How Cleveland Browns got off to roaring 3-1 start in 2020 NFL season

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Should we be getting sucked into the Cleveland Browns again? They’re 3-1 for the first time in 19 years (don’t you long for the days of Butch Davis and Tim Couch?), and it’s hard to know if they can keep up the competence, particularly after giving up 566 yards in Dallas on Sunday. But maybe we should just enjoy it for however long it lasts. Cleveland 49, Dallas 38 was like a playground game—and it took playground plays to win it.

There was one play in the 12 games Sunday that took your breath away. It was the eighth play of the game in Dallas.

“I’ve had the play on my call sheet all season,” coach Kevin Stefanski said from his office post-game. “When I was making up the script for this game, I said, ‘I can’t let this game go by without calling it.’ I’ll tell you what we call it—if we call it again I’d have to change the name anyway.

“ ‘Bananas.’ “

“So you just call ‘Bananas?’ And everyone knows?” I asked.

“One word,” he said. “They all know.”

No score. Cleveland ball at the Dallas 37. Baker Mayfield took the snap under center, pitched to Nick Chubb flowing right, and here came Jarvis Landry split wide right coming back against the flow, and Chubb pitched to Landry reversing field to the left, and around the 45, Landry slowed and . . .


Landry let loose and fired a perfect spiral, 45 yards in the air, to a waiting Odell Beckham Jr. Question: Why isn’t there a pass in the game plan every week for Landry? He hadn’t thrown a ball in a game since a 63-yard completion in December 2018.

“Amazing arm, and he’s a lefty, which of course is rare,” Stefanski said. “I’ll tell you the amazing thing: Odell can throw it great too. And Odell can throw a great spiral either righty or lefty.”

Learn something new every day. The second playground play happened with Cleveland’s huge lead had been narrowed to 41-38 with four minutes left. At midfield, on the first play of a decisive series, Stefanski decided to play with fire. Another reverse. This time a run. “From my angle on the sidelines, I’m staring right at Aldon Smith, and he’s got a perfect line on Odell on the reverse,” Stefanski said. From left to right, here came Beckham, and Smith came in unblocked, and it looked like Smith was going to nail Beckham for a 13-yard loss, but Beckham quick-stepped to the right just out of Smith’s reach, and then turned upfield. The 50-yard touchdown, I’m guessing, had Beckham run a good 95 yards. But that won the game.

That’s a fun team to watch.

But Stefanski’s not going nuts yet. Three teams in the AFC North with three wins after four weeks, I reminded him. “And you’re one.”

“Honestly, I don’t ride the wave,” he said. “I stay pretty week to week. This was a good team win. We’re 3-1. But no one just wants to play one good quarter. Long way to go.”

Right attitude.

Read more in Peter King’s Football Morning in America.