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Browns win in Week 1 for the first time since 2004, defeating Mayfield and the Panthers 26-24


NFL: Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports


The Cleveland Browns’ Week 1 winless drought is finally over, as they defeated the Carolina Panthers by a final score of 26-24. It’s their first Week 1 win since 2004. It took a crazy finish, but ultimately ended with K Cade York DRILLING a 58 yard field goal with eight seconds remaining. Let’s get to the full recap of the game.

The Panthers received the ball to begin the game, and right out of the gate, Cleveland’s defense was fired up. DE Jadeveon Clowney batted QB Baker Mayfield’s pass away, and then on second down, the swing pass to RB Christian McCaffrey was blown up by LB Anthony Walker for a loss of five yards. The Browns came up with the third-and-long stop, forcing the early punt.

Cleveland’s drive started well, with RB Nick Chubb running to the left for 11 yards and a first down. The Browns continued moving the ball down to the 36 yard line, and then on a 3rd-and-3, WR Amari Cooper beat his man, but QB Jacoby Brissett overthrew him down the right sideline. They tried to go for it on fourth down, but the play was rushed as the play clock was headed to zero, and Brissett’s quick out to WR Donovan Peoples-Jones fell incomplete for a turnover on downs.

Mayfield’s second drive with the Panthers didn’t go well either. On second down, the Panthers had a holding penalty that set them back. On 3rd-and-13, Mayfield muffed the snap and then fell on top of it for a loss of a yard, leading to another punt. On Cleveland’s second drive, Brissett missed another open player deep — RB Kareem Hunt — but the drive was extended because CB Jaycee Horn held Cooper in the slot. A few more runs by Chubb and Hunt got Cleveland down to the 41 yard line, but back-to-back incompletions forced a punt. Newcomer P Corey Bojorquez did the job, pinning Carolina back to the 5 yard line.

The Panthers’ third drive didn’t go well either. Carolina actually got bailed out once on 3rd-and-10 from the 5 yard line due to a roughing the passer call on DT Taven Bryan, but it was nothing egregious looking at all. With the fresh set of downs, Cleveland’s defense still thrived, and S John Johnson III sacked Mayfield on third down for a loss of 8 yards. An unsportsmanlike penalty on Carolina’s sideline added 7 more yards backward to close out the opening quarter.

Carolina punted from the 8 yard line, and RB Demetric Felton muffed it after looking shaky on the first two punts. Thankfully, CB Herb Miller fell on top of the loose ball for Cleveland, with the team taking over just shy of midfield. The Browns wasted the good field position again, though, after Brissett couldn’t connect with WR Anthony Schwartz over the middle on second down nor Cooper on the sideline on third down.

The Panthers finally managed to get a regular first down (without penalty) via the ground game. But then, Mayfield had his next two passes deflected for incompletions, and on 3rd-and-10, he airmailed a pass to who knows who and it was intercepted by S Grant Delpit. The Browns took over their next drive at the Panthers’ 42 yard line.

Facing a 3rd-and-3, Brissett rolled to his right, then looked left and delivered a heaving arm punt to the end zone. It looked really bad, but the defensive back covering Cooper had his back turned and the veteran receiver baited him into thinking the ball was coming down sooner, leading to the pass interference (and negating the interception from a different player). That gave Cleveland the ball at the 1 yard line, and Brissett ran a playaction fake to find a wide open Hunt in the end zone for the touchdown! K Cade York’s first extra point gave the Browns a 7-0 lead.

Mayfield was sacked for a loss of 9 yards by DT Tommy Togiai and Clowney to open the next drive, helping contribute to another three-and-out for Carolina and a punt. P Johnny Hekker boomed it 58 yards, though, and even with Felton’s 8 yard return, Cleveland would be starting with their worst field position of the day at the 22 yard line.

It looked like the drive was going to be ugly, as it began with Brissett taking a 9 yard sack off of a playaction fake. But then, he found WR Donovan Peoples-Jones for back-to-back strikes of 10 and 15 yards. On 3rd-and-2 near midfield, Chubb got the handoff and burst along the left edge for 25 yards. Two plays later, on 2nd-and-5, Hunt got the handoff and went up the middle before bouncing to the right side for a 24 yard touchdown to give the Browns a 14-0 lead!

Facing a 3rd-and-3, Mayfield got rid of a pass to WR D.J. Moore just in time for a 16 yard gain to move the chains near midfield. Running a quicker pace, Cleveland forgot to cover TE Ian Thomas up the left seam and Mayfield found him for a 50-yard catch-and-run down the 2 yard line before Johnson chased him down. Two plays later, on 2nd-and-goal from the 1 at the two-minute warning, McCaffrey got the handoff and leaped over the pile for a touchdown to cut the Browns’ lead to 14-7.

Now it was time for the Browns to see what they could do with a two-minute offense. They got some quick help with K Eddy Pineiro hit the kickoff out of bounds, giving Cleveland the ball at the 40 yard line. Cleveland looked in trouble with a 3rd-and-13, but then they got a 24-yard screen pass to Hunt with 15 more yards tacked on due to a low block penalty on S Xavier Woods. Two runs by Chubb put the ball at a 1st-and-goal at the 9 with 40 seconds to go. The Browns couldn’t muster a touchdown, though, and settled for a 26-yard field goal by York to make it 17-7.

