Game Balls: 5 standouts who helped lead the Browns to a Week 1 victory

All three phases of the team contributed in tremendous ways to secure a crucial Week 1 win

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The Browns won their first Week 1 game in 18 years on Sunday in Charlotte, defeating the Panthers, 26-24, at Bank of America Stadium.

That means it's time for the first round of game balls of 2022.

Here are the standout players from Week 1:

K Cade York

Well, duh.

What more is there to say at this point about York? His 58-yard game-winning field goal will stand as one of the top highlights of the season — and certainly his career. It's as high-pressure of a kick he'll ever face in the NFL, and he nailed it with confidence and ease.

The ball had plenty of distance left to it as well, which is just as crazy and insane and unbelievable from a rookie, but that's why the Browns drafted him in the fourth round.

"We knew he was gonna come through for us at some point," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "Here it is in game one. The kid just knocks it down the middle."

Could we see an even longer field goal, possibly of the game-winning variety, from York in the future?

After his kick Sunday, anything feels possible. The kick was a personal-best in a live game for York, but we saw him kick a 70-yard field goal during warmups of the third preseason game. He certainly has the leg to give it a chance.

RB Nick Chubb

In a performance where neither side of the ball featured a smooth four-quarter display, Nick Chubb was (unsurprisingly) the lone constant for the Browns all afternoon.

The big rushing totals he's capable of posting each week have felt normal now as he enters his fifth Browns season, and the one he accrued Sunday was his biggest Week 1 total of his career — 22 carries for 141 yards.

Similar to York, there's also not much more to say about Chubb. This is what he does just about every week, and when he tops 100 yards, good things usually happen for the Browns. They're 17-7 in his career when he eclipses the century mark.

RB Kareem Hunt

The offense sorely missed Hunt for all nine of the games he sat out due to injury last season, and that was evident all day in Charlotte. His 1-yard receiving touchdown happened after he lined up in the backfield with Chubb —a look we'll likely see more of this season — and his 24-yard touchdown run on the next drive highlighted just how elusive and explosive he still is as a runner.

When the offense needs a spark, Hunt is unquestionably a guy who can deliver it. He was the only Browns player who found the end zone Sunday and tallied 11 carries for 42 yards and four receptions for 24 yards. All those receiving yards happened on a screen pass Hunt caught behind the line of scrimmage and turned into a huge gain.

Check out the best photos from the Browns win over the Panthers yesterday by the Browns photo team

WR Donovan Peoples-Jones

Peoples-Jones led Browns receivers with six catches on 11 targets for 60 yards. His 13-yard catch on second-and-12 in the Browns' game-winning drive was arguably the biggest catch of the game — it would've set up a difficult third-and-12 situation if he didn't corral it — and it moved the Browns into Panthers territory.

A few of those six catches were tricky and completed with a defender draped around him, too. The performance was what Peoples-Jones needed to show he's ready to embrace the second role in the WR room behind Amari Cooper, and he more than showed Sunday that he's capable of making big-time catches in critical moments.

DE Jadeveon Clowney

Clowney was all over QB Baker Mayfield from the start. He batted down the first pass the former Browns QB attempted and added another pass breakup later in the first half. He also recorded a half-sack on Mayfield in the second quarter.

Him and Myles Garrett made life hard on Mayfield and combined for 2.5 of the Browns' four sacks. That's a strong start for Year 2 of the Garrett-Clowney era on the defensive line, but we'll give the game ball to Clowney for setting the tone early with the batted passes.

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