CLEVELAND — The Browns do it again. Win No. 9 on the season.
If you've been saying, "Yeah, they're having a great year, but who have they beaten?" well on this afternoon they took on a team that was in first place in its division in the Tennessee Titans, a team that matched them in record coming in. The Browns took them apart, especially in the first half.
Cleveland put up an historic performance in the first two quarters, scoring on all six of their possessions, including the last five into the end zone for touchdowns. Baker Mayfield threw four TD passes combined in those quarters alone, and the Browns set a franchise record for most points scored before intermission (38).
But in the second half, the Browns kind of did what they did in Dallas way back in Week 4. On this day, they had a 38-7 lead at the break and had the Titans put away, but let them get back up off the deck and inch very, very close. It got a little uncomfortable at the end of the game, but it concluded with a 41-35 win for Cleveland.
Offensively, you've never seen the Browns any better than they were in the first half. Mayfield was piping hot, delivering the ball to nine different receivers (even offensive lineman Kendall Lamm caught a touchdown pass). Jarvis Landry was back in the end zone, Donovan Peoples-Jones caught a 75-yard hookup, Rashard Higgins caught a touchdown pass, and Nick Chubb went over the top and vaulted in for a score as well.
Yet in the second half, the Browns did something they really haven't done all year long: They committed a lot of penalties that kept their defense out on the field for extended possessions by Tennessee.
The Titans scored two quick touchdowns in the third quarter, enough to make you start to get a little queasy. Then in the late stages of the game, the Browns had to recover two onside kicks to finally win the game.
It got dicey, but listen, in December, on the road, and against a very good team, the Browns came through with an incredible performance. This magical season still has a lot of magic left in it.
Cleveland is 9-3. "Destination: Playoffs" is even closer within their reach. Now they wait for a week from Monday, when they take on the Baltimore Ravens back at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Browns continue to impress everybody, but you know Kevin Stefanski will have coaching points after this one: "Guys, we have to cut down on the penalties, and we can't let a team get off the deck and back into the game. At some point, that could come back and burn us."
They were the best team in the NFL in the first half; in the second half, they kind of wiggled and wobbled their way to the finish line. But in the end, the Browns win, and this incredible year marches on.
9-3 the record, certainly right in the thick of a wild card playoff spot, with a chance to potentially deliver a knockout punch a week from Monday against the Ravens. Who knows what Baltimore's condition will be for that game.
For the moment, what a win in Nashville, and the Browns roll on. They're good at home, and now they're good on the road. They're just plain "good."