CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – After 84 games, the Browns have finally climbed the mountain.
Nick Chubb ran for 108 yards and a pair of touchdowns, Cleveland’s defense forced five turnovers, including intercepting Dwayne Haskins three times, to carry the Browns past the Washington Football Team 34-20 Sunday afternoon at sun-splashed FirstEnergy Stadium.
“That is a good team win,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said. “Anytime you are plus-five [in the turnover margin], that is darn good. Defense, I thought was outstanding. I challenged them to get that rock, and they did. We scored on every single one of those takeaways, except for that one right there at the half.”
Not only are the Browns finally above .500 for the first time since Dec. 2014, it marks the first time since 2011 they’re 2-1 to begin the season.
It also marked the first time since 2010 the Browns scored 30 or more points in back-to-back games.
Chubb became the first Brown with at least 100 yards and 2 touchdowns in consecutive games since 1967 and the Browns improved to 9-4 when he rushes for over 100.
“The Washington Football Team has a great defense. We knew it was not going to be easy,” Chubb said. “But we take pride in those 2-yard dirty runs and those 0-yard dirty runs because we know it takes a toll on the team, and eventually, we will bust one. The whole game everybody kept telling me, ‘Just be patient. It is going to pop. It is going to pop.’ I think it worked for us.”
Baker Mayfield completed 16 of 23 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns, finishing with a rating of 117.3.
Haskins nearly was picked off by fellow Buckeye Denzel Ward on the near sideline on Washington’s second possession. Ward’s inability to come up with the football gave Haskins new life and he made the Browns pay with a 17-yard touchdown to receiver Dontrell Inman, who was flagged for taunting after flexing upon getting up for a 7-0 lead with 1:44 remaining in the first quarter.
Ward sat out the second half after his groin injury flared up.
Cody Parkey kicked a 42-yard field goal to get the Browns on the board, 7-3, with 10:46 left in the first half after Mayfield’s third down pass to tight end Harrison Bryant had too much heat on it. Stefanski kept the 13-play drive going by going for it on fourth-and-7 at the Washington 37 that saw Mayfield convert on an 8-yard completion to tight end Austin Hooper to the 29.
The Browns caught a big break when Washington rookie defensive end Chase Young departed and was ruled out with a groin injury early in the second quarter.
A Haskins pass intended for Logan Thomas was picked off by safety Karl Joseph at the Cleveland 16, who ran it back to the Washington 35 - a 49 yard return - but he fumbled when Washington offensive tackle Morgan Moses stripped him, but cornerback Tavierre Thomas fell on it at the 28.
“I think one thing we learned is that turnovers come in bunches,” Joseph said. “It was great for me to start it off, and then you saw how that trickled down. Other guys started getting other opportunities and capitalized on it.”
A couple of plays later, Chubb made five Washington defenders whiff on his way 16 yards to the end zone to put the Browns in front 10-7 with 5:58 left in the half.
“He is special to watch. Both of our guys (Chubb and Hunt) are. You never want to take any of that for granted. We have special guys and we have a great offensive line. It is always fun to sit back and watch, but I have to continue to carry out my fake and expand those holes.”
Browns defensive end Myles Garrett ended Washington’s next possession by dragging Haskins down by the back of his shirt for his second sack of the season.
Haskins threw his second interception of the afternoon, which landed in the hands of linebacker Malcolm Smith at the Washington 24, with 1:55 left in the half giving Cleveland an extra possession before intermission.
Mayfield quickly capitalized and found Kareem Hunt for a 9-yard score and a 17-7 lead with 32 seconds left in the half.
Browns linebacker B.J. Goodson recovered a Washington fumble by running back Antonio Gibson, who was stripped by cornerback Terrance Mitchell following a 12-yard completion, as time expired at the half with Cleveland in front by 10.
Gibson pulled Washington within 4 with a 2-yard touchdown run after the Browns defense was flagged for 12 men on the field. The PAT was wide right keeping it a 17-13 game. Washington only had to drive 49 yards for the score thanks to an 18-yard punt return by Steven Sims Jr.
Haskins converted a fourth-and-2 to tight end Logan Thomas to set up first-and goal before the quarterback fumbled the handoff on second down for a loss of 7. Haskins found Inman for the second time of the afternoon for an 11-yard score to put Washington back in front, 20-17.
Mayfield drove the Browns 11 plays and 75 yards to regain the lead for good, capping the drive with a 3-yard TD toss to Bryant for his first career score on what may have been a broken play that was supposed to go elsewhere to make it a 24-20 game with 11:14 remaining.
“What it tells me is that we did not design a very good play,” Stefanski said. “We are trying to get guys open. Sometimes you do not, and it feels really good to have a QB that can make something when the play call was pretty bad.”
Goodson came away with the defense’s third interception of Haskins at the 35 on the ensuing possession to position the Browns to put the game away.
Chubb ran it in from 20 yards out to push the lead to 31-20 with 8:40 remaining, his fourth touchdown in the last 2 games.
Garrett strip-sacked Haskins with 6:30 remaining, recovering the fumble at the Washington 41. It was the second straight week Garrett turned the tide in a game with a strip-sack.
“I had been trying to set him up with speed to power and some jam moves early on to get his hands and get him to open up a little bit sooner,” Garrett said. “That last one, they did not have any help for him so I knew I was going to take it all the way up the field and try to get to it the best that I could. He could anticipate me either jabbing or going inside because that is where I was beating him. I was able to get on the backside of the strip. I saw that he had not thrown it yet, and no sack is complete without getting the ball.”
Facing a fourth-and-4 at the 18, Stefanski went for it and Washington jumped offsides giving them a fresh set of downs at the 13. Right guard Wyatt Teller, who has been outstanding, was called for holding on first down, slowing the drive.
Parkey’s 30-yard field goal with 1:10 remaining provided the final score.