Can you believe it? The Cleveland Browns are now 4-1, which hasn’t happened since 1994, after defeating the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 32-23. Let’s get to the recap of the game.
On the first offensive play of the game, RB Kareem Hunt carried the ball for a 4-yard gain. The Colts challenged the play, and it was one of those situations where the play was over, but the whistle probably hadn’t blown yet, and a defender knocked the ball out. It could have easily been ruled a fumble, but the officials used discretion to keep the ball with Cleveland.
The Browns then proceeded to march down the field against the Colts’ top-ranked defense, keyed by a 32-yard pass to WR Jarvis Landry. Two back-to-back incompletions in a goal-to-go situation forced Cleveland to settle for a 24-yard field goal by K Cody Parkey to give them a 3-0 lead.
The Colts executed through the air on a 3rd-and-6 play from midfield on their opening drive, as QB Philip Rivers found a wide open receiver for a 27-yard pass. It looked like the defense might hold Indianapolis to a field goal, but they decided to go for it on 4th-and-2 from the 4 yard line, and RB Jonathan Taylor walked into the end zone untouched to give the Colts a 7-3 lead.
Landry’s big first quarter continued on Cleveland’s next offensive drive, as he made this incredible catch off of a defender’s back:
RG Wyatt Teller limped off the field during the drive and was replaced by OL Chris Hubbard. Landry had another big gain, this time for 30 yards, to move Cleveland into the red zone. Facing 4th-and-1 from the 5 yard line, on the final player of the quarter, head coach Kevin Stefanski decided to go for it. The Browns picked up the first down with a quick pass to WR Odell Beckham as he was in motion.
On 1st-and-goal from the 2 yard line to begin the quarter, Hunt was stopped for no gain. After an incomplete pass on second down, Mayfield was forced out of the pocket on third down to buy time. He found Hunt for a leaping catch in the back of the end zone to put Cleveland back on top 10-7.
Cleveland’s defense was being sliced through the air again on their next drive, once again by a busted coverage over the middle that led to a 34-yard gain that would’ve been more had the receiver not fallen down on the catch. On a 3rd-and-3 play from the 14 yard line, DE Olivier Vernon disrupted a Rivers pass for an incompletion. The Colts settled for a 32-yard field goal by K Rodrigo Blankenship to tie things up at 10-10.
On the Browns next drive, Cleveland continued to attack through the air. Mayfield let one rip to Beckham over the middle, who made an incredible 26-yard catch. The Colts challenged the ruling, but the call was upheld, meaning Colts head coach Frank Reich was out of his challenges for the rest of his game.
On 3rd-and-4, with no one open, Mayfield again bought time and scrambled to his left for a 16-yard run to extend the drive. On 2nd-and-10 from the 15 yard line, Mayfield found WR Rashard Higgins for a touchdown in the right seam, perfectly throwing the ball to the outside and away from the defender to give Cleveland a 17-10 lead with under 6 minutes to go in the half.
The Colts went three-and-out on their next drive for the first punt of the game. Cleveland wanted to tack on more before the end of the half, continuing to attack through the air. That also included Beckham throwing a pass to TE Austin Hooper!
Cleveland only managed to set up a 4th-and-2 at the 18-yard line, as some of Mayfield’s passes started coming out too high, including one that he was lucky wasn’t intercepted. Parkey hit a 36-yard field goal to take a 20-10 lead heading to the half.
Things looked great for the Browns to begin the second half. On a 3rd-and-4 pass, he telegraphed a throw to the sideline, and S Ronnie Harrison jumped it in zone coverage for a pick six, taking it 47 yards to the house to go up 27-10.
A three-possession lead was huge, given the fact that Indianapolis’ offense is not one that strikes with big plays. That’s why it was painful to see the special teams unit respond by yielding a 101-yard kickoff return to CB Isaiah Rodgers for a touchdown, bringing the game right back to 27-17.
The momentum continued to swing to the Colts. Indianapolis started playing more back in coverage as an adjustment, so the Browns began with three run plays to move the chains. But then, Mayfield was strip sacked on the next play (but recovered), and then was picked off on his second down pass by LB Bobby Okereke.
Indianapolis capitalized, but only with a field goal, as they ran the ball on the first 8 plays of the drive. Pressure from Garrett helped force an incomplete pass on second and third down, forcing Blankenship to come on and hit a 37-yard field goal to make it a 27-20 game with just under four minutes to play in the third quarter.
