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Unlock the fridges! Rookie QB sparks Browns to first victory in 635 days

By MARY KAY CABOT • Sep 21, 2018 at 12:58 AM

CLEVELAND — The Baker Mayfield Era in Cleveland Browns football has begun, and Browns fans everywhere got to have a cold one on him.

The Browns finally won a football game, 21-17 over the Jets on Thursday night, and beer coolers all over the city busted open.

Mayfield came in off the bench with 1:42 left in the first half to replace a concussed Tyrod Taylor and gave the Browns their first victory in 20 games and 634 days, since Dec. 24, 2016. It came against Sam Darnold, whom most in the NFL world thought the Browns would draft at No. 1 instead of Mayfield.

Trailing 14-0 in the second quarter, Mayfield jogged into the field and engineered a field goal drive on his first possession and never looked back. The victory improved the Browns' record to 1-1-1. It also gave the Browns and their long-suffering fans hope that the future is finally right.

Mayfield completed 17-of-23 attempts for 201 yards without a TD or interception for a 100.1 rating. Meanwhile, Darnold struggled to a 15-for-31 evening with a pair of interceptions in the fourth quarter — by Joe Schobert and Terrence Mitchell on the last two New York possessions.

Mayfield tied the game 14-14 on a 7-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a powerful one-yard TD score by Carlos Hyde, then a "Philly Special" — a two-point direct snap to Duke Johnson that resulted in a end-around flip to Jarvis Landry and then Landry's wide-open flip to Mayfield for the deadlock.

The Browns' first two-point attempt failed after Hyde's run, but they got another chance because of offsetting penalties. This time, they tried the play that made Nick Foles famous in the Eagles' Super Bowl victory and it worked like a charm. Cheers and Believeland signs went up in the stadium.

The Jets went up again 17-14 on a 28-yard field goal by Jason Myers with 8:56 left in the game, but Mayfield took over again.

Starting at the Browns' 25, Mayfield engineered a 15-play, 75-yard TD drive. It ended on a 1-yard run by Carlos Hyde, who got to the stadium late because his girlfriend was in labor with their baby.

The drive began with a drop by Antonio Callaway on a perfectly thrown ball near the 50, and later Jarvis Landry dropped another one at the Jets' 15. Landry also committed an illegal block in the back penalty that wiped out a touchdown run by Hyde. But Mayfield held everyone together and played with the poise of a player who had started 48 games in college.

He fired a 12-yard pass over the middle to Landry, and a few plays later, Hyde ran it in from the 1.

Taylor was ineffective as the Jets took a 14-0 lead, and left the game after being sacked for a 6-yard loss by Avery Williamson. He went to the injury tent while Mayfield warmed up on the sidelines, and then was taken to the locker room.

At the start of the third quarter, it was announced that Taylor was out for the game with a concussion.

Mayfield provided an immediate spark in the otherwise disastrous first-half, hitting Landry with a 14-yard slant on his first NFL play and then finding tight end David Njoku over the middle for 17. On his third play, Mayfield was strip-sacked for an 8-yard loss, but Joel Bitonio recovered at the Jets' 43. Mayfield, with a lightning-quick release, fired a bullet over the middle to Landry for 16 yards to the 27.

On third-and-2, he looked for Callaway at about the 10, but cornerback Morris Claiborne broke it up. New kicker Greg Joseph booted a 45-yard field goal with 27 seconds left to cut the deficit to 14-3.

On his first drive of the second half, Mayfield was pinned back at his 5 thanks to an illegal block in the back by Denzel Rice. But he moved the team to nearly midfield before having to punt.

But Denzel Ward got the ball back when he stripped the ball from Robby Anderson after a short completion and rumbling 20 yards to the Jets' 8. Mayfield was pressured into a throwaway on second down and was almost picked off in the end zone by safety Doug Middleton on third-down pass intended for Landry.

The Browns settled for a 27-yard field goal by Joseph.

The defense continued to make big plays, with Genard Avery knocking the ball away from receiver Quincy Enunwa on third down to force a three-and-out on the Jets' ensuing drive.

Taylor under siege

The sack that knocked Taylor out of the game wasn't the only hard hit he took or the only time he got up slowly. Jets coach Todd Bowles blitzed Taylor relentlessly and sacked him three times in the first half.

Taylor completed only one of seven attempts in the first quarter for two yards, and was 4-of-14 for 19 yards. Bowles blitzed him off the edge, and Taylor struggled to get the ball out. Taylor underthrew Callaway on a deep ball at the Jets' 29, which was knocked away by Trumaine Johnson.

It was one of several underthrows by Taylor this season.

The Crow wipes

Isaiah Crowell, whom the Browns let walk in free agency, rushed for two touchdowns in the second quarter, and after the second one, he sent a message loud and clear about how he felt about Cleveland by using the ball as toilet paper and then firing it into the end zone stands.

Garrett's third sack

Garrett sacked Sam Darnold for a 6-yard loss on third down to blow up a first-quarter drive. Darnold came up limping slightly after the hit. It was Garrett's third sack in as many games.

Up next

The Browns travel to Oakland to play the Raiders on Sept. 30.

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