The game may have been void of the drama and excitement that has filled several Browns games this season, but the win pushes Cleveland to 10-4 and on the brink of their first playoff appearance since 2002.
The Browns will make a return visit to North Jersey this upcoming Sunday to take on the New York Jets with a chance to clinch a playoff berth, but before we get there let’s take a run through who played well for the Browns and who might have come up a bit short.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield - Mayfield continued his streak of stellar play by going 27-of-32 for 297 yards, two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 126.2.
Mayfield’s completion percentage of 84.3 percent was a single-game record for a Cleveland quarterback, supplanting Kelly Holcomb, according to ESPN’s Jake Trotter.
Baker Mayfield just broke a #Browns record for completion percentage in a game. Mayfield went 27 of 32 tonight (84.3%) besting besting the previous Cleveland record of 82.9% set by Kelly Holcomb in 2003. @ESPNStatsInfo— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) December 21, 2020
Mayfield was at his best on throws of more than 10 yards, going 12-of-14 for 189 yards and both of his touchdown passes, according to Pro Football Focus.
After a series of bad-weather games that held down his numbers. Mayfield has been hot and a major part of Cleveland’s playoff drive. In the past four games, he has completed 70.2 percent of his passes for 1,232 yards and 10 touchdowns against just one interception.
Right guard Nick Harris - The Browns came into the game without starting right guard Wyatt Teller and then lost backup guard Chris Hubbard after just two plays.
Nick Harris, the team’s fifth-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, stepped in for Hubbard and outside of one bad play against New York defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, more than held his own.
The tight ends - It was a productive night for the tight end trio of Austin Hooper (five catches for 41 yards and a touchdown), David Njoku (one catch for 22 yards) and Harrison Bryant (two catches for 19 yards).
Collectively the group caught eight of the nine passes thrown their way, which adds another dimension to a Cleveland offense that is already very difficult to defend.
Fourth-down defense - It was not always pretty at times, but the defense was up to the task, holding the Giants to just six points and just 288 yards of offense.
The two biggest plays of the night came on fourth downs as the Browns stopped a fake field goal attempt in the first quarter and then stopped running back Wayne Gallman on a fourth-and-one rush in the second quarter.
Playoff chances - The win leaves the Browns in the No. 5 spot in the AFC playoff race and puts them in position to clinch a playoff spot this week.
If the Browns beat the Jets, and just one of the Baltimore Ravens (vs. the Giants), Indianapolis Colts (vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers) or the Miami Dolphins (vs. the Las Vegas Raiders) lose, the Browns are in the playoffs.
Jarvis Landry’s taunting penalty - The Browns looked to be on the verge of taking a 14-3 lead into halftime after Jarvis Landry pulled in a two-yard touchdown reception with 21 seconds left in the second quarter.
Following the catch, New York cornerback Isaac Yiadom got into Landry’s face and, naturally, the officials called Landry for a taunting penalty. That pushed back kicker Cody Parkey’s extra-point attempt into a 48-yard attempt, which he missed.
The play did not end up costing the Browns, and the penalty was questionable at best, but Landry needs to be aware that the referees are always watching him.
Mack Wilson benched - In a mild surprise, linebacker Mack Wilson was a healthy scratch from the game following a run of poor play from the second-year linebacker.
It has not been a good year for Wilson, who suffered a knee injury in training camp that kept him out of the first two games of the season. He only played 17 snaps last week against the Ravens and had a key role in allowing the Ravens to rush for 231 yards.
F*ck Covid— Flash Garrett ⚡️ (@MylesLGarrett) December 21, 2020
COVID-19 - Defensive end Myles Garrett played in his third consecutive game since coming off the Reserve/COVID-19 list, but Garrett is still dealing with the impact of the virus.
Garrett talking about what he is going through during his post-game press conference, (quotes via cleveland.com):
“I’m not sure [when I’ll be be 100%]. I’m just getting over a coughing fit from the locker room earlier. I’m trying to get some water into my system and be able to breathe. Taking those deep big breaths are tough right now with the shortness of breath and that turning into a cough or getting choked up.
“You just have to find a way. It’s about desire. It doesn’t matter how I feel, I have to do something on the field. When I get off of the field, I can catch my breath and maybe go see someone and try to work with someone. Hopefully, if we make it to the playoffs, I can try to get myself to as close to 100 percent as possible.”
The Browns obviously need Garrett on the field and producing, but at this point his long-term health should be the top priority. Not sure how much they can reduce his playing time the next two games, but it will be worth keeping an eye on the situation.
Milk Bones - sugar plums with a lump of coal
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt - Cleveland’s dynamic duo did not have their usual big night, although Chubb did score his 10th rushing touchdown of the season.
Chubb and Hunt combined to run 22 times for 71 yards, an average of just 3.2 yards per carry, and caught a combined five passes for 23 yards.
It was a bit of a disappointing night, but only by their standards.
That’s all folks - We could probably come up with a few more things to nitpick about the game - the Browns were only able to sack New York quarterback Colt McCoy once, the special teams had a few issues, and the Browns should have maybe put up more points - but the team is 10-4 and heading to the playoffs, so we’re not in the mood to point any fingers today!