Sun, 24 Mar 2019

Improving Browns hand Panthers 5th straight setback

Sports Xchange
10 Dec 2018, 11:03 GMT+10

Days like Sunday are why Jarvis Landry left Miami to play in Cleveland.

No, not for the sub-freezing temperatures of playing next to Lake Erie, but for winning and laying a foundation for future Browns teams to win. And that's exactly what Landry, along with a host of other characters have been doing in the former Dolphin's first season with the Browns.

For the first time since 2014, Cleveland has now won back-to-back home games after beating the Carolina Panthers 26-20 on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Since firing head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley and promoting Gregg Williams as head coach and Freddie Kitchens as offensive coordinator, the Browns have opened the playbook and let it fly.

If you're gonna lose, at least let's be exciting, seems to be the mantra. Only, the Browns are not losing.

Carolina took the opening kickoff and marched down the field to take a 7-0 lead on a Christian McCaffrey 4-yard run.

It took all of three plays for the Browns to announce they wouldn't be intimidated.

Mayfield opened up the game connecting with Breshad Perriman on a 66-yard bomb and the Browns never let up.

A big-play offense from the Browns? The NFL hasn't seen the likes of that since Bernie Kosar was calling signals.

Consider this: On Sunday, Landry caught a 51-yard pass for a score. Landry ran 51 yards to set up a score. Landry ran the ball again, finding pay dirt from three yards. Landry even threw a pass on a reverse -- a pass that fell incomplete.

"I'd love to kick it, too. Waking up dangerous can be contagious," Landry joked with reporters after the game in reference to Baker Mayfield's comments after the Browns beat Atlanta last month.

Sounds like football is fun again in Cleveland.

While the Browns started strong on offense, they finished even stronger on defense. Cam Newton did not throw a touchdown pass and was intercepted once. McCaffrey scored twice but had to work for nearly every yard gained.

"I don't know. It's extremely frustrating to come up short each and every week with similar settings and not be able to push through," Newton said. "I wish I had the words to say but I don't. In this league, that?s what it always come down to: finding ways to keep the game close. We just haven't found a way to win."

Quarterback play has been the big difference from years' past. Mayfield outplayed his counterpart Newton. The Browns rookie completed 18 of 22 attempts for 238 yards with one TD and no interceptions for a 126.9 rating. Newton went 26-for-42 attempts for 265 yards for a 70.0 rating.

"We can feel the confidence growing but we still need to take it one week at a time," Mayfield said. "We did that today against a veteran team with an outstanding defense."

Yet the Panthers (6-7) still had a chance to win, thanks to a Carolina offside call on a Cleveland extra-point attempt. Corey Joseph's attempt sailed through the uprights, but because of the penalty he had to rekick.

His second try clanked off the upright and Cleveland led 23-20. Joseph did tack on a 41-yard field goal for the game's final points, but Newton still had time to drive the Panthers toward the winning score.

On 4th-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Newton fired a laser high and past an open Jarius Wright and the Browns survived. The loss was the fifth straight for Carolina.

"We missed a couple opportunities. The truth of the matter is that in the first half, we gave two plays up over the top," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "At that point, you have to make them earn it, which I felt we did a pretty decent job. But unfortunately, we missed a couple opportunities, as I said. We just need to go back and work on it."

Mayfield was coming off perhaps his worst game of his young career -- he threw three first-half interceptions against Houston in a 29-10 loss to the Texans last week.

"Coming back from that three-interception game, we did a lot of little things better," Mayfield said. "But we have to keep getting better every week," he added.

Mayfield was much better this week, zinging balls into tight windows like a seasoned veteran where only his receivers could make a play.

"It was a helluva throw," Landry said of Mayfield's perfect placement on his 51-yard TD reception in the second quarter. "We found ways to make more plays today than they did. We had each other's back.

"Now we have a test this week on the road -- a short week -- and we'll find out more about ourselves," Landry said.

Just the reason why Landry left the sunny climes of South Beach for Cleveland.

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