It was a day to remember for the defense, and we're giving them plenty of due in our coverage on ClevelandBrowns.com, but we're kicking off this edition of 3 Big Takeaways with a spotlight on Sunday's biggest offensive star.
1. Kareem Hunt's Angry Running Gives Browns The Jolt They Needed
The Browns rarely struggled to move the ball Sunday. That's a feat in itself considering the opponent, Chicago, which has boasted one of the league's toughest, angriest defenses over the past few years.
Cleveland, though, didn't punch through the way it was hoping until it got a heavy dose of angry running from Kareem Hunt, who sometimes juked but more often bulldozed his way to 155 yards on 16 touches.
"I think just the look in his eye, everybody could tell the way he was running," QB Baker Mayfield said. "It seemed angry – angrier than usual. When that happens, just find a way to get him the ball."
Hunt's first touch of the game came on the Browns' third offensive possession with a little more than 2 minutes to play in the first quarter. The first two drives ended in miserable fashion with Mayfield taking sacks on fourth down on both, and the Browns needed a lift as they trailed 3-0.
Hunt provided a quick jolt, taking a screen pass 18 yards and adding 12 more on the ground. The drive would eventually stall, but the Browns were on the board after a Chase McLaughlin field goal and the offense had something to build upon.
"We certainly were leaning on him there in moments," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said.
Hunt was a catalyst on the Browns' most impressive drive of the game, a 12-play, 89-yard possession that ended with an Austin Hooper touchdown and sent the Browns into halftime with a 10-3 lead. Hunt touched the ball four times, gained 41 yards and picked up three first downs.
None of Hunt's touches looked angrier than his longest run of the day, a 29-yarder for a touchdown that appeared doomed from the start. Bears S Deon Bush snuck through the line and looked poised to drop Hunt for a loss on the third-and-3 play. Hunt, though, was able to slide to his right, swat Bush away and keep plowing forward. He dodged another tackle attempt from DT Khyris Tonga and stutter-stepped away from a flying S Eddie Jackson, maintained his balance and sprinted the rest of the way for his second touchdown of the season.
"There were a couple of defenders in the way, but I just wanted it," Hunt said. "I knew another touchdown or so would put them away, so whatever it takes to make it happen."
It was the signature moment on a signature day for the do-it-all back, who gained at least 9 yards on eight of his 16 touches.
"Kareem runs very hard. When it's there, he runs hard and makes great yards. When it's not there, he's still running hard and spinning out of it," Stefanski said. "I've seen it live and in living color with a great seat the last couple of years to see this kid just fight for every yard that is out there. He's got a great mentality and is a team guy all the way."
2. Special Day For Felton
Sixth-round rookie RB Demetric Felton quickly surpassed his offensive play count from the previous week, when he had just three snaps, but he provided his biggest spark Sunday on punt returns.
Felton fielded a whopping seven punts and amassed 103 yards, good for an average of 14.7 per return. It was the most yards by a Browns punt returner since Travis Benjamin had 154 in Cleveland's Week 2 win over the Titans in 2015.
For reference, the Browns had 115 punt return yards all last season. Not bad for a player who didn't field a single punt during his time at UCLA.
"I'm getting really comfortable," Felton said. "It's just a testament to how good of a coach (Special Teams coordinator MIke Priefer) is. He's got me right … I didn't take a punt in my college career. I got a lot today and we're just learning and getting better each time."
3. OBJ 'Exhausted' But Feeling Good After 2021 Debut
Odell Beckham Jr. was "exhausted" after his 2021 debut, but he was in good spirits after a solid performance as a pass-catcher and runner.
Beckham caught five passes for 77 yards to lead all Browns receivers and added a 10-yard run on a reverse. Mayfield went to Beckham early and often, targeting Beckham nine times and looking for him in a handful of pivotal moments.
"A lot of emotions and a lot of things just running through you as you are back in the stadium," Beckham said. "It is still a dream to play in the NFL and be in this game. It was a lot to take in today. I just felt like I could never get my legs going, but we came out with the W and that is all that matters."
Beckham took a hard hit across the middle in the first quarter, something he hadn't been able to experience since he suffered a season-ending knee injury Week 7 of the 2020 season. He played through some pain after taking the brunt of the hit on his shoulder and delivered his best catch of the game in the third quarter, when he hauled in a 26-yarder to set up a Browns field goal.
Beckham is hoping Sunday was just the beginning of a big third season in Cleveland.
"We had a couple throws, but there are definitely things that I can work on," Beckham said. "For the first game back, I just felt like I could never get my legs underneath me. It was definitely a tough game, but I got my feet wet. Glad to get that one out of the way. 1-0 and move onto next week."
Check out photos of the Browns against the Bears in week three