The Browns hadn't tasted a lead since the whistle blew on their Week 12 win at Cincinnati.
When they finally got one early in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Panthers, they made sure to never let it go.
The Browns ended the back-and-forth in an entertaining tussle with Carolina when Nick Chubb scooted in the end zone for the go-ahead score and then stood tough on the goal line in a 26-20 victory at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Browns moved to 5-7-1 with the win, their third in the past four games. Carolina lost its fifth straight to fall to 6-7.
Clinging to their six-point lead with less than 3 minutes to play, the Browns defense stopped the Panthers cold as they looked for the game-tying touchdown. The Panthers had second-and-goal at the 2 but couldn't cross the goal line, as the Browns stopped an option pitch and forced back-to-back incompletions.
The Browns didn't let the Panthers get that close on their final drive, as Damarious Randall intercepted Cam Newton with 57 seconds to play.
Building off his strong finish in Houston, Baker Mayfield responded with a big first half en route to a day in which he completed 18-of-22 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown. Nick Chubb scored his 10th touchdown of the season and finished with 66 rushing yards.
Do-it-all running back Christian McCaffrey paced the Panthers' offense in the first half, scoring twice from short distances and making the Browns pay on screen passes. He had a third-quarter touchdown wiped away because of a holding penalty, and the Panthers had to settle for a field goal to take a 20-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Cleveland Browns play the Carolina Panthers at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Quiet all third quarter, the Browns offense came to life when Jarvis Landry ran 51 yards on third-and-2 to set up a 4-yard Nick Chubb touchdown with 13:05 to play.
The Browns matched the Panthers each time they found the end zone in the first half, using highlight-reel throws by Mayfield to move down the field. Cleveland and Carolina combined for 464 yards of offense in a first half that ended in a 17-17 tie.
Cleveland's first offensive play of the game went 66 yards on a play-action pass to Breshad Perriman, setting up a Jarvis Landry 3-yard touchdown run. On third-and-17 midway through the second quarter, Mayfield rolled to his left and fired a 51-yard touchdown pass to Landry, who was guarded by three different Panthers.
Player of the Game: Landry did it all for the Browns, reeling in a 51-yard touchdown catch to go along with his 51-yard run that set up Chubb's go-ahead score. He finished with a combined 111 yards of offense (57 receiving, 54 rushing) and two touchdowns.
Best from the Panthers: McCaffrey was his usual versatile self, finishing with 63 rushing yards, 38 receiving yards and two scores.
Key Moment: Facing a third-and-2 at their own 45 early in the fourth quarter, the Browns deployed the same exact play they utilized on the goal line in the first quarter. It worked even better the second time, as Landry took the inside handoff 51 yards. The explosive play set up a Chubb touchdown run that gave the Browns their first lead of the game.
Stat of the Game: Combining his record-setting second half last week against the Texans with his first half Sunday, Mayfield completed 32-of-40 passes for 527 yards and two touchdowns. With his touchdown pass in the second quarter, Mayfield became just the third quarterback since the Super Bowl era to throw at least one touchdown pass in each of his first 10 games.
Who's Next?: The Browns hit the road for a Saturday Night primetime matchup with the Denver Broncos.