1. Jarvis Landry uncorks a ‘dime,’ and the Browns never look back
Jarvis Landry’s teammates knew he had the arm. They’ve seen it enough in practice, as the Browns drilled away at a couple of plays in practice over the past couple of weeks that allowed the left-handed Landry to uncork some deep balls.
They just never knew he had the accuracy to deliver one of the best passes of the NFL season — by anyone — in a crucial moment of a division game. Landry’s 63-yard pass to Breshad Perriman in Sunday’s second quarter was the real deal, a tight-spiraling seed that landed right in Perriman’s hands as he strode down the right sideline.
Cleveland scored two plays later to take a 13-0 lead. The Bengals never had the ball again with the score separated by a single possession.
“He better stop doing that or I am going to lose my spot,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “Geez, that was a good throw, a really good throw.”
Riding the momentum of a three-and-out from the defense, Cleveland’s offense took possession at its 30 looking to build upon a 7-0 lead. The play began with plenty of misdirection, as Mayfield handed the ball to wide receiver Antonio Callaway, who pitched it to Landry. The veteran wide receiver was coming from the right and ultimately stopped where the pocket would have been for a typical Mayfield drop-back.
Perriman, much like he did a couple of weeks ago when he caught a deep ball on Cleveland’s first play of the game, just kept running and running.
“That was an absolute dime from Jarvis,” Perriman said. “We were practicing it in practice but I never got it in practice. When I saw the safety came that hard, I knew it was an option.”
Consider it a little redemption for Landry, who threw deep on a trick play pass to Nick Chubb earlier in the month against the Panthers. That throw was accurate but ultimately batted down by a Carolina defensive back.
Even with tight coverage on Sunday’s play, Landry threw it where only Perriman could catch it.
“Anybody want to say they can make a better throw than that?” coach Gregg Williams said. “I can’t wait for Baker to tell him he thinks he can make a better throw than that. The only thing is I kept on thinking as soon as the play was over, I was like ‘OK, when is the next one going to come?’ He is going to be knocking on my door, knocking on (offensive coordinator) Freddie’s (Kitchens) door to come up [with another passing play].
“What a great athlete.”
It was Landry’s second career completion and first since 2015. It was the first by a non-Browns quarterback after two previous attempts — Landry’s incompletion and an interception by running back Dontrell Hilliard in Cleveland’s win over Atlanta. All have been attempted since Kitchens took over the offensive play-calling Week 9.
“He is just letting us play,” wide receiver Rashard Higgins said. “He is letting Baker do what he needs to do. (QB) Drew (Stanton) and (QB) Tyrod (Taylor) are doing a great job of helping Baker along that path, and I feel like that is the biggest thing.”
Photos: Browns face off against Bengals in last home game of 2018
The Cleveland Browns play the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium in Week 16.
2. Game ball goes to Bob Wylie after O-line delivers another big performance
Joel Bitonio walked out of the Browns locker room with a game ball on top of his luggage. He was headed straight to University Hospital with a number of members of the Browns offensive line to visit coach Bob Wylie.
Wylie, who gained a national following after a handful of light-hearted segments on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” fractured his ankle during Thursday’s practice.
“Bob is one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met,” center JC Tretter said. “Him going down, we feel bad. Bob means a lot to all of us. The O-line is a tight-knit group, both coaches and players so when you lose one of your brothers, it’s tough. We feel bad, but we’re with him and he’s with us in spirit.”
The Browns offensive line paid homage to Wylie with another complete effort – something that’s been a trademark during the team’s second half surge. Mayfield wasn’t sacked for the fourth time this season — fourth time in the last seven games — and Chubb cleared 100 yards for the second straight week and fourth time this season.
“They played great,” Mayfield said. “It is not always pretty, but they played more than good enough to win. That is the important part. We said it earlier in the week right when it happened, we are going to go out that game for him and he gets the game ball. I think it was Freddie who told me Bob was talking about getting out of the hospital the next day, and I think he was a little ambitious on that one. That just shows that he wanted to be out there.
“Our guys did a great job of fighting for him and playing for him. They ran the ball well today and protected well in the pass game. Kudos to them.”
3. Denzel Ward back in concussion protocol
The lone bit of bad news to come from Sunday’s game happened in the fourth quarter. Rookie cornerback Denzel Ward suffered his second concussion in three weeks when he lowered his shoulder into Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah while tackling him on the sidelines.
Sunday’s game was Cleveland’s first with its season-opening starting secondary since Week 4, when Terrance Mitchell went down with a broken wrist that sidelined him for eight games. It very well could be its last, as Ward will need to pass all of the necessary steps to even be eligible to play in next week’s season finale at Baltimore.
Ward, who was named to the Pro Bowl earlier this week, would finish his season with three interceptions, 53 tackles, 11 passes defensed, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.