CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns survived.
That’s the best way to sum up Sunday’s 27-25 win in Jacksonville that nearly saw win No. 8 slip away in the closing minutes.
“We made it hard on ourselves there at the end,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said. “I think we can be better, but it is a good team win. The guys fought, and we knew they were going to have to fight to get that one.”
Nick Chubb ran for 144 yards and a touchdown as the Browns totaled 207 yards on the ground. He also added 3 catches for 32 yards.
It was the fourth time the Browns combined to run for over 200 yards in a game this season.
“We are finding a way to win,” Chubb said. “I think that is a sign of a good team – find a way to win no matter what. That is what we have been doing the past couple of weeks. We have been down in some games and teams have been close. I know our defense is going to find a way and special teams are going to find a way to win.”
Jarvis Landry had his best game of the season after he caught 8 passes for 143 yards and a score.
“It has definitely been a challenge for me,” Landry said.
“I just trusted this team, kept my head up and kept working hard for the guys around me, knowing that it will come. It came today, and I just made every play that I possibly could get my hands on.”
Baker Mayfield, who had an inconsistent afternoon, completed 19 of 29 passes for 258 yards and 2 touchdowns and did not throw an interception for a fourth consecutive game.
“I really feel like we left a lot of points up on the board. I truly do,” Mayfield said. “There were a ton of missed opportunities just from my perspective, a lot of missed throws.”
It was the third straight game Chubb put up at least 100 on the ground and he ripped off a pair of big runs giving him an NFL-best 10 that have gone for 20 or more yards this season.
With the victory, the Browns maintain their pace in the AFC playoff race, secure their first non-losing season since 2007 and hit the 8-win mark for just the third time in the post 1999 expansion era.
“We still have not played our best ball yet, and I truly believe that, but I feel like we are improving at the right time,” Mayfield said. “For us to continue to improve and find ways to win at this point in the year I think is the most important thing from a big picture mindset, but we just have to be better next week.”
Mayfield started off strong, finding Landry for a 5-yard score and a 7-3 lead. It was Mayfield’s first TD toss since throwing 5 in a Week 7 win over Bengals after he went 70 attempts without a TD.
It was Landry’s first score of the season, a day after his 28th birthday.
“It is my golden year,” Landry said. “I think I brought it in the right way.”
It was an uneven day for Mayfield as he missed multiple easy throws because of touch or footwork.
For the second straight week Mayfield blew a pair of touchdown passes on the same series. Early in the second quarter he had Rashard Higgins wide open on first down but threw too hot and high and then threw wide to Landry on third-and-goal.
“There are a lot of throws today that I make consistently so it is about making them,” Mayfield said. “We found a way to win and that is the most important thing, but I am always going to be critical of myself.”
Mayfield made amends by hitting tight end Austin hooper with a perfect throw for a 9-yard score and a 17-13 lead. After throwing for 122, 125, 187 in the last three games – in bad weather – Mayfield had 146 yards passing at halftime.
Former Browns linebacker Joe Schobert stripped tight end Harrison Bryant on the first play of the second half after a 14-yard completion and the ball was recovered by Jacksonville. Mike Glennon threw his second TD of the afternoon, finding former Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert for the score and a 19-17 lead early in the third quarter. An offsides penalty on the Browns got Doug Marrone to take the point off the board and go for 2, which failed.
Late in the third quarter Chubb and Kareem Hunt went to work. First it was Chubb with a run for 29 then Hunt added 27 to move into the red zone. Chubb finished that drive with his fifth rushing TD of the season for a 27-19 advantage.
“We knew that we had to come in here and win, no matter what,” Chubb said. “I think this team understood that. We knew they were not just going to roll over. They are a one-win team, but they are a very talented team and very good… We knew were going to get their best shot.”
Mayfield missed a wide-open Hunt on third down and inches and then Hunt was stopped short, by the thickness of a sheet of paper to give the ball back on downs. Stefanski challenged an earlier run by Hunt that was originally ruled no gain but after review moved the ball within inches of the line to gain.
Defensive end Olivier Vernon appeared to put the game away with a sack of Glennon on fourth down but it was wiped out by a phantom roughing penalty that gave Jacksonville a fresh set of downs that they quickly turned into 6 with a Robinson 4-yard touchdown that saw the running back pushed into the end zone by his linemen but Glennon’s two-point pass failed to keep the Browns in front by 2.
Browns safety Ronnie Harrison’s return to Jacksonville did not go as planned. Harrison suffered a shoulder injury on the first play of the game while making a tackle and did not return leaving the Browns without their top four defensive players – Harrison, Myles Garrett Denzel Ward and Sione Takitaki.
Andrew Sendejo broke up a potential TD on a deep ball and BJ Goodson swatted away a third-and-goal throw – both intended for Jaguars receiver Keelan Cole early. Sendejo would come up big by picking off the potential tying 2-point try in the back of the end zone with 2:14 remaining.
“Stopping them on those two-point conversions ended up being a big deal,” Stefanski said. “Really happy for him to make that play, and that is what we need. We need guys in the back end that will make plays on the ball.”