Takeaways

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3 Big Takeaways: End-of-half sequence deals costly blow

1. When it really turned

The start wasn't great. No one wants to start the season with an interception that leads to a quick touchdown for the other team.

But the Browns bounced back from that moment Sunday and found themselves in a position to make the game very close heading into halftime. Cleveland's offense found what appeared to be a rhythm on its scoring drive near the end of the first quarter, and it was feeling the same kind of vibes on a possession late in the second quarter — even after surrendering a 99-yard scoring drive — as it looked to cut into the Ravens' 17-6 advantage.

Mayfield completed a 16-yard pass to Odell Beckham Jr. and a 28-yarder to David Njoku to put the Browns in field goal range with a minute-plus left in the half. An 8-yard pass to Kareem Hunt set up a third-and-short at the Ravens' 23 with 50 seconds on the clock. 

Convert the short play, and the Browns likely maintain possession for the rest of the half. Instead, Mayfield's short pass to Beckham was dropped, Austin Seibert missed a 41-yard field goal and the Ravens had the ball back with 41 seconds on the clock.

Seven plays, 69 yards and just 35 seconds later, the Ravens had a commanding lead entering the half.

"We were still in that game," Mayfield said. "I thought we shot ourselves in the foot, but a great team like the Ravens is going to capitalize on all of your mistakes. We saw that in person today."

Though the Ravens failed to capitalize on their opening drive in the third quarter, the end-of-half chain of events set them up to "double dip," Mayfield said, and that usually ends poorly for the team on the other sidelines.

"That actually happened to us last year at home when we played them for the second time," Mayfield said. "They are a great team. They capitalized on our mistakes and played really well today."

Beckham finished with three catches for 22 yards on 10 targets. A handful of those targets resulted in Ravens' defensive penalties, but Mayfield put the onus on himself for why the pair couldn't be more productive.

"I have to be better and give him a chance on some of those things," Mayfield said. "Like the free play late in the game, just give him a chance. He is a great player so I just need to give him a chance."

Check out photos of the Browns against the Ravens

2. A bright spot: Two-headed running attack found success

For the first time as teammates, both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt registered double-digit carries. Each player generated a run of 20+ yards on Cleveland's lone scoring drive, and they finished with a combined average of 5.73 yards per carry.

The Browns out-rushed the Ravens, 138-107 — an accomplishment in its own right for multiple reasons. With 72 of those yards, Hunt had 26 more than he posted in any game last season.

For one, Baltimore was out-rushed just twice during the 2019 regular season, and one of those times was by the Browns in Cleveland's memorable upset. The other reason? Cleveland was playing from behind for almost the entire game and was forced to throw for most of the second half.

This kind of output in a game as lopsided as Sunday's bodes well for the future. In close games or games when the Browns hold an advantage late in the action, a running attack like this can really slam the door on the opposition.

3. Here and There

  • Browns coach Kevin Stefanski did not have any updates on the status of rookies Jedrick Wills Jr. (leg) and Jacob Phillips (knee), both of whom left with injuries in the second half. Wills, a first-round pick out of Alabama, and Phillips, a third-rounder out of LSU, were two of Cleveland's three rookie starters Sunday. Njoku (knee) also left with an injury and did not return.
  • Mayfield, who was sacked twice, praised Wills and the rest of the Browns' offensive line for the protection he had throughout the game. "I thought Jedrick played well," Mayfield said. "I do not know much about it so I will wait to hear and find out, but proud of Jedrick and how he played." 
  • Stefanski put the blame on himself for a fake punt attempt in the first quarter that ended with P Jamie Gillan taking a crushing hit and fumbling the ball back to the Ravens. It was the first career rushing attempt for Gillan, who was a talented rugby player before switching to football. "That is my responsibility. That is on me," Stefanski said. "That did not work out, and you can put that right on me."

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