Now that's more like it.
The Browns bounced back in a big way Thursday under the lights of FirstEnergy Stadium, and they did it with an efficient and productive offensive attack to take down the Bengals. Baker Mayfield threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns and Nick Chubb notched his first 100-yard game of 2020 to give Kevin Stefanski his first win as Browns head coach in impressive fashion.
The 35-30 victory moved the Browns to 1-1 on the season and sent them into the long weekend feeling much better than they did just a few days earlier.
"We do not ride the wave," Stefanski said. "We just show up and play and we try and learn from our mistakes and be one game better each week. So, the guys understand that. It is not a marathon. It is 16 sprints. So, had our second sprint tonight, and then we are going to look at the tape and then guess what? We are moving on to Washington."
Browns players honored Stefanski in the locker room after the game with a game ball.
"He works extremely hard," Mayfield said. "It was just a good team win for us. We had to play 60 minutes because they never gave up and they kept fighting so we had to keep going."
Mayfield completed 16-of-23 passes and spearheaded a balanced Browns offense that punted just once and kept Cincinnati's defense on its heels all night. His lone mistake, a fourth quarter interception, ultimately mattered little thanks to a dominant showing from Cleveland's two-headed monster rushing attack.
Chubb racked up 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and Kareem Hunt posted 86 yards with a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown to lead a Cleveland ground attack that took control in the second half. The duo combined for 110 yards on Cleveland's final two possessions.
Through two games, Chubb and Hunt have amassed 342 rushing yards with an average of 6.2 per carry.
"Those are two talented backs and they complement each other, they push each other," Stefanski said. "We are going to always look for unique ways to get them the rock. They did a very nice job tonight."
Mayfield got the better of Cincinnati QB Joe Burrow in the battle between No. 1 picks, but the rookie from LSU certainly held his own in his second NFL game. Burrow completed 37-of-61 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns, serving as the conductor of a Bengals offense that methodically moved the chains but couldn't capitalize with the kinds of big plays that burned the Browns just a few days earlier in Baltimore.
The Browns were the ones with the big plays on this night — none bigger than a 43-yard Mayfield touchdown pass to Beckham that pushed Cleveland out to a double-digit lead it'd maintain for a good chunk of the game.
A wild third quarter helped the Browns extend their lead and keep Cincinnati behind by multiple possessions for most of the second half. It was defined by what happened after each team had a touchdown run overturned following a video review.
After what was thought to be a 22-yard Chubb touchdown run, the Browns were stuffed on four consecutive plays from inside the 2-yard line. They got a big second chance just a few minutes later, though, as a Myles Garrett strip sack set up the Browns back at the goal line. Chubb left no room for subjectivity on his 2-yard score that staked Cleveland to a 28-13 advantage.
"When you take chances like that, you are depending on your team to be able to play for each other, playing ball and leaning on each other," Mayfield said. "Obviously, they threw the ball a lot tonight so they were tired, but Myles being able to get a rush on them, strip the ball and us get it right there on the goal line, it is a game changer."
On the ensuing possession, Bengals RB Giovani Bernard was thought to have scored on a 4-yard touchdown run. He was ruled down at the 1, and the Browns' defense tightened from there and limited the Bengals to a short field goal, keeping their advantage at double digits heading into the fourth quarter.
A Mayfield interception, though, breathed new life into the Bengals early in the fourth, and they responded with a lengthy scoring drive. Burrow's touchdown pass to Mike Thomas put the Bengals within 5 with 5:55 to play.
The rally was short-lived. Hunt and Chubb closed it out from there, combining for all 75 yards on a six-play drive that ended with a 1-yard Hunt touchdown.
"They know we are running it, we know we are running it and it is just mano a mano football," Stefanski said. "I thought the guys responded."
Cleveland's offense, with a heavy dose of play-action and Mayfield rollouts, came out hot to start the game with back-to-back touchdown drives to take an early 14-3 advantage.
The Browns moved into Bengals territory on their first offensive possession with 26-yard dart from Mayfield to KhaDarel Hodge. Chubb's first touchdown of the season, an 11-yarder in which he barrelled through multiple defenders, capped the 10-play, 75-yard drive and put the Browns ahead, 7-3.
A 13-yard Chubb run set up a beauty of a connection between Mayfield and Beckham early in the second quarter. The third-year quarterback rolled to his left on a play-action fake and lofted a ball down the left sideline to Beckham, who caught it in stride and fell into the end zone for the 43-yard touchdown.
A 23-yard Burrow touchdown pass to C.J. Uzomah sliced into Cleveland's margin midway through the second quarter, but the Browns came right back with an impressive drive to close the first half with their third touchdown. Mayfield worked through his progressions before locating a wide open Hunt in the corner of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown pass.
Mayfield completed 11-of-14 passes for 167 yards, two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 156 in a first half that ended with the Browns ahead, 21-13.
The Browns are back in action Sunday, Sept. 27, when they host the Washington Football Team at FirstEnergy Stadium.
"I think that is going to build confidence for us," Mayfield said. "Us playing complementary football with the defense, that is the scary part is if we start clicking and keep getting better, it is going to be a fun ride."
Check out photos of the Browns against the Bengals on Thursday Night Football