As we’ve written in this space before, the Browns are built to win ugly; we just didn’t expect one of those ugly wins to come against the NFL’s worst team, but football is a funny game sometimes. On a day when Baker Mayfield looked uncomfortable and the Browns’ run defense struggled in the second half, running back Nick Chubb put the Browns on his back and helped close out the scrappy Detroit Lions in the fourth quarter. Before the Browns head to Baltimore to take on the Ravens in a primetime game, here are our five takeaways from the ugly win.
Nick Chubb showed his importance (again).
Much like last year’s 10-7 win over the Houston Texans, Sunday’s win shows the importance of Nick Chubb and the Browns’ offensive line. With the weather whipping and Baker Mayfield inefficient, head coach Kevin Stefanski went run heavy in the second half, with Chubb totaling 92 of his 130 rushing yards in the second half. After the offense failed to get much going on the ground last week in Chubb’s absence, Cleveland’s bell-cow back picked up where he left off this week.
Dan Campbell coached like he was scared.
Detroit’s last two drives were the perfect examples of how Campbell’s coaching philosophies differs from Stefanski’s. With 9:07 left in the fourth quarter and the Browns clinging to a 13-7 lead, the head coach elected to kick a field goal on a 4th and one at Cleveland’s 25-yard-line as opposed to rolling the dice on fourth down — on a day when Lions were rushing for more than seven yards a pop, no less. On Detroit’s ensuing drive, Campbell once again waved the white flag and elected to punt on 4th and nine at their own 41-yard-line despite only needing only a field goal for a tie. Twice, Campbell displayed an apathy of winning despite his team not having a win on the season.
Baker Mayfield's health concerns continue to grow.
Prior to kickoff, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported that Mayfield, along with having a torn labrum in his left shoulder, is also dealing with a previously unreported bone bruise in his left knee and a bruised heel. It looked like it Sunday, as Mayfield finished 15-for-29 passing for 179 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. At one point at the end of the third quarter, backup Case Keenum started warming up on the sidelines after Mayfield limped off the field on third down, but Keenum never ended up coming in. With two season-defining matchups coming against the Baltimore Ravens and its tenacious defense, Mayfield will need to play better if the Browns want to stay in the hunt for the AFC East.
Stefanski made a great decision getting Jarvis Landry involved in a different way.
Mayfield’s inconsistency in finding wide receivers has been one of the more head-scratching storylines surrounding the Browns this year. With that in mind, Stefanski earns some kudos for opening the second quarter with a trick play that resulted in Landry rushing for a 16-yard touchdown on a broken pass play. After taking a direct snap, Landry looked downfield for a throw before breaking loose down the middle for the touchdown run. Injuries and Mayfield’s inconsistency have limited Landry to 245 yards receiving, so good on Stefanski for making sure he got the ball into the hands of one of his key playmakers. Landry ran for a touchdown pass and Chubb caught a touchdown pass. Football is a weird game sometimes.
The Browns' work is cut out for them.
With the Ravens beating the Chicago Bears late, the Cincinnati Bengals blowing out the Oakland Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers losing the San Diego Chargers, the Browns moved into third in the competitive (but mediocre) AFC North. With two games in a row against the Ravens coming up, the future of the Browns season is in front of them. While a sweep is obviously the best-case scenario, a split doesn’t necessarily mean the Browns are out of the race for the division title — it just leaves them with no margin for error. With a bye week in between those matchups against the Ravens, keeping Mayfield healthy next week should be just as important as picking up a win in Baltimore.