What I like about the Browns this morning:
Baker Mayfield was legit in a big game. I’ve been negative on Mayfield, particularly his inaccuracy downfield. He was marvelous on those deep balls Sunday in building a huge lead. His TD throws to Donovan Peoples-Jones (45 yards in the air) and Rashard Higgins (33) were both perfect. Forget the numbers, which were very good. This was about Mayfield hitting open receivers in stride, which is vital for the Browns down the stretch. Cleveland now is the fifth seed in the AFC at 9-3. Seeing that they might have to beat explosive teams like Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Kansas City—perhaps in that order—should they make the playoffs having a big-strike offense is almost essential to January success.
The mindset of a team not feeling too good about itself. Coach Kevin Stefanski has been maniacal about the “just go 1-0 this week” ethos, and the players are buying. Really, what else matters? “No one’s playing for stats,” defensive end Myles Garrett told me post-game. “We’re just looking to be 1-0 and to win the day. That’s not just Sundays, that’s every day in practice competing, making sure that we’re there with that one mission in mind. We just go out there and play. Not much thinking, just being out there playing.”
I don’t like the defense barely finishing the job, but credit to the D for holding Derrick Henry to 60 rushing yards. Cleveland got outscored 28-3 in the second half, but not letting Henry take over the game paid off. The assignment, Garrett said, was no arm-tackling but to “show up violently against him, and grab a body part. You gotta ride him and knock him to the ground. For the most part, we did a good job.”
Garrett (10 games, 10.5 sacks) made an effective return from two weeks gone with COVID-19. He had a sack and three tackles, though he didn’t feel a strong as he usually is. “Having COVID,” he said, “is a helpless feeling, and not only being helpless to help my team but being so weak, so tired. Just so sore, that I just don’t wanna move. My body’s just hurting for no reason. Just random body parts, headache, eyes hurt, and you’re just trying to fight for however long this thing’s gonna be up on you.” I asked how he was feeling. “Pretty dang tired,” Garrett said. “But get back home, recover a little bit, get on the Peloton, start getting my wind back.”
He’d better hurry. Baltimore comes to Cleveland on Sunday, and the Ravens will have some desperation, needing three or four wins down the stretch to make the playoffs. “We are Cleveland,” Garrett said, “and we’re gonna try to make them proud.”