The Browns were down seven starters — including their entire defensive secondary — and still hung in there against the high-flying NFC defending champion Rams.
In the end, however, the Rams, who improved to 3-0, beat them 20-13 to drop the Browns 1-2 on the season, and 0-2 at home.
Browns safety Juston Burris picked off Rams quarterback Jared Goff with 2:46 left in the game and the Rams clinging to their 20-13 lead. It was the third takeaway by the Browns’ depleted defense. Burris had just been claimed on waivers this week.
Mayfield took over his 43, and a Rams illegal contact penalty gave the Browns an automatic first down and wiped out a sack of Mayfield.
On third and 15 from the 45, Mayfield hit Jarvis Landry with a 27-yard pass to the Rams’ 28. He then found Damion Ratley for 16, and Aaron Donald was flagged for roughing the passer to the give the Browns a first and goal at the 4. But Mayfield threw incomplete to Jarvis Landry in the back of the end zone and then his next pass was tipped and fell incomplete.
On third down, a deflected pass to tight end Demetrius Harris in the back of the end zone hit the crossbar, and on fourth down, Mayfield’s pass for Damion Ratley was picked off by Johnson in the back right corner of the end zone.
Rams coach Sean McVay improved to 9-0 over the AFC North.
Mayfield completed 18 of 36 attempts for 195 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT for a 64.0 rating. He was sacked three times, including once by Donald.
Browns running back Nick Chubb ran 23 times for 96 yards and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. caught six passes for 56 yards.
Goff threw for 269 yards with two TDs and two INTs for a 79.8 rating.
Beckham caught a 19-yard pass to move into Rams territory, but the drive stalled on an incomplete pass to Ricky Seals-Jones and a run for no gain by Chubb to bring up a fourth and 9 at the 40. Chubb gained 2 yards to the right to turn the ball over on downs. The Rams started at their own 38, and T.J. Carrie broke up a pass on third and 1 at the Browns’ 18 to force L.A. to settle for a field goal, a 37-yarder that increased their lead to 20-13 with 6:37 remaining.
The Rams went up 17-13 on a 6-yard TD pass from Goff to Cooper Kupp, his second TD catch of the game. Again, Goff found him wide open on the left side of the end zone. Key play on the drive was a 17-yard gain by Robert Woods on a reverse.
T.J. Carrie picked off a Goff pass with 3:31 left in the third quarter, but the Browns failed to cash in after a disastrous drive. Mayfield was sacked on first down, botched a handoff on the second and then missed a wide open Landry on an intermediate pass at the Rams’ 32. Punter Jamie Gillan finished it off with a 21-yard shank to start the Rams at their 28.
Mayfield found Demetrius Harris wide open in the back of the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown pass that put the Browns ahead for the second time in the game, 13-10, with 4:37 left in the third. The score came after Chubb’s 1-yard TD run a few plays earlier was wiped out by an illegal shift penalty on Beckham. Harris started in place of David Njoku, who’s on injured reserve for a minimum of eight games with a broken wrist. The Browns had some difficulty getting their tight ends lined up correctly at times, but Harris came through on this play. Chubb was the workhorse on the drive, rushing for 55 yards.
On the opening drive of the second half, Goff picked up the pace with some no huddle and found Kupp open on the left side of the end zone for an 11-yard TD pass to put L.A. up 10-6.
It was tough sledding for the Browns in the first half, but defensive end Myles Garrett came through with a huge play to help put the Browns on top heading into the locker room. With Goff facing a third and 11 at his 35 and the score tied at 3, Garrett burst in and strip-sacked Goff, dropping him for a 5-yard loss and chopping the ball out of his hand. Linebacker Joe Schobert recovered to start the Browns at the Rams’ 17 with 18 seconds left.
The Browns had trouble getting their tight ends on the field on first down, and Mayfield was forced to throw the ball away. On second down, he overthrew Landry on an up and out on the right side, and it could’ve been picked off. Third and 10, Mayfield threw the ball into the dirt, but wasn’t flagged for intentional grounding.
Austin Seibert made the 35-yard field goal to put the Browns ahead 6-3 as time expired in the half.
Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein, who rarely misses, pushed a 48-yard field goal wide right with 4:08 left in the half.
The Browns finally got rolling on their third drive with a mix of no-huddle and run-pass option plays, but they only got a field goal out of the 13-play drive to tie the game 3-3 with 11:41 in the half. The drive featured a pair of 12-yard passes to Beckham and a 14-yarder to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. But Mayfield was flushed right on third and goal from the 5 and threw incomplete to Beckham. Austin Seibert kicked a 23-yard field goal to tie it.
Mack Wilson, starting in place of Christian Kirksey at weak side linebacker, almost picked off Jared Goff in the second quarter, but the ball slipped through his hands. The pass had gone off safety Jermaine Whitehead’s hands.
The Browns’ entire starting defensive backfield was inactive for this game. Free safety Damarious Randall sat out his second straight game with a concussion and strong safety Morgan Burnett was unable to recover from the quad injury he suffered last week against the Jets. Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams were both added to the injury report on Thursday as limited with hamstrings, and both sat out practice on Friday. They were listed as questionable.
Ward was replaced by T.J. Carrie, Williams was replaced by Terrance Mitchell, Randall was replaced by Eric Murray and Burnett was replaced by Jermaine Whitehead.
The Browns were down seven starters for the game: They were TE David Njoku (IR, chest), RT Chris Hubbard (ankle), LB Kirksey (chest), CB Ward (hamstring), CB Williams (hamstring), FS Damarious Randall (concussion), and SS Morgan Burnett (quad).
Browns at Ravens next Sunday at 1 p.m. The Ravens lost 33-28 to the Chiefs on Sunday to fall to 2-1.