Shield Talk: Browns win first game since 2016


Brent Jansen, Columnist




Open the coolers, Cleveland, the Browns’ winless streak has ended. After a brutal 635 days without a win, the Cleveland Browns have finally won a game. It felt as if Cleveland won the Super Bowl the way the victory was celebrated. So, let’s break down how it all happened.

The game started like many Cleveland games of late: down 14-0 in the second quarter to the New York Jets at home. Tyrod Taylor started the game for the Browns, as he had for the past two weeks. Taylor underperformed, completing only 4 of his 14 passes for 19 yards. The crowd began booing Taylor and chanting for Cleveland’s savior: Baker Mayfield.

Baker Mayfield’s story is a sports fairy tale. Mayfield was a walk-on at Texas Tech and won the starting QB job. Mayfield then transferred to Oklahoma University and was again a walk-on QB. Mayfield won the starting position and 34 of his 40 games. Mayfield went on to win the Heisman Trophy and eventually was drafted first overall in the 2018 draft by the Cleveland Browns.

Mayfield’s charisma and charm made him a fan favorite in Cleveland, but veteran QB Tyrod Taylor won the job during a well-documented training camp, thanks to HBO’s Hard Knocks. Mayfield stayed on the sidelines and waited patiently, and Thursday night, his moment finally came.

With three minutes left in the first half, Tyrod Taylor was sacked on a third down and went into concussion protocol. Mayfield entered the game on the Browns next drive and got them down the field for a field goal to make the score 14-3 at halftime.

The Browns started the second half with a strong drive that stalled out to a punt. Thanks to a Jets’ turnover, the Browns were able to score another field goal to make the score 14-6. The Browns’ scored on their next offensive possession thanks to a strong drive led by Mayfield. The Browns’ went for a two-point conversion and failed, but thanks to a penalty by the Jets’ they got a second shot.

The Browns’ second attempt looked very familiar. Cleveland ran the Philly Special, made popular by the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. Cleveland wide receiver Jarvis Landry threw a beautiful pass to Baker Mayfield to tie the game 14-14.

The Jets’ answered with a field goal, putting them up by 3 points. The Browns’ next drive ended in a touchdown thanks to Mayfield, who threw for 60 yards on the drive. The crowd at the stadium roared in celebration when Browns’ rookie kicker Greg Joseph made the extra point. The Browns’ first two games of the season were lost/tied due to a poor kicking performance by then kicker Zane Gonzalez.

With two minutes left, Jets’ rookie QB Sam Darnold was unable to mount a comeback drive, throwing two interceptions. The final score was 21-17. Baker Mayfield completed 17 of his 23 passes for 201 yards. Mayfield also ended the game with a 94.9 QBR (compared to Taylor’s 5.6).

What does this win mean for Cleveland?

For the fans of Cleveland, this win means everything. Cleveland has lost in many creative ways for the past 635 days. It has driven away casual fans and agonized the true fans for almost two years. Missed field goals, blown leads, and even a kick-six, Cleveland fans have been abused. So for a city of dedicated fans, this win feels like a championship.

For the Cleveland Browns’ players, this win means confidence. It sounds obvious, but in sports, winners win because they have a winning mentality. Winners enter games with the confidence to win. For the past two years, Cleveland has entered games with the mentality of hoping not to lose. Clearly, that hasn’t won them many games. One, to be exact. So to the players, this win gives the confidence to win again.

For Baker Mayfield, this win may mean a starting job. It is still unclear whether the Browns will start Mayfield next week instead of Tyrod Taylor. It is clear who the fans want to start, and it is clear what the stats show; Mayfield is the guy.

For head coach Hue Jackson, this win means NOTHING. Jackson was already in the hot seat after going 0-16 last season. As Cleveland’s head coach, Hue Jackson’s record is 2-32-1. It took Hue Jackson 635 days to get two wins, a feat that seven teams have done in two weeks. A head coaches job, put very simply, is to win games. And Hue Jackson has proven to be unable to do that. So while a win absolutely feels good, this doesn’t mean Hue Jackson is out of the hot seat.

The Browns play the Raiders next week. But for now, enjoy the win Cleveland. It’s long overdue.