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Holding firm: Tenacious defense leads Cleveland Browns to hard-fought 14-7 win over Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings got a touchdown on the opening drive, but never scored again.

MINNEAPOLIS — It will not go down as one of their prettiest performances, but a win is a win, especially on the road in the NFL.

The Browns earned a gutty 14-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings Sunday as the defense carried the team after a slow start on the opening drive. The front seven allowed just 65 rushing yards while the secondary held Kirk Cousins to a modest 52.6% completion rate, with John Johnson III batting down the quarterback's final pass as time expired.

The Vikings gained 75 yards on their first series, but only 180 the rest of the way. Star running back Dalvin Cook, returning after missing a week with a injury, was limited to only nine carries for 34 yards.

JIMMY'S TAKE: Browns' defense looks 'very, very special' after 3rd straight win

Despite getting burned on a few throws to Justin Jefferson, Denzel Ward was all over the place, deflecting a pass and teaming up with Myles Garrett for a sack. Malcolm Smith led the Browns with eight tackles (one for a loss), while Greedy Williams hauled in his first career interception.

On offense, Cleveland struggled to get much going all afternoon, especially with Baker Mayfield completing just 15 of 33 tosses for a paltry 59.5 passer rating. Fortunately, Nick Chubb tallied 100 yards rushing for the first time this year and Kareem Hunt added 69, including a 1-yard touchdown.

RELATED: Browns QB Baker Mayfield on his performance vs. Vikings: 'I don't know what the hell that was'

That score late in the first half, strangely, gave the Browns the lead, as Kevin Stefanski elected to go for two following a Minnesota penalty on the extra point attempt. Mayfield's subsequent pass to Andy Janovich, coupled with two long field goals by Chase McLaughlin, gave the Browns an all-important seven-point cushion.

The victory makes the Browns 3-1 for just the second time in the last 20 years. They'll head to the west coast next Sunday for a showdown with the up-and-coming Los Angeles Chargers.

What follows is a comprehensive, drive-by-drive recap of today's action, with the most recent plays and updates closest to the top. Stay tuned for updates and analysis all afternoon on 3News and WKYC.com.

4TH QUARTER

0:00: Kirk Cousins again marches the Vikings deep into Browns territory, but on the final play of the game from the 26-yard line, John Johnson III bats his pass away. Cleveland wins 14-7.

1:01: The Vikings burn two timeouts, but Baker Mayfield fails to hit a wide open Odell Beckham Jr. on third down. Jamie Gillan punts it only 34 yards to the 28, and the Vikings will have one last chance to tie it.

1:21: Kirk Cousins manages to get the Vikings all the way to the Browns 33 thanks to a great throw to Justin Jefferson, but on fourth-and-3, the Cleveland pass rush forces an incompletion. Cleveland takes over, hoping to run out the clock.

3:45: Following two first downs and two Baker Mayfield incompletions, the Browns are forced to punt for the fifth time this half. Jamie Gillan manages to pin the Vikings at their own 12-yard line.

6:05: Just like that, the Browns have the ball again at their own 21, as Greedy Williams picks off a deep Kirk Cousins pass. It's the first interception of his NFL career, which began back in 2019.

6:16 - Browns 14, Vikings 7: Odell Beckham Jr. hauls in a 24-yard reception (only his second catch of the day) and though the drive halts, Chase McLaughlin is able to make a 53-yard field goal to give the Browns a touchdown advantage.

10:00: The Browns' defense once again stands strong and forces a Vikings three-and-out. On the ensuing punt, Demetric Felton gets stuffed at the Cleveland 30.

11:22: Another Browns three-and-out, with Baker Mayfield again missing his receivers. Thankfully, Jamie Gillan bangs a 54-yard punt, and yet another flag on the return puts the Vikings at their own 18.

12:11: This time it's the Vikings' turn to drive into opposing territory, but they are again burned by a penalty, this time an offensive pass interference by K.J. Osborn. The flag pushed them out of possible field goal (or go for it) range and forces yet another punt, which Demetric Felton returns to the Browns 16.

