The Browns know how to bounce back, and their latest rebound performance put them one step closer to a playoff berth.
Under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football, the Browns delivered a methodical, professional, 20-6 victory over the Giants at MetLife Stadium on a day when all of their other competition for playoff spots won. The victory was Cleveland's 10th on the season, its most since 2007, and it served as yet another reminder of how resilient the team has been all throughout the season.
"It is something to be proud of, but the best part is everybody in there is like 'Yeah, 10 wins, but we are on to the next one,'" QB Baker Mayfield said. "A notch on the belt and then move on because we are not done yet. That is the best part about this team and I keep stating it about them is they are on to the next one."
The Browns have yet to lose back-to-back games on the season, and they rarely trailed in this one, taking the lead for good on a second-quarter touchdown pass by Mayfield and largely controlling the game the rest of the way. The Browns hit double-digit plays on all three of their scoring drives and marched 95 yards on two of them.
Cleveland's three scoring drives accounted for nearly one-third of the game's 60 minutes.
"You are trying to make every one of these drives count," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "You want to come away with seven on each of these because you don't know the type of games you are going to be in, so there is a sense of urgency really from the jump from the very first drive that you better come away with seven because that is just the nature of this game."
Mayfield was one of the biggest reasons why this game had nowhere near the drama of the previous week.
He was sharp from the start and never cooled off, completing 27-of-32 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns — good for a quarterback rating of 126.2. Over the past four games, Mayfield has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,232 yards, 10 TDs and just one interception.
His 84.3 percent completion percentage was the third-best mark (min. 15 attempts) in franchise history.
"Baker was outstanding tonight," Stefanski said. "He was dialed in. It is really what I expect from him, and it is what he expects from himself. It's how he practices. I really thought he was sharp."
Nick Chubb scored his 10th touchdown of the season early in the fourth quarter to cap a 14-play, 95-yard drive that took more than 8 minutes off the clock and put the game out of reach. Chubb finished with 50 yards, making him just 69 shy of his second 1,000-yard season despite missing four games with a knee injury.
Jarvis Landry (seven receptions, 61 yards) and Rashard Higgins (four receptions, 76 yards) led a Browns receiving corps that provided all sorts of open options for Mayfield. Austin Hooper had one of his most productive games of the season with five catches, 41 yards and a touchdown.
Check out photos of the Browns against the Giants
Cleveland's offense did it all with Nick Harris, a fifth-round rookie center, playing almost every snap at right guard in the first extensive game action of his career. Veteran Chris Hubbard, who was filling in for an injured Wyatt Teller, was lost on the game's first series to a knee injury, thrusting the former Washington star into action against one of the NFL's biggest and toughest defensive lines.
"I know Nick is going to battle. I am not surprised," Stefanski said. "I have not watched the tape, but I am not surprised that he can go in there and battle and fight. He is a very smart player, being able to play center and guard for us. Not surprised that he is ready to go when we need him."
Cleveland's defense, six days removed from surrendering a season-worst 47 points, allowed just two field goals and limited the Giants, who were without starting QB Daniel Jones, to 288 yards on 54 plays.
"Very few teams go 16-0 in this league. It is how you respond to those losses that matters," Stefanski said. "It is how you respond to a bad play that matters. Those are things we have been talking about throughout the season. I just think it speaks to the character of the players we have."
The Giants, who fell to 5-9 on the season, came into Sunday night's game with one of the NFL's best red zone defenses, but it was the Browns' that shined brightly during the first half.
Tested three times on the Giants' first three possessions, the Browns surrendered just three points. That came on New York's second drive, giving it a brief 3-0 lead with 4:12 left in the first quarter. The Graham Gano field goal was sandwiched between two fourth-down stops by the Browns, as they forced an incompletion on a fake field goal pass and stuffed Wayne Gallman on a fourth-and-1 run from the 5-yard line.
Sheldon Richardson, who made the initial contact to stuff Gallman, exited the game with a neck injury in the second half. X-Rays were negative, Stefanski said.
"They got some yardage, but we are trying to keep them off the board," said DE Myles Garrett, who collected his 11th sack of the season late in the fourth quarter. "At the end of the day, we are trying to have more points than they do. Whatever we have to do get a W in that win column, we are going to do."
Cleveland, meanwhile, made the most of its trips inside Giants territory, scoring back-to-back touchdowns on methodical, time-consuming possessions.
Mayfield's 2-yard touchdown pass to Hooper put the Browns on top, 7-3, at the 12:46 mark in the second quarter and capped a 13-play, 75-yard drive that took 6:41 off the clock. Mayfield's 2-yard touchdown pass to Landry with 21 seconds left in the half capped a 10-play, 95-yard drive and extended the Browns lead to 13-3 at the half.
"We knew from film study that they are a big zone team, especially with a couple of guys out in the secondary that they were going to have to play a little bit more zone coverage and rely on their front," Mayfield said. "We had our guys in the right spots. Just that one play at a time mentality, those long drives and continuing to overcome penalties or eliminating negative plays, I am very proud of our guys for hanging in there."
Mayfield was 17-of-19 for 172 yards and the two scores in the first half, good for a quarterback rating of 139.5.
The Browns are back in action at the same stadium next Sunday when they face the New York Jets.
"Getting the one win a week is hard. We understand that," Stefanski said. "Our focus will forever remain right there. Proud of the guys how they battled tonight, but we have to come back and do it next week. It is just the nature of this beast."