CLEVELAND — The Browns outlasted the Cincinnati Bengals in a really exciting Thursday night game full of offense, hanging on to win 35-30.
These Bengals were tough, led by their rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, who plays like no rookie I have ever seen play the position this early in his career. He kept fighting back, but the Browns had the answer, and the answer is what the Browns are good at.
Yes, the Browns have flashy wide receivers, but they've also got great running backs. Offensive linemen love to run block, especially when they have a tandem like Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. They were the answer on this Thursday night.
Every time the game got a little bit tight or the Browns were in a little bit of trouble, they went back to the running game. At times, they should've stayed with the running game even a little bit more.
Chubb ran by the Bengals defense all night long for 124 yards. Then, when Cincinnati got a little bit tired, the Browns came in with fresh legs in Kareem Hunt, and he was all over the field. Each had two touchdowns, with the first to Hunt actually being through the air.
Baker Mayfield threw two touchdowns himself, and yes, the ball went to Odell Beckham Jr. He caught a beautiful 43-yard scoring pass that electrified the crowd of 6,000 that was just head over heals with the Browns offense on this night.
If I compliment the running backs, I have to compliment the offensive line, too. From Jedrick Wills Jr. at left tackle, Joel Bitonio at left guard, JC Tretter at center, Wyatt Teller at right guard, and Chris Hubbard in for the injured Jack Conklin at right tackle, all did a wonderful job, and Mayfield was not sacked all night long.
The Browns get their first win of the year, and the first win for their new head coach Kevin Stefanski. The team also avoided their first 0-2 start in three years.
While the offense was impressive, the defense is another story, and it's going to take time and the Browns need to get healthy. They did play hard all night, and came up with a big turnover on a fumble recovery inside the Bengals 1-yard line and turned that into a touchdown.
But if left on the field too long, the really struggles from being just undermanned. They have too many injuries, and they lost defensive end Adrian Clayborn tonight. Hopefully by the time they take on Washington a week from Sunday, the unit will be a little bit healthier.
The kicking game was fine, minus Cody Parkey sending one of his kickoffs out of bounds. He did not attempt a field goal, but made all five of his extra points.
If the story was the matchup between these two quarterbacks and the "Battle of Ohio" having Burrow on the Bengals and Mayfield on the Browns for years to come, it's in good hands. It's like the days of Esiason going up against Kosar.
It was wonderful to watch, and it was great to see the Browns come out on top and put the bad memory of last Sunday against Baltimore far away. They did what they needed to do; running the football is their specialty. Yes, they can throw it, but not too many teams can run it the way they can with Chubb and Hunt doing the carrying.