Analyzing four key moments from the Browns’ 20-10 win over the Giants…
1. The beginning was less than ideal for the Browns on both sides of the ball.
On the first play from scrimmage, Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley took a handoff and scurried 39 yards around the right side.
Two plays later, Browns rookie defensive back Denzel Ward broke up an Eli Manning 3rd-down pass, but stood over the wide receiver and had some words for him. The act earned Ward a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The NFL is strictly enforcing the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties this preseason. Ward learned that the hard way early in his career.
The Browns forced a field goal after the penalty extended the drive, and the Giants struck first with a 3-0 lead. The Browns got the ball for the first time, and the Tyrod Taylor-Jarvis Landry connection got started early. Landry hauled in a 32-yard back-shoulder ball but he was called for taunting, too; he had some words for Janoris Jenkins and spun the ball near his feet.
Following the penalty, Landry caught another ball from Taylor, but the Browns were forced to punt.
2. Mychal Kendricks made a good first impression with the Browns when he burst through the line for a third-down sack of Manning to force a punt.
The Browns were adamant on speeding up the offense during the first-team’s second and final possession. After back-to-back completions to Rashard Higgins, Taylor connected with David Njoku on a seam route for the game’s — and season’s — first touchdown pass.
The drive took just four plays, and the Browns marched 66 yards in just 66 seconds. The Browns took a 7-3 lead, and Taylor was 5-of-5 with 99 yards and a touchdown before he exited the game.
3. Baker Mayfield’s first series as a Brown was uneventful; He orchestrated a three-and-out. But the second drive, Mayfield lit up the field. First, it was a completion to Higgins for 26 yards. After a holding call, he completed a 3rd-and-18 to C.J. Board for 21 yards. He then converted a 3rd-and-6 scramble when nobody was open.
After another improvisation on 4th-and-2, Mayfield threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Njoku, his second of the evening. All in all, Mayfield delivered a handful of memorable plays on a 14-play, 72-yard drive to push the lead to 13-3.
Photos: Browns face Giants in preseason opener
The Cleveland Browns play the New York Giants in Week 1 of the 2018 preseason.
4. The Browns offense did a good job of forcing a Giants 3-and-out on their first second-half possession. But on the punt, they gave it right back. Board caught the punt cleanly but coughed it up upon contact with Giants defender Kerry Wynn. The Giants’ Zak DeOssie recovered at the 14-yard line.
Jalen Simmons made the Browns pay three plays later, scoring on a run from 5 yards out, cutting thelead to 13-10.
Cleveland extended the lead for good early in the fourth quarter, when Mayfield and Callaway connected again. Mayfield led Callaway on a slant, and although he was held by a defender, Callaway caught the ball, made a man miss and scampered 54 yards for an easy Browns touchdown. Mayfield’s second touchdown pass pushed Cleveland’s lead to 20-10, which held as the final score.