The Panthers easily moved down the field on their opening drive, thanks to a heavy dose of RB Christian McCaffrey, who finished the drive off with a rushing touchdown from 4 yards out to put his team up 7-0.
Cleveland responded quickly, as their opening play was a 66-yard bomb from QB Baker Mayfield to WR Bredshad Perriman to set up a goal-to-go situation. Two plays later, a unique formation saw WR Jarvis Landry take the end around into the end zone from 3 yards out to tie the game at 7-7.
The Browns’ defense forced a punt on Carolina’s second drive. Backed up, WR Rashard Higgins was stripped of the football after a wide receiver screen, with the Panthers recovering. The Panthers faced 1st-and-goal from the 1 yard line to begin the second quarter. A couple of plays later, McCaffrey punched it in to give Carolina a 14-7 lead.
Cleveland suffered a couple of penalties on their next drive and were backed up into a 3rd-and-17 situation. That’s when Mayfield rolled left and fired all the way to the end zone, a 51-yard rocket that Landry caught with a defender on him to tie the game at 14-14.
Shoddy tackling quickly got the Panthers into scoring range, but the Browns’ defense held them to a 30-yard field goal to make it a 17-14 game.
Mayfield continued making great passes leading into the two-minute warning. The Browns tried a trick play with Landry throwing the ball deep to RB Nick Chubb, but it was just broken up in a tight window. On third down, Mayfield fired a bullet to an open Higgins over the middle, but he dropped it — a play he either would’ve scored on or gotten inside the five on. K Greg Joseph connected on the 49-yard field goal to tie the game at 17-17, though, heading into the half.
The Browns got the ball to begin the half, and squandered it: the first play was a dumpoff to Landry, who was careless with the ball while trying to cut back inside as Carolina recovered in field goal range. The Browns forced a three-and-out to set Carolina up for a 53-yard field goal attempt...but then they suffered a delay of game and opted to punt instead.
The Browns were backed up and couldn’t muster anything — and on third down, Mayfield’s streak of not being sacked ended. P Britton Colquitt punted from his own end line, but it was a good punt to put Carolina at midfield. The next drive was a mess of a fourth down conversion after a challenge, a turnover nullified by a penalty, and bad tackling en route to a touchdown...that was called back by a penalty. When it was all said and done, the Panthers got a 34-yard field goal mid-way through the third quarter to go up 20-17.
Two holds on RG Kevin Zeitler killed the next drive for Cleveland, but a couple of completions at least set them up for a better punt. The defense forced their own punt, and at the start of the fourth quarter, the Browns ran the same running play as earlier with Landry, this time going for 51 yards before being chased down by LB Luke Kuechly at the 4 yard line.
One play later, Chubb punched it in to give Cleveland a 23-20 lead. On the extra point try, the Panthers jumped offsides, and Cleveland’s snap and good kick did not count because the whistle had blown. The penalty made the actual extra point try five yards closer, but Joseph pulled it off the upright.
Cleveland’s defense forced a timely three-and-out, aided by a pass break-up from CB T.J. Carrie on a deep ball. A big run by Chubb got Cleveland into field goal range, but the drive stalled, forcing them to settle for a 41-yarder from Joseph. He connected, giving the Browns a 26-20 lead with 8:46 to go in the game.
Carolina burned clock and efficiently drove down the field to a goal-to-go situation. On third and fourth down from the 3 yard line, though, Newton threw incompletions, turning the ball over on downs with 2:39 to go. The Browns were backed up now, but they got out of danger zone with a completion to Perriman. The Browns could only bleed the clock down to 1:04 before punting away to a Panthers team with no timeouts remaining. Newton’s first pass was sailed and picked by FS Damarious Randall, sealing the victory!
- QB Baker Mayfield: 18-of-22 for 238 yards, 1 TD. 2 rushes, 4 yards.
- RB Nick Chubb: 13 carries, 66 yards. 1 TD. 4 catches, 17 yards (6 targets).
- WR Jarvis Landry: 3 catches, 57 yards (4 targets). 1 TD. 2 rushes. 54 yards. 1 TD. 1 fumble lost.
- WR Breshad Perriman: 2 catches, 81 yards (2 targets).
- DE Myles Garrett: 1 sack.