CLEVELAND — The Browns are 8-3, but it was not easy getting to that mark.
You would think it would be, taking on a team like Jacksonville that came into the game at 1-9 and ravaged with injuries and breakouts of COVID-19. But Mike Glennon, a veteran quarterback, came in to steady the ship and kept them in the ballgame. He darn near pulled the game out, but the Browns hang on (and I emphasize "hang on") and win, 27-25.
On the bright spot, Nick Chubb once again had an amazing game. That Browns running attack of Chubb and Kareem Hunt really got into synch in the second half, just like so many of the other victories this year. Once it gets rolling, it really does so many great things for this offense.
But the Browns also finally got their passing game going. Remember, the last three games they had been weathered down, unable to throw the ball because of the poor conditions off Lake Erie. That was not the case in sunny 70 degrees in Jacksonville.
Baker Mayfield threw for over 250 yards. He was 19-for-29 in the game, threw a couple of touchdown passes as well, and no interceptions. But here's the hitch: Mayfield missed some easy throws that would've made this game a blowout, including "Hollywood" Higgins in the end zone, Jarvis Landry in the end zone, Kareem Hunt on a critical third down play, and some other short passes that he just blistered in there when he needed more touch.
If Mayfield doesn't overthink it or overcook it, good things will happen. He must get better at that, although he did play a strong game when he needed to, making some superb throws along the way.
Now to Jarvis Landry. We've been worried about him; he's been really vacant most of the season, especially after fracturing those ribs early in the Indianapolis game. Well, he was tremendous today, with way over 100 yards receiving. He had eight big catches, and some of them were really clutch, with him pulling balls away from Jacksonville defenders, running after the catch, and yes, recording his first touchdown of the season.
But when it was dicey (and believe me, it got dicey in the fourth quarter), the Browns called on the guy they always call on, and that's Nick Chubb.
Chubb had 100 yards rushing just in the second half, with over 140 in the game to go with a key touchdown. However, it was a reception that finally got the Browns to the finish line.
On a 3rd-down-and-12, with the probability that the Jaguars were going to get the ball back, Mayfield just put the ball out on the left flat on a screen pass. Chubb got a block from Joel Bitonio, and then the rest of the way it was all Chubb for a first down to carry Cleveland into victory formation.
In spite of their impressive record, the Browns are going to need help defensively down the stretch, beginning next week in Tennessee. Boy, they need Myles Garrett back. They got by the Eagles last week, but it was tough playing Jacksonville without him as well as Sione Takitaki and Denzel Ward.
Fortunately, Garrett looks like he might be able to go next Sunday in what now becomes the biggest game of the year, when the Browns take on a very, very good Titans team. They'll both come to Nashville at 8-3.
It was a white-knuckler, but the Browns are that much closer to...the playoffs.