Cleveland marched to midfield heading into the final quarter of play.
The Browns ran a playfake to his left to begin the fourth quarter, and had Landry wide open — but after all the tough catches made on the day, he dropped it, and Mayfield’s third down attempt to Beckham was incomplete. Then it was the Colts’ turn to give some momentum back to Cleveland. On P Jamie Gillan’s punt, the return man fair caught it at the 4 yard line. Then, on first down, Rivers ran a playaction fake — feeling pressure from Garrett, he chucked the ball away up the left sideline, but no receivers were there. That led to an intentional grounding in the end zone, which is a safety, increasing Cleveland’s lead to 29-20.
After the safety punt, the Browns missed opportunities, as one floating pas was just out of the diving reach of Hooper, and then Landry dropped another pass that had potential to gain a first down. The Browns punted back to Indianapolis, but you would’ve loved to have seen some more time taken off the clock.
The Browns got to Rivers again on their next drive. Sheldrick Redwine was playing his first snaps of the season on defense because Harrison was being evaluated for a concussion, and he jumped a route after more pressure from Garrett. Redwine’s interception gave the offense the ball back at midfield with 11:24 to go.
After running the ball into long field goal range, Mayfield faced a 3rd-and-3 from the 31 yard line. However, he held onto the ball too long and was hit as he threw and intercepted by the Colts, who returned it to their own 30 yard line with 7:05 to play. Mayfield was holding his shoulder/arm gingerly as he went to the medical tent.
The Colts managed a 25-yard field goal with 2:50 to go to cut the Browns’ lead to 29-23. On the Browns’ ensuing drive, it began with a 10-yard rush by Hunt, forcing Indianapolis to burn their first timeout (Mayfield had also returned). On 2nd-and-9, the Browns went playaction and Mayfield was under heavy pressure. He threw the ball in the dirt, holding his arm in pain. On 3rd-and-9, wouldn’t you know it, the Browns ran a run with RB D’Ernest Johnson, and he took off up the left side for a 28-yard gain, the team’s biggest run of the day, to head into the two-minute warning.
After the two-minute warning, Johnson rushed for 2 yards and the Colts burned their final timeout with 1:56 to go. Johnson gained a yard on second down, and then lost 2 yards on third down. That set up a 46-yard field goal attempt with 0:25 to go, after the Browns called a timeout. Parkey came on and he the field goal off the left upright, but it ricocheted GOOD to give the Browns a 32-23 lead and seal the win!
The Browns will play on the road next Sunday, October 18th, in their Week 6 match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The game will be at 1:00 PM ET.
Quick Hitter Stats
QB Baker Mayfield: 21-of-37 (56.8%) for 247 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT. 2 rushes, 17 yards.
RB Kareem Hunt: 20 carries, 72 yards (3.6 YPC). 3 catches, 21 yards (4 targets). 1 TD.
WR Odell Beckham: 5 catches, 58 yards (9 targets). 1-of-1 for 18 yards.
WR Jarvis Landry: 4 catches, 88 yards (9 targets).
WR Rashard Higgins: 3 catches, 31 yards (3 targets). 1 TD.
DE Myles Garrett: 1 sack, but forced a safety and multiple interceptions with his pressure.
Quick Hitter Notes
Overall, given some of the injuries the defense suffered, this was perhaps the unit’s best defensive performance of the season. Credit to Cleveland’s safeties seeing new playing time, which we’ve been begging for — Ronnie Harrison had a pick six, and Sheldrick Redwine also had an interception.
This was an outstanding game for Cleveland’s offense in the first half. They came out throwing the ball instead of running it, including after an injury to Teller. The catches that the receivers were making in clutch spots had everyone going “Wow!” left and right.
And then, the second half happened. The special team touchdown allowed didn’t help matters, but Jedrick Wills was starting to get beat. Mayfield’s throws weren’t crisp. And Landry inexplicably ended two drives with drops in which he was wide open on short passes. Fortunately, by the end of the game, it was the running game which again helped seal it for Cleveland.
Some of the big post-game things to watch are related to injuries. How is Mayfield’s arm? What is Teller’s status? Is Hunt OK? And anyone else who had to depart the game early?
How would you grade the Browns’ Week 5 offense?
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How would you grade the Browns’ Week 5 defense?
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How would you grade the Browns’ Week 5 special teams?
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