EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — Oh, what a Monday night.
It wasn’t pretty at times, and at others, it was spectacular, but it all counted the same for the Browns when the clock hit zero. Cleveland recorded its first win of 2019 by a final tally of 23-3 over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium, bringing its record to 1-1 after two weeks.
These are the six plays that changed the much-needed first victory of the season.
1. Odell Beckham Jr.’s one-handed grab
Though this drive ended in just 3 points for the Browns, this was a major tone-setter for a high-stakes, early-season game on national television. Beckham announced his return to New York for the first time since the other team that calls MetLife Stadium home — the New York Giants — dealt him to the Browns by making an incredible one-handed grab along the far sideline for a gain of 33. The grab put the Browns at the Jets’ 4 on their opening drive, and the highlight of the reception immediately went viral on social media.
The possession ended with an Austin Seibert field goal from 23 yards out, but made an early statement: Beckham was here to make his mark all night long.
2. Holding call on Nate Hairston on fourth-and-2
Hairston found himself with quite a task for much of Monday night, which was covering Beckham. It was a pass intended for Taywan Taylor, though, that drew a game-changing penalty on the Jets.
Facing fourth-and-2, Baker Mayfield rolled to his right before firing a pass to Taylor, who did not complete the catch along the sideline. The result would have been a turnover on downs, but Hairston was flagged for defensive holding while Mayfield still had the ball, giving the Browns a fresh set of downs. On the very next play, they found pay dirt.
3. Nick Chubb’s 19-yard TD run
For much of the first half, New York effectively clogged running lanes when the Browns wisely attempted to get the ground game going. The Jets strung out zone stretches and crowded potential cutback lanes on inside zone runs, limiting Nick Chubb’s ability to rack up chunk plays.
That changed after the holding penalty on Hairston. Chubb took another zone run to the left side, found a lane thanks to Eric Kush and Joel Bitonio successfully engaging second-level defenders, and sprinted to the end zone for the game’s first touchdown. The score pushed the Browns’ lead to 13-0, gave them a little bit of comfort for the first time all night and proved they can find success on the ground as long as they’re persistent.
Check out photos of the Browns against the Jets on Monday Night Football
4. Baker Mayfield’s 25-yard completion to Jarvis Landry to set up Seibert FG
Just before half, the Browns appeared poised to add another three points when they took over at the New York 40. Then they very quickly moved nearly out of field goal range.
Not to worry, though, as Mayfield fired a strike to Landry for a 25-yard gain on third-and-20 to give the Browns a fresh set of downs and just enough time for a spike to stop the clock with 0:05 left in the half. Seibert then stepped onto the field and calmly drilled a 43-yarder to give the Browns a 16-3 lead at the half.
5. Browns defense stops Bell short of marker on fourth down
As both offenses trudged through an uneventful third quarter, an uneasy tension set in and gradually heightened as the clock crept closer to the fourth quarter. The Browns’ offense had slowed and the Jets were threatening to score when head coach Adam Gase decided a field goal wasn’t enough for his struggling offense. He was going for the big catch, a touchdown, and he’d only get it if his team converted a fourth-and-2.
The problem: They didn’t.
Le’Veon Bell received a pass in the flat from third-string quarterback Luke Falk and aimed for the edge, but was forced back inside where he was brought down by Greedy Williams and Joe Schobert for a gain of 1.
One wasn’t enough.
6. Baker Mayfield’s 89-yard touchdown pass to Odell Beckham Jr.
The turnover on downs left the Browns at their own 11 late in the third quarter, meaning they had 89 yards of grass between them and the sweet celebration of a touchdown.
They got it all in one play.
This was the final blow, even with a quarter left. Mayfield exited the huddle with a run-pass option called, read the Mike linebacker and fired a pass to Beckham on a quick slant with an alley to run through. He did just that, catching and sprinting through to the last level of the Jets’ defense, turning around Marcus Maye and outrunning the rest of the men dressed in black for an 89-yard score.
The touchdown capped Beckham’s first big game for the Browns — six receptions, 161 yards and one touchdown — and did so at the place he once called home.