After 635 days, including an 0-16 season, the Browns finally won a game.
All it took was the No. 1 overall draft pick, a running back with new motivation and a familiar call from the Eagles’ playbook to put the Browns over the Jets, 21-17.
Baker Mayfield, who before the last two minutes of the first half was just a spectator, took over and gave Cleveland new life. He was helped by Carlos Hyde, who wasn’t just celebrating his 28th birthday but soon the birth of his first child. The two later paired up for a momentum-changing play Mayfield admitted “may or may not have been called the Philly Special.”
The Baker Special! ???#Browns #NYJvsCLE
?: @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/qtSMlVsA5P
— NFL (@NFL) September 21, 2018
So, how did the rookie who had yet to have live reps with the first team feel after the win?
“I feel good,” Mayfield said. “We finally put the pieces together a little bit. … This crowd deserved to see this win at home and that’s what I’m most proud of that we put it together for the fans at home.”
Three takeaways from the Browns’ win over the Jets
The Baker Mayfield era has begun
Mayfield made his impromptu NFL debut after starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor was ruled out with a concussion sustained late in the second quarter, and the rookie was immediately put to work.
His first throw, a completion to Jarvis Landry for 14 yards, already outpaced Taylor’s performance. The Browns had negative three net passing yards before Mayfield took over with less than two minutes until half. He strung together 11 plays that ended with a field goal for the team’s first points.
After the break, Cleveland put up points every quarter highlighted by two 69-plus yard touchdown drives — an impressive feat for someone who had yet to practice with the Browns’ starters.
“As corny as it sounds, that’s kind of how my whole life has gone,” Mayfield said. “I’ve had the backup role, had to fight through things and always had to be mentality ready and ready to go. I don’t get the reps but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to know what’s going on.”
He sure knew what was going on when he lined up under center. His entrance showed up every other quarterback who took the field. After three quarters, he had more passing yards than Sam Darnold and Taylor combined — 141 for Mayfield compared to 112 between the two other quarterbacks.
Mayfield went 17-of-23 passing (including three drops) for 201 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.
No. 1 lit a fire under No. 3
After a scoreless first quarter, Darnold, the 2018 No. 3 overall pick, led two touchdown drives to give the Jets an early lead. One was his own doing, and the other was thanks to a blocked punt from New York special teams.
The scoring drives showcased Darnold’s ability to quickly get the ball out with a short pass on third and 4 to extend the first touchdown drive and another dart on third and 11 in the second, but after that he fell flat.
It wasn’t until midway through the fourth quarter with the score tied at 14 points apiece that Darnold came back to life. He was able to move the ball 65 yards to set up Jason Myers with an easy 28-yard field goal attempt to put the Jets back up.
But then Mayfield happened.
Darnold again took over, this time trailing the Browns for the first time. After a clutch fourth-down conversion, he threw a late pick to give the Browns possession with a little more than 1:20 left. The rookie, who was playing in his third game in 11 days, finally tired and finished 15-of-31 passing for 169 yards and two interceptions.
Carlos Hyde had more than one reason to celebrate
Before the game, Hyde was rushing straight from the hospital. After the game, according to Mayfield, Hyde was rushing back to the hospital.
It was a meaningful night for the first-year Browns running back, and it wasn’t just because of the baby or his birthday. Hyde played a key role in Cleveland’s win, scoring both touchdowns to first tie the game and then put the Browns up for good.
Two touchdowns for the birthday boy @elguapo!#Browns have a 21-17 lead. #NYJvsCLE
?: @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/7CjfYNMKKB
— NFL (@NFL) September 21, 2018
He ended with 23 carries for 98 yards to trample on the Jets’ defense, who allowed 323 total yards and is in the running for the best touchdown celebration of the night.
After his first score, he cradled the ball like a baby.