CLEVELAND, OH – Thanks to a game-winning touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield to Rashard Higgins in the final minute, the Cleveland Browns rallied to beat the visiting Buffalo Bills, 19-16 and possibly save their season.
Despite becoming the first team in 26 years to fail to score on six or more four down conversions from inside the 2 yard line, the maligned Browns managed to escape going 2-7 thanks to Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka channeled his inner Scott Norwood in missing a potential game-tying 50-yard field goal in the final seconds.
While the Browns managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat down at The Factory of Sadness, what this game will most likely be remember for is Cleveland’s growing ineptitude in the red zone. How is it that a team with as much talent as the browns are so clueless and impotent in scoring from six feet out?
Not even Sherlock Holmes could solve this riddle.
I can understand if the Browns wanted to get their playmakers such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry—who has nine catches for 97 yards and one touchdown—involved, but to fail to convert on ten plays—which included two pass interference penalties—and not take the points, is still going to be a topic of discussion.
And the hero who caught the game-winning catch in Higgins? Before the game, there were reports out of Berea that the Browns were looking to faze out Higgins in favor of Callaway. My response to this is, why?
Why try to faze out Mayfield’s favorite target and the one wideout he trusts the most, along with having clear chemistry with? Yes, while Callaway is beaucoup fast and talented, his off-the-field issues outweigh his production and availability on the field. You know what the old saying in football is, the best ability is availability.
As the Browns attention will quickly pivot toward the hated Pittsburgh Steelers invading Cleveland, the main issue that still needs to be address is the offensive line’s failure to man up and give Mayfield protection and time for plays to develop. If there is a silver lining hidden in their first home win of the season is that in going 26-38 for 238 yards and two touchdowns, Mayfield has now strung together two straight games of not throwing an interception, and three touchdowns. Also, the Browns have done a better job in cutting down on the turnovers and cleaning up the penalities that plagued the team for much of the season.
Cleveland also needs to clearly establish RB Nick Chubb—who is having a Pro Bowl-type of year with 919 yards rushing and six touchdowns—more prominently going forward, as the weather will get colder and running becomes more of a premium.
Continue to feed Chubb, get Higgins back in the starting lineup and put Mayfield in better position to succeed, and the Browns will be ready to roll down the stretch.