On the Browns’ first drive of the third quarter, they faced a decision near midfield: a 4th-and-1 at the 49 yard line. Cleveland lined up and Brissett kept it for the quarterback sneak to move the chains. On the next play, Cleveland ran a reverse to Schwartz that picked up 15 yards. That was followed by a 20-yard run by Chubb into the red zone. A delay of game by Brissett and then a run for no gain set up a 3rd-and-11, and his third down pass to TE Harrison Bryant fell incomplete. York came on for a 34 yard field goal, which he connected on to extend Cleveland’s lead to 20-7 with 7:42 remaining in the third quarter.

On Carolina’s next drive, DE Myles Garrett came alive. On a 2nd-and-6, he sacked Mayfield for a loss of six yards, and then on 3rd-and-12, he sacked him again for a loss of five yards. It was also a strip that Garrett nearly recovered, but the loose ball squirted back over to Mayfield. Hekker’s 61-yard punt was returned 15 yards by Felton, starting the Browns’ next possession at the 33 yard line.

Sadly, Cleveland couldn’t burn much more clock, going three-and-out before punting right back to the Panthers. Frustratingly, Carolina got a big play off of Mayfield dropping another snap. While it was on the ground, McCaffrey picked it up and scampered for 28 yards, since several Browns defenders were hungry for the loose ball and Mayfield on the ground. Cleveland tipped Mayfield’s next pass, and after a three-yard run by McCaffrey, the Panthers headed to the fourth quarter facing a 3rd-and-7 at the 33 yard line. McCaffrey picked up the first down by dodging several Browns tackles for 9 yards. A few plays later, on 3rd-and-5 from the 7 yard line, the middle open up and Mayfield ran it for a touchdown. Just like that, it was back to a one-score game, with Cleveland leading 20-14 with 12:51 remaining in the game.

To start the Browns’ next drive, on a 3rd-and-4, Brissett rolled out and found a late Schwartz for a big 19-yard gain at midfield. That was followed by a 16-yard run from Chubb, and a 9 yard run, to set up 2nd-and-1 from the 25 yard line. Hunt got the fullback handoff on the next play for 2 yards and a first down. Carolina’s defense got a stop after that, setting up York for a 35-yard field goal. This is what the Browns drafted for — big kicks like this — and he calmly nailed it to give the Browns a two-possession lead at 23-14 with 6:13 to go.

Before you could blink, Mayfield responded. He had time to throw, and then Cleveland’s defense blew a coverage for the second time of the game. Mayfield delivered a deep strike to WR Robbie Anderson for a 75-yard touchdown, making it a 23-21 game with 6:02 remaining.

Brissett got a big third down completion to Peoples-Jones to begin the next drive, draining clock. Carolina loaded the box to stop the run, getting Chubb for a loss of one yard as they took their first timeout with 2:32 remaining. On 2nd-and-11, a swing pass to Chubb went for two yards. The Panthers took their second timeout with 2:26 remaining, leading to the biggest play of the game. On 3rd-and-9, Brissett’s pass was incomplete for Peoples-Jones, forcing a punt that sailed out of the end zone for a touchback.

Mayfield took over with 2:14 to go and one timeout in his pocket, only needing a field goal. He immediately fired a 26-yard pass to Moore, giving the Panthers the ball at their 46 yard line heading into the two-minute warning. Mayfield then delivered a perfectly timed screen pass to McCaffrey for 21 yards, with 15 yards added on due to a horse collar tackle by Johnson. Carolina was already in easy field goal range. Mayfield muffed the next snap, but fell on top of it and now Cleveland took a timeout. The Browns burned their final two timeouts on runs for no gain, setting up Pineiro for a 34-yard field, which he made to put Carolina on top 24-21 with 1:13 to go and no timeouts.

The Browns got some help from the Panthers’ defense, as DE Brian Burns was leveled with a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty. A dumpoff to Hunt went for a loss of two yards and burned precious clock, but made up for it by threading the needle to Peoples-Jones over the middle for 14 yards. Brissett clocked the ball at the 48 yard line with 0:29 remaining. A 9 yard completion to Cooper set up York for a 58-yard field goal...AND HE DRILLED IT! The Browns won in improbable fashion, 26-24.

Quick Hitters

  • QB Jacoby Brissett: 18-of-34 for 147 yards, 1 TD.
  • QB Baker Mayfield: 15-of-26 for 238 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. 5 carries, 6 yards, 1 TD.
  • RB Nick Chubb: 22 carries for 141 yards. 1 catch, 2 yards (1 target).
  • RB Kareem Hunt: 11 carries for 46 yards, 1 TD. 3 catches, 26 yards (3 targets), 1 TD.
  • WR Amari Cooper: 3 catches, 17 yards (5 targets).
  • DE Myles Garrett: 4 tackles (2 sacks).
  • K Cade York: 4-of-4 on field goals from 26, 34, 36, and 58 yards. 2-of-2 on XPs.
  • The Browns dominated the first half, and much of the third quarter. But Carolina scored 17 points in the final quarter, giving them what appeared to be a likely victory, until Cleveland’s late comeback.
  • With the Panthers’ comeback, Cleveland still out-gained Carolina in yards 355 to 261.
  • The Browns won the time of possession 38:26 to 21:34.
  • The Browns’ had 217 yards rushing to 54 yards rushing for Carolina.
  • There was a tense moment before the game-winning field goal where Brissett spiked the ball. However, he hesitated, and you could tell he thought about throwing a quick pass before spiking it — which would be intentional grounding. The official threw the flag, but generously picked it up.