The Cleveland Browns put up their best performance of the 2018 season Sunday. The offense, defense and special teams all let it rip in the 28-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Yes, there was so much to like in the game, there is still comes things to hate about Gregg Williams’ first victory as interim head coach.
So what did I like and hate about the week ten victory? Find out in this edition of the Cleveland Browns: the good, bad and ugly.
Dontrell Hilliard Halfback Pass:
Let’s get the ugly things out of the way first. The worst play of the game took place in the second quarter. Offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens called for a halfback pass by Dontrell Hilliard to Baker Mayfield who was running down the left sideline.
Hillard got way to much air under the throw. The football hung up in the air long enough for the Falcons secondary to converge and get the interception. Atlanta turned that interception into a touchdown on the ensuing possession.
“We repped it all week long and conceptually,” Williams said “Had that not been a zone [coverage], it could have been out the gate, but it is just one of those things and they happened. It just is what it is and we will coach better off of that too in respect of throw it away. Maybe I need to have Baker teach Hilliard about 7 on 7 drills or something. It was a good concept, and give the Falcons credit and the zone concept that they had. We just have to do better.”
At least the Browns didn’t let that play begin a domino effect of miscues for the rest of the game.
Mayfield Flagged For Illegal Motion:
Can you recall having an illegal motion penalty flagged on your quarterback? Until Sunday, I couldn’t. The Browns were trying another trick play where Baker acted like he doesn’t know that play call. He looks to the sideline for help when the ball is snapped. Mayfield is flagged for illegal motion because he did not get set at the snap.
At least lets give credit for some creative play calls, but sometimes you can get too cute and it will cost you in the end. Thank goodness it did not happen Sunday.
The Bye Week Is Here:
I know what you are saying, the Browns need the bye week to get here. Of course they need it from a health standpoint. However, Cleveland played their best all around game of the season. Nobody expected the performance they witnessed on Sunday. Hopefully the momentum will carry over to round one of the ‘Battle of Ohio’ in week 12 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I will always say every win helps,” Williams said “We are taking it one day at a time, one game at a time. We have to get refreshed.”
The Dangerous Baker Mayfield:
“When I woke up this morning, I was feeling pretty dangerous (laughter),” Mayfield said. “I just woke up feeling really dangerous (laughter).”
That is a good thing for the Browns. Mayfield recorded his first three touchdown performance of his young career. He also completed his first 13 passes of the game. The first incomplete pass didn’t happen until the third quarter.
“I just felt like I was in a great rhythm,’ Mayfield said. “We were moving the ball well. I just felt like we were progressing as a team.”
Baker finished the day 17 of 20 for 216-yards and three touchdowns. He also posted his best quarterback rating of his young career, 151.3. Williams and Kitchens asked him to cut it loose and that’s exactly what he did.
“It comes down to just doing my job,” Mayfield said. “Them saying they trust me enough to let the ball go, I was brought here for a reason so just go do my thing. That obviously makes me feel comfortable when they say that. It comes down to me doing my job, getting the ball out of my hands. We did a good job of having guys open, finding the holes in their defense and getting completions.”
It didn’t take long for companies to capitalize on the dangerous quote. There is now a Baker Mayfield dangerous t-shirt. The letter ‘g’ is replaced with the number ‘6.’
The Record Setting Running Back Nick Chubb:
Rookie running back Nick Chubb has put his name in the Browns record book. The 92-yard touchdown run in the third quarter is now the longest run in franchise history.
“Just a great job up front,” Chubb said. “Those guys blocked hard the whole game, and it was wide open. I remember running through and seeing the safety left, and then after that, I see (WR Antonio) Callaway blocking the corner, which he did a tremendous job of that. He always does. After that, I am just wide open to the house.”
Chubb has done something that great Browns running backs like Jim Brown, Greg Pruitt, Earnest Byner, Kevin Mack and others have not, record a run of over 90-yards.
“It definitely is very special just being in this place with so much history and so many great running backs,” Chubb said. “To be a part of it breaking records it is a great feeling.”
The 92-yard run is also the second longest by a rookie in NFL history.
Chubb finished with a league best 176-yards rushing on 20 carries in week ten. Chubb also had three receptions for 33-yards and a touchdown. He tallied a league best 209-yards of total offense for running backs and wide receivers.
“I feel more comfortable. My eyes are getting better,” Chubb said. “I am seeing everything up front at first, but the game is still fast in every one we play. Just a great defense and great players on the other side of the ball and it is always tough, but I am always up for the challenge.”
The Wishbone Formation:
When was the last time you saw an NFL team line up in a wishbone formation in the backfield? Another wrinkle in Kitchens’ playbook included using Chubb, Hilliard and Duke Johnson at the same time in a wishbone formation. Kitchens coached the running backs before the promotion to offensive coordinator. He likes getting all of his running backs involved in the offense.
“It worked well,” Chubb said. “We were moving them, and we had a bad play call and also a bad throw I guess (laughter). You can tell that Coach Freddie loves his running backs because he had us all involved in that package.”
“He has experience in that area as I have experience in that area, too,” Williams said. “We have a good package of things that we wanted that group of players to come onto the field. We also wanted to see how they would respond. How would they visualize or see the package? We had a good package of plays. We had a little no-huddle concept, also, if we needed to try to keep that package on the field. Very well-thought out on Freddie and the offensive staff on utilizing what we have here.”
“It was something, wasn’t it? (laughter),” Mayfield said. “It was great. Even though we had a turnover, if we would have completed that ball, everybody would have been saying, ‘They are brilliant.’ Since we had an interception, they are probably going to throw Freddie under the bus and say stuff like that. It is something different. We threw a different look. We moved the ball well. It was just a thing to switch up the tempo, and I think it was great for our offense.”
Let’s not forget about the defense. What a job they did in containing a high scoring offense in the Falcons. Atlanta averaged over 30 points a game in their previous three victories. Holding that offense to 16-points is a job well done, headlined by the goal line stand in the fourth quarter.
“Showed tenacity. Showed a will to protect the goal line,” Williams said. “We talk about it every single day in practice, whether it is a walk through or whether it is a practice or it is a game. That takes the next step in confidence, too. That is not the first time since I have been here that we have done that. That is something we have done quite a bit in practice and quite a bit in games and have to keep on doing it. It does help in the confidence factor that we know what we are doing.”