What a difference four days can make.
The Browns are back in the win column after their Thursday Night Football victory over the Broncos, and they'll carry those good feelings for the next 10 days before another big one with the Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium.
For now, we're focusing on the present, which is much better than it was a few days ago. And we're focusing on a player who wasn't on the field a few days ago but was able to make his presence felt immediately against the Broncos.
1. Jarvis Landry gives Browns the 'juice' they'd missed
There's always a next man up, but there are some intangible things that can't be replaced when a key player goes down with an injury.
The relentless energy of Jarvis Landry certainly qualifies.
"I have played with many great receivers," QB Case Keenum said, "and I have never seen anyone quite have the look in his eye at times during games where it is just the ability to take the game over."
Keenum saw that look on the very first play, and he found Landry on a short pass that went for 7 yards to get the Browns rolling. Four plays and 68 yards later, the Browns were in the end zone with a quick-strike touchdown that would stake them to a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Landry would be targeted a team-high seven more times and he finished with five catches for 37 yards. The final one was arguably the biggest — and scariest — as he hauled in a 7-yard pass to give the Browns a first down on what would be their final possession of the game, as they ran the clock out on Denver. Landry came up limping on the play, and his emotion showed as he trotted to the sidelines.
This wouldn't be like Week 2, when Landry suffered the knee injury that would force him to miss four games. He was back on the field for the final couple of plays, including D'Ernest Johnson's game-sealing run on third-and-7.
Landry didn't know how much he'd end up playing Thursday, but nothing was keeping him off the field in such a pivotal moment. For a player who had never missed a game because of an injury before this season, Landry had watched from the sidelines far too long for his liking.
"It was tough watching but it also gave me a lot of perspective about the game. Never take anything for granted," Landry said. "I was just excited to get back out there with the guys."
The feeling was mutual for Landry's teammates and coach Kevin Stefanski, who made sure Landry would be the final player out of the tunnel for the game's starting lineup announcements.
"I think it meant a lot to our fans," Stefanski said. "He brings the juice, no pun intended. He brings it to our sideline. Having him out there, a guy who fights, I could be talking about a bunch of different guys, but he is one. He fought like crazy to be out there with his teammates."
Check out photos of the Browns against the Broncos in week seven
2. About that opening drive…
The Browns won the coin toss Thursday. On most occasions, that would be followed by the Browns deferring to the second half and opening the game on defense.
Thursday, though, was different, and the Browns took the ball. Five plays later, they had a lead they wouldn't ever give back.
Stefanski said his decision to receive the opening kickoff was weather-related. With relatively calm conditions at the start of the game, Stefanski saw a forecast that grew a little dicey as the game progressed. He wanted to pick the path that would send the Browns away from the wind in the fourth quarter, and that meant taking the ball first.
No matter the reason, Keenum and the offense took it as a jolt of confidence. And, well, they played like it, blazing down the field in just five plays to take an early 7-0 lead.
"When Kevin told me that if we won the toss we were taking the ball, I was like, 'Let's go,'" Keenum said.
3. Myles Watch
Myles Garrett delivered another Myles Garrett performance Thursday. That meant 1.5 sacks and relentless pressure on Broncos LT Garett Bolles and whoever else was chipping him and doing whatever it took to prevent him from wrecking the game every time Teddy Bridgewater looked to pass.
Garrett leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks and is now all alone in second place for most sacks in Browns history. For his career, Garrett has collected 52 in 58 games, allowing him to pass Michael Dean Perry, who had 51.5 in 109 games. Garrett needs just 10 more sacks to match Clay Matthews Jr., the Browns' all-time leader.
"I'm going for Matthews in a little bit," Garrett said. "I'll try to get him before the end of the season."