Exhale, Cleveland. Sure, there were parts of Sunday’s win 31-21 win over the Houston Texans that were infuriating, frustrating and even a little scary, but the Cleveland Browns did what they were supposed to do: beat a team that they’re much better than. For the past two years,
the Browns have had a tendency to play down at their opponent’s level. For two quarters on Sunday, they did. But then they didn’t. With a hurt quarterback, two star playmakers down and a linebacker unit that looked like
a triage ward, the Browns buckled down in the second half and held the Texans in check. Sure, some of that aligned with the Texans having to go to a rookie quarterback, but that’s football. Here are our main takeaways from the first win of the
The Browns are built to win ugly. For most teams, being without their top two receivers (along with having a key offensive lineman hobbled) would be a death kneel. For the Browns, it’s just another day the office. While the
losses of Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and the hobbling of Jedrick Wills Jr. were obviously felt, the Browns’ identity is built around power running and play-action deception, two things that helped Cleveland pull ahead in the second half
on Sunday. So long as the Browns’ offensive line continues to push the run game to new heights (the Browns totaled for 156 yards and three touchdowns on the ground as a team), Cleveland’s play action will always be dangerous, no matter
who’s running routes.
Tight ends (and offensive depth) are important. That said, I’m sure the Browns wouldn’t mind if some of those crucial pieces got healthy. After Beckham was named inactive for the second straight week, Landry suffered a knee injury on Cleveland’s opening drive and sat out the rest of the game, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting the Browns fear it was a sprained MCL. In his postgame press conference, Coach Kevin Stefanski confirmed it was a knee injury and said that Landry was getting an MRI on Monday. That left Anthony Schwartz, Donovan People-Jones and Rashard Higgins as the lone healthy receivers, a trio that combined for three catches for 41 yards. Without those targets, Baker Mayfield leaned heavily on the Browns talented tight end trio of Austin Hooper (four catches for 49 yards), Harrison Bryant (five catches for 40 yards) and David Njoku (two catches for 18 yards). If Landry is out for an extended period of time, look for the Browns to call up Ja'Marcus Bradley from the practice squad, along with looking outside the team for help.
Demetric Felton and Grant Delpit showed their stuff. Two Browns youngsters made their presence known in their first extended looks at action. After missing all of last season with an Achilles tendon tear, Delpit made his NFL debut against
the Texans. And boy did he impress. The second-year safety from LSU had five total tackles, one of which was for a loss, to go along with a sack and forced fumble. With Ronnie Harrison and John Johnson locked in as starters at safety, Stefanski and
defensive coordinator Joe Woods can work Delpit back into action. While Sunday wasn’t Felton’s NFL debut, his lone touch against the Kansas City Chiefs last week came on a four-yard punt return. He introduced himself to the NFL Sunday, as he broke a 14-14 tie with
a jaw-dropping 33-yard touchdown where he turned into a human pinball. If you haven’t seen it, look below. It might be the run of the year thus far.
Felton was a star in the preseason, and nothing he did Sunday did anything to stop that star from burning any brighter. While he’s listed as a running back, Felton can play all over the Sunday.
Why so little Chubb? Nick Chubb had another solid day running the ball, finishing with 95 yards rushing, 26 of which came on the game-clinching touchdown run. That said, Chubb only carried the ball 11 times, the second-most on the
team behind Kareem Hunt’s 13, a number that seems even more puzzling considering the Browns were down their top two receivers. It’s not like Cleveland ran an air raid offense on Sunday (Mayfield only threw the ball 21 times), but it was
interested to see Hunt out carry Chubb.
Baker put together a solid effort. After ending the loss to the Chiefs with a nail-in-the-coffin interception, it was important that Mayfield came out and put together a solid game against a subpar defense. And he did. After throwing an early interception (where he injured his shoulder on the subsequent tackle), Mayfield went a perfect 10-for-10 passing for 100 yards and a touchdown to go along with a rushing touchdown. Mayfield has been on another level to start the year, going 40-for-49 (81.6%) for 534 yards. That's the best completion percentage in the NFL. Aside from the aforementioned interception last week, Mayfield has looked the part of a franchise quarterback through two games this year.