CLEVELAND, Ohio – It’s a lot of fun to scribble about the Browns’ 49-38 victory over Dallas:
1. I loved the honesty of Kevin Stefanski when the Browns coach admitted he probably should have used that trick play – a 37-yard TD pass from Jarvis Landry to Odell Beckham Jr. – earlier in the season. The coach said they had been practicing it for weeks.
2. Stefanski explained: “It’s been on the call sheet staring at me, and I’ve not gotten it called. I told the guys we were not going another week…I had to get it off the call sheet.”
3. Beckham said: “I pressed coach about it…I told him either you stop running it in practice or you have to call it. He was like, ‘I got you.’ He calls it. Touchdown.”
4. This is where Stefanski the coach/playcaller also was a bit of a psychologist. He knows Beckham and Landry have not received a lot of chances to touch the ball. Stefanski has been praising their blocking to help the run game and their good attitudes. But both receivers are playmakers, and they wanted a chance to make an impact.
5. On the Browns’ first possession, the coach unleashed the Landry-to-Beckham pass. It was a pretty spiral. Landry has a strong arm. He threw a 63-yard pass to Breshad Perriman in 2018. He has shown a strong arm in practice.
6. That one play early in the first quarter not only gave the Browns a 7-0 lead, it also electrified Landry and Beckham. It was as if they said, “Hey, this is going to be our day.”
7. Stefanski also let Beckham run the ball for 23 yards in the first half. But the key run came with 3:37 left in the game. The Browns were in front 41-38. They had the ball on the 50-yard line. The last thing I expected was an end-around to Beckham. He was nearly tackled about 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, but then took off for a TD sprint.
8. Stefanski said: “It’s a play we ran earlier in the game. Figured we’d come back to it.”
9. Stefanski’s thinking seemed to be, “We ran it once for 23 yards with Odell, they won’t think we’ll do it again.” So he tried it, and it worked. And he had to know if there was a fumble or a huge loss (as almost happened), he would be second-guessed.
10. Stefanski is a quiet guy in his press conferences but he’s very confident as a playcaller. Unlike other Browns rookie head coaches who called plays, Stefanski’s mechanics for getting the play called and set up have been smooth. Stefanski said he relies on offensive line coach Bill Callahan for both game preparation and during games.
11. Interesting comment from Stefanski: “(Our) plus-three turnover margin is huge.” Dallas lost two fumbles and threw an interception. The Browns had zero turnovers. In the last three games, Baker Mayfield has thrown six TD passes compared to one turnover. He’s not throwing the ball a lot, but that’s part of this offense. Throw it smart. Mayfield has done that.
12. The Browns are averaging 39 points over their last three games, and they are doing it with Mayfield averaging 25 passes a game. But the key is Mayfield is making meaningful plays, especially near the goal-line. His play-fakes are superb, setting up open receivers in the end zone for easy catches.
13. I’m staring at one of the most amazing stat lines I’ve seen since the Browns came back: They rushed for 307 yards…astounding enough. But they did it with no one running for 100 yards. They did it with Pro Bowler Nick Chubb leaving the game late in the first quarter with a knee injury.
14. The leading rusher for the Browns was…D’Ernest Johnson? Yes, D’ERNEST JOHNSON! Give him 95 yards in 13 carries. As Kareem Hunt said: “I call him ‘Slow Grind’ because he takes it slow and is always working hard…He deserves it. I was doing everything in my power (to help him).”
15. Hunt played with a groin injury, which is why Stefanski limited the Willoughby South product to 11 carries. Hunt still rushed for 71 yards and a pair of TDs. Hunt has scored 5 TDs in four games this season.
16. I was wondering when the Browns last ran for at least 300 yards in a game. It was in 2009 when former coach Eric Mangini was riding James Harrison. In that game, Harrison rushed for 286 yards on 34 carries. The Browns had 351 yards on the ground as they beat Kansas City, 41-34.
17. Rookie tight end Harrison Bryant was on the field for 52 snaps, as the Browns often played two tight ends. He caught four passes for 37 yards. Fellow tight end Austin Hooper had five catches for 34 yards. Mayfield completed 19 passes, nine to tight ends. Beckham, Landry and Hooper all led the Browns with five receptions each.
18. Other than Mayfield and the offensive linemen (75 snaps), the guy who played the most on offense was Hooper (63 snaps). Stefanski limited Hunt to 27 snaps, not wanting to wear down his star who was playing hurt.
19. Myles Garrett had two sacks, including one where he forced a fumble. That’s the third game in a row for Garrett having a “strip sack.” Profootballfocus.com credited Garrett with six “quarterback hurries” in addition to his sacks. He was the only Brown to put much pressure on Dallas QB Dak Prescott.
20. You can spend time on the Browns defense, which has allowed at least 30 points three times this season. We can talk about that later. For now, I’m having fun with victory, the big plays and creative play-calling.
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