The Browns found big plays at perfect times Sunday in Cleveland.
Just when it seemed as though the Browns' fourth win of the season was at risk, the defense and offense made a game-changing play to give Cleveland a 32-23 win over the Indianapolis Colts at FirstEnergy Stadium. The win pushed the Browns' record to 4-1, their best start to a season since 1994, and gave the raucous 12,000 fans in attendance all they could hope for on a thrilling evening in Cleveland.
Here were the biggest plays that helped make the win possible:
1. Mayfield hits Hunt with goal-line strike for six
Cleveland showed why it has one of the best red-zone offenses in the league on its second drive of the game.
The Browns had six opportunities to crack the end zone from within Indianapolis' 20-yard line and fight back after the Colts' opening drive touchdown. They were almost stopped on fourth-and-1, but coach Kevin Stefanski called for a quick pass to Odell Beckham Jr. rather than giving RB Kareem Hunt a chance to run through the trenches.
Hunt, though, was given his opportunity to make a big play two plays later.
He briefly scrambled around the back of the end zone to give quarterback Baker Mayfield, who had great protection in the pocket before scrambling outside to make his pass, a throwing lane for a touchdown. Mayfield saw the hole and fired a pass between two leaping defenders to hit Hunt.
That gave the Browns a 10-7 lead at the beginning of the second quarter, and it showed yet again how efficient the Browns have been inside the opponent's 20-yard line this season.
2. Mayfield, Higgins roll out red carpet for first time in 2020
Several Browns players rushed to the back of the end zone and took out their imaginary cameras once they saw who caught a 15-yard pass from Mayfield to put the Browns up 17-10 in the second quarter.
The receiver, of course, was Rashard Higgins. He was in perfect position to catch the pass in stride and corral his first touchdown of the season on a drive that was already special thanks to an unbelievable catch from Beckham, who somehow caught a 26-yard pass earlier in the drive despite being pulled down from his back and kept control of the ball after it bounced off his right arm.
Higgins ensured that Beckham's spectacular play would turn into six points, and Beckham was one of the players fortunate enough to snap a few imaginary photos of Hollywood Higgins as he picked up his suitcase and strutted down the red carpet for his signature touchdown celebration.
Check out photos of the Colts against the Browns
3. Rodgers' run cut the Browns' deficit to 27-17
The Browns sideline went wild after safety Ronnie Harrison made a pick-6 off Colts quarterback Philip Rivers to open the third quarter, but the hype didn't last long.
On the next kickoff, Colts returner Isaiah Rodgers caught the ball just inside the Colts' end zone and paced around Browns defenders for a deflating 101-yard return. Rodgers never slowed down as he sprinted past the original wave of special teams players and sped through the remaining tacklers hoping to push him out of bounds near the 50-yard line.
4. Browns get two points on Rivers' intentional grounding from the end zone
Myles Garrett has found ways to help the Browns score points nearly every week.
In the first four games of the season, Garrett recorded five sacks and forced three fumbles, which the Browns recovered each time and turned into points.
Garrett, however, found a new way to help the Browns score Sunday.
As Rivers looked for an open receiver from the end zone on the Colts' first drive of the fourth quarter, Garrett was right in Rivers' face as he attempted to rush around the offensive line. Rivers threw the ball out of bounds in a hurry to avoid the safety, but there was one problem.
No receiver was in the vicinity, according to the referees, who placed a yellow flag on the grass after a brief discussion and tagged Rivers with an intentional grounding penalty.
Because Rivers committed the foul in the end zone, he was also booked with a safety, which put the Browns up 29-20 — a crucial two-possession-lead late in the game — and set them up for another possession following Indianapolis' safety kick.
Those points can be attributed back to Garrett, who didn't need to make another sack or fumble to make his presence felt on the scoreboard.
5. Mayfield throws second interception after taking big hit
The Browns' pass protection didn't last long enough to stop Colts DE Justin Houston from reaching their quarterback on a big third-down pass attempt.
Mayfield's follow-through on a pass attempt to Jarvis Landry was disrupted by a charging Houston. The pass was intercepted by LB Anthony Walker, and the Colts, down 29-20, were given the ball right back after an interception from Rivers on the previous drive.
Mayfield was slow to walk off the field after the jolt from Houston. After being checked out in the medical tent, Mayfield paced around the sidelines and was good to go on the next offensive drive. The interception, however, led to a Colts field goal, which cut the Browns' lead to 29-23.
6. Cody Parkey banks in field goal to secure win
When the ball first went up, the 12,000 fans at FirstEnergy Stadium were silent.
Cody Parkey, who made two field goals before he took the field again with 25 seconds left to attempt a 46-yarder, put enough leg on the ball to travel through the uprights, but the ball path appeared to be heading for the left goal post.
Then, there was a thud.
The ball clanked off the goal post and bounced… right, just inside the uprights for a successful attempt.
The fans, of course, erupted. Cleveland had fought hard to maintain its lead throughout the whole half, and Parkey's kick was the last bit of luck the Browns needed to seal their win.