Some bad news for Cleveland: Left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., who has been playing with a bad ankle since Week 1, had to be carted to the locker room and will not return. Safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. is also out with a concussion.

3RD QUARTER

1:12: The Browns drive into Minnesota territory, but on a third-down run, Baker Mayfield is ruled to be shy of the marker (even though replays show otherwise). Kevin Stefanski elects not to challenge and then a false start forces another Jamie Gillan punt, which pins the Vikings at their own 9-yard line.

5:30: The Vikings are aided by a controversial roughing the passer penalty and then appear to get a big gain on a pass to Justin Jefferson, but it's called back thanks to a holding flag. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah then tackles Alexander Mattison in the open field to force a punt, which goes out of bounds at the Browns 35.

6:42: The Browns get a couple of first downs on some nice runs, but on third-and-7 at midfield Baker Mayfield is pressured and underthrows Odell Beckham Jr. Jamie Gillan is again forced to punt, and his kick is fair-caught by Dede Westbrook at the Vikings 14.

10:41: Shades of a week ago against the Bears, as Takkarist McKinley breaks through and pummels Kirk Cousins to give the Browns their first sack of the afternoon. The three-and-out forces a Vikings punt, and Demetric Felton returns it to the Cleveland 23.

12:48: The Browns start the second half by going three-and-out, with Baker Mayfield getting sacked after failing to see a wide-open Demetric Felton. Dede Westbrook returns Jamie Gillan's punt to the Minnesota 30, where the Vikings' offense will begin.

2ND QUARTER

0:00: Chase McLaughlin's kickoff sails into the end zone and Kirk Cousins takes a knee, giving the Browns an 11-7 halftime advantage.

0:02 - Browns 11, Vikings 7: An intentional ground penalty seems to stall the Browns' drive, but on third-and-20, Kareem Hunt surprisingly takes a draw 33 yards into Minnesota territory. Following a Baker Mayfield strike to Rashard Higgins, Chase McLaughlin nails a 48-yard field goal to make it a four-point game.

0:56: The Vikings go three-and-out, and the Browns are able to save one of their timeouts and get the ball back. Demetric Felton returns the punt to the 36, giving Cleveland a chance to add to its lead.

1:16 - Browns 8, Vikings 7: The Browns burn more than eight minutes off the clock before running seven plays near the Minnesota goal line. Finally, Kareem Hunt punches it in from one yard out, but on the PAT attempt the Vikings try to call timeout despite not having any more. The delay of game penalty leads to Kevin Stefanski going from two from the 1, and Baker Mayfield finds a wide open Andy Janovich to put the Browns ahead.

9:55: After allowing a long pass to get the Vikings in field goal range, the Browns' defense holds and stops the Vikings on fourth down, with Denzel Ward deflecting Kirk Cousins' pass away. Cleveland gets the ball back at its own 36.

12:12: Now it's the Browns' turn to go three-and out, and unfortunately Jamie Gillan's punt only sails 33 yards. The Vikings will start on their own 30.

13:48: This time, the Browns' defense shows up, as pressure on Kirk Cousins forces a three-and-out. Demetric Felton returns Jordan Berry's 58-yard punt to the Browns 31.

14:49: The Browns put together their own time-consuming drive, but the ending isn't as fruitful. After Baker Mayfield misses a wide-open Kareem Hunt in the end zone, he is subsequently sacked by Everson Griffen on fourth down, and the Vikings take over at their own 17.

1ST QUARTER

7:26 - Vikings 7, Browns 0: In a 13-play drive that takes up more than half the opening quarter, the Vikings convert on two third downs and a fourth down as Kirk Cousins finds Justin Jefferson for a 12-yard touchdown.

PREGAME

Offensive linemen JC Tretter and Jedrick Wills Jr. as well as linebacker Sione Takitaki were all listed as questionable this week, but are expected to play. As previously reported, rookie cornerback Greg Newsome II is out with a calf injury.

Along with Newsome, the following Browns players are inactive:

  • OT Chris Hubbard
  • OG Michael Dunn
  • DT Tommy Togiai
  • DE Ifeadi Odenigbo