The Cleveland Browns rebounded from their Week 3 loss to overwhelm their AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens with a 40-25 victory on Sunday. Cleveland won in all phases of the game. It was a total team effort. A performance that lived up to all of the preseason hype.
Following the Week 3 loss, there was plenty of criticism directed toward Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens and quarterback Baker Mayfield. Both stepped up and elevated their game to push Cleveland into first place in their division for the first time since 2014.
Nick Chubb gets the hat trick
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 29, 2019
Browns bell-cow running back Nick Chubb was incredible on Sunday. The Ravens came into the Week 4 matchup as the NFL’s third-best rushing defense. However, they allowed the former Bulldog to rush for 165 yards and three touchdowns.
Chubb sealed the victory with an 88-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter as the Browns cruised to take first place in the AFC North.
The Browns offensive line opened up huge holes for him, dominating the Ravens defense. The line helped lead Chubb to the first game this season where he rushed for more than 100 yards, something many prognosticators saw as a more consistent milestone for the Cleveland running back.
Freddie Kitchens play-calling was stupendous
❤️ what I saw from Freddie Kitchens for the @browns offense and not only some details-but the timing of the details! Watch what he did to get @rickysealsjones @nathanzegura @dustinfox37 @dawgpoundnation pic.twitter.com/or4EzHpkBB
— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) October 1, 2019
After plenty of scrutiny on his play-calling, Freddie Kitchens redeemed himself against the Ravens. Considering the offensive line woes so far this season, Kitchens neutralized Baltimore’s pass rush by attacking the defense with Chubb and the run game. Frequently, Kitchens dialed up power runs and tosses to the outside, keeping the front seven off balance. The Cleveland Browns seemed in sync once the ground game was established.
Kitchens displayed the creativity as a play-caller that we witnessed last season. His play-calling exhibited a much better run-pass balance for Cleveland with quick strikes on short routes and play-action passes. The Browns uptempo offense helped nullify their pass rush.
The Browns became the second consecutive team to produce more than 500 yards against a defense that never gave up more than 442 last season. But in the midst of all of the excitement of this blowout victory, Kitchens explained what we shouldn’t lose sight of:
“We haven’t really won anything,” Kitchens conceded. “Guys, it’s just one game.”
Baker Mayfield looked like Browns 2018 version
Baker Mayfield won't forget what people have been saying about the Browns. pic.twitter.com/PcE82Yb0n2
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 29, 2019
In the first three games of this season, the offense looked out of sync. Mayfield was holding on to the ball too long, leading to forced throws and costly mistakes.
Mayfield looked like the 2018 Mayfield on Sunday, finishing 20-of-30 passing for 342 yards and a touchdown. His favorite target Sunday was Jarvis Landry, who caught eight passes for a career-high 167 yards. Unfortunately, Landry left the game with a suspected concussion. Beckham played decoy most of the afternoon, and only had two catches for 20 yards.
Beckham was flagged for a scuffle with Ravens corner Marlon Humphrey late in the game. The Ravens zeroed in on Beckham which opened up the passing game for Landry and tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, who finished with three catches for 82 yards and a score.
“I think formatting stuff and just finding the one-on-ones and taking advantage of it,” Mayfield said earlier in the week. “We are having to adjust on how teams are playing us because of him and some of our other pieces, but we are figuring it out.”
Besides the improved play-calling, the most significant factor in Mayfield’s success was the play of the offensive line. The 2017 Heisman winner was sacked a season-low one time. He has been sacked 11 times in three games. The line showed its capable of protecting Mayfield and shut down the Ravens feared pass rush.
“We know how good we can be. That’s the frustrating part about how we started,” Mayfield said. “We just need to do our job and that’s what guys did this week.”
Steve Wilks had an excellent defensive game plan
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 1, 2019
Browns’ defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has been impressive through the first four games this season. The Browns were missing starting cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams along with safeties Sheldrick Redwine and Morgan Burnett for the second week in a row.
The defense forced three turnovers, and the Browns capitalized those takeaways into 14 points. More impressively, the Ravens did not turn the ball over all season before facing the Browns defense.
Cleveland was able to produce four sacks on Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. Multiple players celebrated in getting to Jackson with Joe Schobert, Larry Ogunjobi, Olivier Vernon, and Devaroe Lawrence each notching a sack.
The Ravens offense was the talk of the NFL after they won their first two games. Shockingly, each of those opponents is still winless which brings up the point – were the Ravens overrated? I think some of us can all agree on that answer. Cleveland showed them up.
Coming up next
The 2-2 Cleveland Browns play in prime time for the second time in three weeks on Monday Night Football. They will take on the 3-0 San Francisco 49ers who are coming off their Week 4 bye.
The 49ers have an improved defense which ranks third in yards allowed with 283 yards per game.
They are trying to win their third game against the AFC North after already taking care of the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers this season.
In another matchup against an overrated team, the Cleveland Browns need to continue the momentum that they built in Week 4 and show that the hype is real and warranted.