The Browns established the run, established their dominance and hung on just long enough on a wild Sunday in Dallas.
On the backs of a dominant performance from the ground game, the Browns took a 27-point lead into the fourth quarter but saw it shrink to just a field goal with 3:42 to play. With all of the momentum on Dallas' side in front of the biggest crowd the Browns have seen this season, Odell Beckham Jr. sealed the game with a highlight-reel 50-yard touchdown run, sending the Browns to an unforgettable 49-38 victory.
"We knew we were going to have to weather the storm," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "Obviously, it got tight there at the end. We knew that that team is very capable of that, and that has been the M.O. of them in this season so we were ready for that. I thought the guys fought their rear ends off for 60 minutes, and we needed all 60 minutes.
"Good to get a win today, a team win today."
The win marked the Browns' first over Dallas since 1994 and, more importantly, served as Cleveland's third in a row in a 2020 season that just keeps getting better. This one tapped into the team's resilience in multiple ways, as the Browns first overcame the loss of Nick Chubb and then held up just enough against the NFL's top-ranked passing attack.
The Browns are 3-1 for the first time since 2001. The Cowboys fell to 1-3.
"We have some guys who have been through it," said DE Myles Garrett, who forced his third turnover in as many games. "All the guys here are difference makers. Everyone is having their numbers called are stepping up to the plate. I am proud of how we came out and fought and were able to get a big lead and not allow them to get back into the game."
Check out photos of the Browns against the Dallas Cowboys
Chubb, Cleveland's Pro Bowl RB, was lost early in the second quarter with a knee injury when he landed awkwardly while blocking on a pass play. He walked off under his own power but did not return, leaving the Browns ground attack in the hands of Kareem Hunt — who barely practiced this week because of a groin injury — D'Ernest Johnson and Dontrell Hilliard, who was promoted from the practice squad Wednesday.
The trio was more than up for the task, and they powered the way for a Browns offense that got whatever it wanted in a game-changing, 24-point second quarter.
Johnson led the way with 95 yards, Hunt added 71 yards and two touchdowns and Hilliard had 19. And then there was Beckham, who had a long run in the first half and the big one in the end to finish with 73 of his own, giving the Browns 307 for the game — their most since 2009. It marked the first time in team history the Browns had three players over 70 yards in a game.
"The offensive line is doing a great job," Hunt said. "The running backs are working hard. Coach has been telling us how to make the most of each and every run. We're working as a team, and I'm proud of those guys up front. And, hopefully we get him (Chubb) back soon. He's a brother to me."
That kind of ground game opened things up for Baker Mayfield and the passing game, which included a guest appearance by WR Jarvis Landry, who had Cleveland's first touchdown pass of the game. Mayfield tossed two touchdown passes in the Browns' breakout second quarter and finished 19-of-30 for 165 yards, giving him his third straight game with a quarterback rating of 100 or better.
Beckham, by the way, also caught two touchdowns, one from Landry and one from Mayfield, and led all Browns receivers with 81 yards. Jarvis Landry added five catches for 48 yards while TEs Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant combined for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Perhaps the most important 50 of Cleveland's 508 yards of offense came from Beckham, who was roughly 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage before he got motoring on a touchdown run that required just as much zigging as zagging before he crossed the end zone for the first rushing touchdown of his career.
"Kareem before the play was like, 'We just need 5 yards,'" Beckham said. "Harrison Bryant, the rookie, is giving me advice and coaching me up, telling me to stay in bounds. I said 'Thanks, rook.' I turned the corner and everybody was blocking and it was weird. I was about to slide and I just turned the jets on and got in the end zone."
Cleveland's defense surrendered plenty of yards to Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (a whopping 502 on the day) late in the action but was advantageous in the first half. Myles Garrett's third strip sack of the season and a fumble recovery later in the quarter set up back-to-back touchdowns.
The defense, though, had to catch its breath over and over in a heart-stopping fourth quarter that saw the Cowboys score touchdowns and two-point conversions on three consecutive possessions. But one play after Prescott cleared 500 passing yards for the day, Denzel Ward stepped in front of a pass near the goal line to clinch the game with an interception. It was the Browns defense's third turnover of the game and eighth in the past two during a stretch in which the offense hasn't committed a single one.
"My man is tough, (Ward) has shown that multiple times. Just like OBJ, he's a playmaker, he's a difference maker," Garrett said. "He's been a big force before and he's going to continue to. I'm proud of my guy. We all have a couple bumps and bruises and just try to fight through it this week, get healthy and look forward to the next game."
The Browns' offense came out hot and never relented in a historic first half.
The Browns needed just 30 minutes to clear 30 points for a third straight game, marking their first such stretch since 1968. Cleveland's 333 yards were its most in a half since 1991 and surpassed the team's full-game outputs in Weeks 1 and 3.
Cleveland dipped deep into its playbook for its first score, as Landry took the ball on an end-around and fired a 37-yard touchdown pass to Beckham. It was Beckham's 50th career touchdown, and it came from his best friend, who was playing in his 100th consecutive game. More importantly, it set the tone for a Browns offense that had Dallas on its heels from the very beginning.
"It puts like a hold on any words that I could think of or think for you to say. Not that it is not special to catch a touchdown pass from Baker or catch a touchdown pass in general, but literally, as I watched Jarvis throw the ball, it reminded me of being outside of WCA 804 as we would just sit there and talk for hours and throw back and forth," Beckham said. "It felt like a joke and not in a bad way, it just felt unreal to be looking him in his eyes and he is just throwing it and I am just smiling, like I felt like he already has his finger up and I am pointing at him. I would not trade that play for any amount of touchdowns in the game or if I was the one to throw it to him."
The Browns weathered a 14-point Cowboys barrage and Chubb's injury and finished off the half with 24 unanswered points.
Beckham's second touchdown, a 4-yarder that saw him quickly take advantage of one-on-one coverage, tied up the score just a few minutes into the second quarter. Forced fumbles by Garrett and Andrew Sendejo set up the Browns offense with short fields for its next two possessions, and both were capped with touchdowns. Hooper scored his first with the Browns on a 1-yard toss from Mayfield, and Hunt found the end zone on a 2-yarder for Cleveland's third touchdown of the second quarter.
The Browns used the final 3:53 of the quarter to move down the field and kick a field goal, giving them a 31-14 advantage at the half.
Cleveland knew it needed even more points on this day, and it provided the requisite amount against one of the league's best offenses.
"NFL games are never over," Beckham said. "From what I've seen in my experience, from games I've been a part of, it's just never over. Great film to go watch, to be able to have coaching points, to be able to make adjustments for down the road that we put these games away."