17 loss to Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Browns have never won a game at Gillette Stadium and have not won a road game in New England since 1992.

They will have their work cut out for them.

It’s hard to quantify Sunday’s matchup with the Patriots as a “must-win game” -- especially with the Detroit Lions awaiting next week -- but it sure would widen the margin of error for a Browns team that still has two showdowns with the Baltimore Ravens and fresh battles with the Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers.

RELATED: Mike Polk Jr.'s Take: OBJ leaving took the weight off the Cleveland Browns' shoulders

This week, more adversity has already struck for Cleveland. Chubb and Demetric Felton tested positive for COVID-19 and right now, with Kareem Hunt still on IR with a calf injury, the only healthy back appears to be D'Ernest Johnson who filled in so admirably the last time he was called upon in a featured role against the Denver Broncos in a Thursday Night Football Browns victory.

Perhaps with their backs against the wall once again, Sunday in Foxborough is when the team will shine again just like we watched in Cincinnati and remain in the win column.

If not, it’s right back to .500 at 5-5 on the season and the fear that maybe this team has taken a step or two backward from a year ago.