1. Myles Garrett's 1st sack of 2020 was a big one
Kevin Stefanski's call to go for it on fourth-and-goal during Thursday's third quarter received a nod of approval not only for the offensive players who prefer sevens to threes, but also members of the defense.
"I love it," DE Myles Garrett said. "Mad guts."
The gamble didn't pay off — at least initially. The Browns were stuffed on four consecutive plays, and the Bengals got the ball back inside the shadow of their own goal post. The burden fell on the shoulders of the defense to maintain the lead.
They did just a little more than that.
Garrett's first sack of 2020 was a big one. He peeled around the edge, lunged toward Bengals QB Joe Burrow and stripped the ball out of his hands. Joe Jackson fell on it at the 2-yard line, and the Browns offense got a much-needed mulligan.
"We had a game called, and I knew what move I wanted to put on him," Garrett said. "I knew as soon as we got that call I was going to get a block shot to the outside. He bit on the post up and I was able to get a hit on him. I saw a chance to get a hit on him and try to take the ball away and make a game changing play."
It changed the game in this sense. The Browns built their biggest lead of the night after Nick Chubb's 2-yard touchdown run, and it provided a nice bit of breathing room the rest of the way against a CIncinnati offense that simply wouldn't quit.
Garrett has waited months to get the 31.5th sack of his NFL career, and it mattered little to him that it didn't involve knocking the quarterback to the ground. This sack lifted up the Browns sidelines and directly led to more points on the scoreboard.
That's what Garrett expects from himself every time he hits the field.
"A sack is nice, but we are here to take the ball away at the end of the day. We are here to get three-and-out, which is a turnover or a takeaway. How we can get it? We do it," Garrett said. "Those are the plays you need to make to define your season. Hopefully, that is just the start for me, but I know those other guys are ready and hungry to make those plays themselves."
Check out photos of the Browns against the Bengals on Thursday Night Football
2. Some love for the FB
The Browns' big rushing night obviously had a lot to do with the talent and power of Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The Pro Bowl running backs seemingly got stronger with each carry, and the Bengals defense offered less and less resistance against them as the game unfolded.
Both Stefanski and Chubb, though, made it clear there was another key player who provided major contributions.
"We should also mention Andy Janovich," Stefanski said. "I thought Andy played a really nice game. It is a different feel when he is out there. I enjoyed seeing No. 31 doing his thing."
Acquiring a player like Janovich for Stefanski's offense was a must on the team's offseason to-do list. The Browns' trade for the fullback, who spent his first four years with the Broncos, didn't generate many headlines, but it was considered a big win for what Cleveland wants to accomplish on offense under Stefanski.
With the Browns falling in a big hole Week 1 against the Ravens, Janovich's number wasn't called much. It was a different story Thursday, as he saw the field for 22 of a possible 58 snaps. He was a key member of Cleveland's closing committee, which racked up 110 rushing yards on the final two possessions.
"Andy is great. He is my second set of eyes," Chubb said. "If I do not see anything, I am following him. He is always going to take me to the right spot."
3. 6,000 strong
Baker Mayfield got what he requested.
It was a small but powerful crowd inside FirstEnergy Stadium on Thursday. They heeded the QB's words, when he said earlier in the week "it better be a rowdy 6,000." After his deep touchdown pass to Odell Beckham Jr., chants of "OBJ!" rang loudly — just like they would on a normal Sunday with a capacity crowd.
"I thought the atmosphere was great. I truly do," Mayfield said. "I thought they were loud for not having as many people as they probably would want to pack in there. It is always fun to play under the lights in a night game. Having that atmosphere with those fans getting rowdy was great."
It was a fraction of what the players experience on normal game days, but it made an impact. The Browns are hoping for more of the same next week against the Washington Football Team and potentially even more in the coming weeks if the State of Ohio permits it.
"They did a great job," Stefanski said. "They really did. It was loud in there. Credit to the faithful."