Fifty-nine minutes. 49 seconds.
That was all the time the Browns needed to make enough game-changing plays and complete their 37-34 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. Cleveland used five touchdowns, three of which came in the fourth quarter, to pull out one of the wildest wins of the season. Heavy blows were exchanged from both AFC North rivals all afternoon, but the Browns put themselves in position to make the final game-changing play with just seconds left on the clock.
There were plenty of plays to pick from, but here are the plays that made the biggest difference in the Browns' thrilling win.
Mayfield hits Bryant to even score
The Browns were forced to dig deep early after news that Odell Beckham Jr. would miss the rest of the game with a knee injury suffered in the first quarter.
That left Cleveland with only three available receivers, and that included Jarvis Landry, who revealed earlier this week that he is playing through a broken rib. TE Austin Hooper also underwent surgery for appendicitis Friday, so the Browns' receiving depth was stretched thin.
But the injury adversity didn't slow the Browns down on their first drive of the second quarter, and quarterback Baker Mayfield turned to a rookie tight end to carry the load.
That player, of course, was Harrison Bryant, who turned around at Cincinnati's goal-line just in time to catch the short pass from Mayfield and cap off an 11-play, 70-yard drive with six points. That was Bryant's second touchdown of the season, and it came after a drive that featured a perfect 5-of-5 passing mark for Mayfield with key completions to Landry and Rashard Higgins.
Cleveland tied the game at 10-10, and its offense was starting to find some juice despite its limited brass of receiving options.
Bryant snares second touchdown pass
Harrison Bryant made his breakout game official on the first drive of the third quarter.
After originally making 12- and 35-yard catches to move the Browns into Cincinnati territory, Mayfield looked to target the tight end again as the Browns hunted for a touchdown from the 6-yard line to tie the game. Bryant didn't appear to be open — he had a pair of Bengals defenders draped around him — but Mayfield set his feet and fired a strike to Bryant's chest.
Bryant made the catch and fell to the turf. Then, he got back up and spiked the ball for the second time. The Bengals were struggling to cover Bryant, the Browns' fourth-round 2020 pick, and his connection with Mayfield was keeping the Browns afloat. The score was 17-17, but the most thrilling moments of the afternoon had yet to come.
Bengals reclaim lead on touchdown to Higgins
The Browns defense appeared to have a hold on Bengals WR Tee Higgins after he ran a slant route and caught a short pass from Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow to move Cincinnati deeper into Browns territory.
Two defenders looked to have Higgins in their grasp, but a quick spin move from the rookie wide receiver sprung him loose with only a 5-yard sprint to the end zone. No other Browns defender was in front of him to make a tackle, and he jogged into the end zone to put the Bengals back on top 27-24 with just under five minutes to play.
Browns strike back on TD reception to Hunt
The Browns' first drive after Higgins' touchdown might best encapsulate how deep they needed to dig to get in position for a win.
The 12-play, 80-yard drive featured a little bit of everything. Mayfield increased his consecutive passing streak to 18 completions. Rookie WR Donovan Peoples-Jones caught his first pass of his career on a throw from … Jarvis Landry. RB Kareem Hunt, who had been slowed down by the Bengals defense for most of the afternoon, broke off for a few big gains to keep the first downs coming.
The whole sequence was finished after a short pass from Mayfield to Hunt, who caught the ball and finished an easy sprint into the end zone with just under five minutes left to give the Browns a 31-27 lead. That was one of the most memorable drives of 2020, and it came at an absolutely crucial time for Cleveland.
Burrow throws to Bernard for last-minute TD
The Browns were prepared for the Bengals to make a rushing play on fourth-and-inches from Cleveland's 3-yard line with just over one minute left.
Cleveland's defensive line was filled to the brim with big bodies prepared to stuff any play intended to cut through the trenches, but then the Bengals sent RB Giovani Bernard, lined up as a receiver on the right side of the line, in motion once to the left. Then, he shuffled back to the right.
The Browns defense followed Bernard, but his full speed spring to the right side gave him just enough time to catch a pass from Burrow. Bernard was tackled just by the goal-line but the ball crossed the plane and gave the Bengals a 34-31 lead.
Peoples-Jones makes miraculous end zone catch
The Browns' last offensive play of Sunday's scoring frenzy will be remembered for quite some time.
It was one of Mayfield's best highlights. It was one of Kevin Stefanski's best play calls. And, for Donovan Peoples-Jones, it was an all-time great catch.
On second-and-10 from Cincinnati's 24-yard line, Mayfield was given all the time he needed to set his feet and fire a deep pass to any receiver open in the end zone. The receiver he found was Peoples-Jones, who outpaced the Bengals defenders near the right sideline and had a chance to make a play if Mayfield spotted his pass to perfection.
Mayfield unleashed his throw, and the pass hit the chest of Peoples-Jones, who somehow managed to squeeze both feet in bounds to make the catch and send Cleveland home with a thrilling 37-34 finish.