CLEVELAND — Deep breaths, people.
After a trying (short) week, the Browns are back in the win column, doing so in grand fashion against the hated Steelers 29-17 on "Thursday Night Football." Pittsburgh tried to make things interesting at the end, but unlike last week, Cleveland finished the job.
Jacoby Brissett proved to be the emotional leader, completing 21-of-31 throws for 220 yards and two touchdowns to go with a stellar 109.6 passer rating. Helping him out was the tandem of receiver Amari Cooper and tight end David Njoku, who combined for 16 catches for 190 yards and both of those scores. It was Cooper's second consecutive 100-yard game.
The defense got off to a poor start, allowing 197 yards in the first half of play. But the Steelers (1-2) could not find the end zone in the second half and ammased just 54 yards during that time, with QB and Mentor native Mitch Trubisky struggling and the Browns' pass rush finally coming to life. Denzel Ward, who had taken much of the blame for the Week 2 collapse against the Jets, even added the finishing touch by recovering a fumbled lateral for a touchdown as time expired.
The Browns are now 2-1 for the third consecutive season, and will head to Atlanta next week to take on the Falcons. The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show has your instant reaction from tonight's game:
Meanwhile, 3News' Tyler Carey has some final observations:
1. Brissett takes charge
He may not have the raw talent of Deshaun Watson, but Jacoby Brissett continues to prove himself as a very capable quarterback. The veteran seemingly marched the Browns to victory with some huge throws on third-and-long did a great job getting the ball to his top targets, with Amari Cooper and David Njoku each catching TDs. By the way, he might be the best of all time when it comes to running the QB sneak.
2. 'The Chief' reigns
After two inconsequential games, David Njoku finally showed why the Browns gave him that big contract. The sixth-year tight end was integral to the offense, catching nine passes for 89 yards. His 7-yard TD grab was a thing of beauty, as he lept in the air, hung on, and stayed in bounds despite taking a shot from a defender.
3. Grading the defense
All eyes have been on the defensive unit ever since last week's debacle, and it was definitely a tale of two halves on this night. The results were poor in the first, with Mentor native Mitch Trubisky taking advantage of the lack of a sustained pass rush to make some impressive throws. He even ran one in for a touchdown on his own.
But in the second half, things were a lot more refined, and you didn't see any of the "miscommunication" that plagued the Browns in previous weeks. The secondary managed to give the Steeler receivers fits, and the blitz finally had Trubisky off balance, with Jacob Phillips in particular coming up with an important third-down sack.
Things still need to be cleaned up (197 first-half yards were way too many), but this is a refreshing first step.
4. Kicking is (mostly) clutch
It looked like the special teams woes would continue, especially early on when a deflected Corey Bojorquez punt traveled just 25 yards and gave the Steelers great field position. Cade York also missed his second extra point in as many games, and that was the difference with the Browns trailing 14-13 at the break.
Fortunately, the rookie kicker was able to clear his head and boot an important 34-yard field goal that gave Cleveland a lead it would not relinquish, and Bojorquez would later help pin the Steelers back with a couple of solid punts. Credit to both for settling down and delivering when needed.
I'm not going to mention the stressful onside kick attempt... They kept the ball and won the game. That's what matters.