Around the NFL

What we learned from Browns' victory over Bengals on Thursday night

CLEVELAND -- This was the Thursday night the Cleveland Browns needed. Nick Chubb, Odell Beckham, Kareem Hunt and Baker Mayfield were all in on the fun as the Browns got their first win of the season at the expense of Joe Burrow and the rival Cincinnati Bengals, 35-30. With the offense looking impressive and the defense holding strong, the Browns (1-1) had reason to celebrate, while the Bengals (0-2) were left still searching for their first victory.

1) Anyone who has followed the Browns or professional football in general knows how good Nick Chubb is, but Thursday night felt like the nation's collective introduction to his excellence. After posting six yards per carry in Week 1's blowout loss, Chubb followed it up with a 22-carry, 124-yard, two-touchdown outing on national television that included plenty of broken tackles and enough extra yards earned to make those watching at home repeatedly tweet in amazement. Their amazement was warranted. In typical Chubb fashion, the running back burst through open holes and barreled through defenders, fighting his way to the two scores and gradually demoralizing Cincinnati's defense. Then, the Browns pulled out their closer, a fresh Kareem Hunt, who gained 76 of his 86 yards in the fourth quarter, capped by a touchdown drive powered almost exclusively by Hunt rushes. His longest tote went for 33 yards, putting the Browns in position to hand it to Hunt three more times, with the final carry producing Hunt's second score of the night. Oh yeah, Hunt caught a touchdown pass earlier, too. The Browns might have the best backfield in the NFL.

2) The hand-wringing and trade rumor-floating can rest in peace. The Browns finally got Odell Beckham involved. Baker Mayfield's strike to Beckham quickly put the Browns on the board for a second time Thursday night, and although there were only 6,000 fans in the FirstEnergy Stadium stands, you could feel them let out a collective cheer of relief. After listening to sports-talk radio fill their ears with Beckham trade rumors and gripes about his wasted talent in Cleveland, the faithful saw the superstar again play like a superstar. Beckham might have had a second long touchdown on a nearly identical play had William Jackson not treated himself to a fistful of Beckham's jersey. The holding call was missed and the Browns failed to convert, but a takeaway ended up producing the touchdown Cleveland sought later in the quarter, making it moot. Not moot: A week free of stressing over the future of Beckham in Cleveland. Instead of letting a Mike Francesa tweet set the internet ablaze, the folks in Cleveland will enjoy their victory beverages.

3) Joe Burrow has IT. The rookie showed poise, confidence, decisiveness and moxie throughout the night, completing passes left and right and dicing up Cleveland's defense to the tune of 316 yards and three touchdowns. The rookie posted a passer rating of 90.6 by finding and firing to the open man, finishing with an average time to throw of 2.79 seconds, per Next Gen Stats. Burrow also did this while being pressured on 21 of his 61 pass attempts -- the first rookie since 1950 to throw for 60-plus times and not throw an interception, per NFL Research -- which brings us to our next point...

4) The biggest bummer about the current state of the Bengals is their offensive line, which didn't make life easy for Burrow and brings memories of the plights of Tim Couch and David Carr, whose immense talent was wasted because they spent too much of their careers running for their lives. Burrow wasn't quite doing that, and surprisingly looked seasoned and fearless in the frequently collapsing pocket, but he also ran a little too much for the liking of anyone pinning their franchise's hopes on his arm. Above all, though, Burrow really, really impressed the nation Thursday night. The kid is special, and if the Bengals are wise, they'll do whatever it takes to build a reliable offensive line in front of him.

5) We rightfully direct our attention to Myles Garrett on a weekly basis, and Thursday was no different. He recorded three times as many pressures (nine) as Cincinnati's entire defense (three) on 55 pass rushes for a pressure rate of 16.4 percent, which wasn't far off his league-leading 17.1 percent rate in 2019. He stripped Burrow, setting up Chubb's second touchdown. He did what Myles Garrett does. But we should really be paying attention to Cleveland's interior tandem of Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson. Week 1 belonged to Ogunjobi, who landed on Pro Football Focus' Top 90 list, and Richardson won Week 2 with his four pressures, one stuff and plenty of difference made in between. Richardson looked like he was genuinely having fun competing Thursday night, at one point losing his helmet and still chasing after Burrow. Their combined efforts were visible all night, even with Burrow's Herculean efforts keeping Cincinnati in the game. As for the rest of the Browns' defense, yikes. Cleveland's linebacking corps has been pieced together with scotch tape and veterans, and it showed against the run and on third and fourth down. Denzel Ward had an excellent game until he was beaten by Mike Thomas on a slant near the goal line for the Bengals' final touchdown, but this group needs some help going forward.

6) Baker Mayfield's stat line was incredibly interesting from an advanced metrics perspective, because most everyone knows he's at his best rolling out of the pocket. Thursday night, Kevin Stefanski threw his whole game plan into that approach, riding the powers of Chubb and Hunt and building the pass off of it. Of Mayfield's 23 pass attempts, 43.5 percent were on play-action, leading to a much longer time to throw (3.53 seconds) but also creating opportunities for Mayfield to avoid the blitz -- Cincinnati sent pressure on 56.5 percent of Mayfield's dropbacks -- and post a completion percentage over expectation of +13.1.

Burrow's CPOE was lower, likely a product of his many more pass attempts, and also an example of how these two teams' offenses were called very differently. But for Browns fans fretting about the viability of Mayfield as the franchise quarterback, they got a reprieve for a week.

Related Content

Gamepass_vert_web_r

See all the Action

Replay every game all season.