CLEVELAND, OH — 48 hours after being on the losing end of arguably the game of the year in 2020, 47-42 vs. the Baltimore Ravens, the Cleveland Browns (9-4) earned a lot of respect both nationally and locally.
There are no moral victories in what is a cruel, unforgiving and brutal warlike game of football. But the Ravens loss also showed that the Browns can go toe/toe with ANY TEAM. Period.
First off, last night’s game was THE game of the year and arguably the best NFL game since that Chiefs-Rams thriller out in L.A. back in ‘18.
Call this heartbreaking loss a blessing in disguise, as it painfully showed where the Browns are a franchise and how close they are to contending with the likes of Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Baltimore, Buffalo, etc.
As I wrote following Cleveland’s narrow TNF over the Bengals in Week 2, the Browns defense aside from DE Myles Garrett, DT Larry Ogunjobi, LB Mack Wilson and DB Denzel Ward needs to be upgraded, like yesterday.
If I’am GM Andrew Berry, I would trade up for the top LB prospect in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft in Micah Parsons from Penn State or 6’2 215-pound Notre Dame ILB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and then go DB, and DL after that.
It’s no secret that Cleveland’s linebackers are suspect in coverage and tackling in space. It’s not so much Joe Woods’ 4-3 scheme, but the lack of personnel.
I get it. Jacob Phillips and Sione Takitaki are young, etc, but this is where the Browns miss Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert, who left in free agency for Jacksonville and Green Bay respectively.
Again, just my thoughts.
And now for OUR FRANCHISE QB, Baker Mayfield.
He balled. Period. In bringing back the Browns back twice to take the lead, only to loss to the reigning NFL MVP in Lamar Jackson–who channeled his inner Clark Kent and Willis Reed–on a blown coverage. No shame in that, but Mayfield showed up and played his heart out in playing arguably his best game as a NFL starter in completing 28-47 passes for 343 yards, two touchdowns and a solid QB passer rating of 87.5
Going into the Tennessee game, many critics questioned his shortcomings vs. elite teams, and even after beating the Titans, many still doubted that Mayfield was worthy of being an franchise QB. If any of those so-called “experts” still have a problem with him, then go root for the Steelers or some other team, Negative Nancy!
In his last three games, Mayfield has turned the corner in throwing eight touchdowns, one interception, averaged 311.6 yards passing, completed 66.9 percent of his passes and compiled a QB passer rating of 117.0.
Credit both first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski and offensive coordinator, Alex Van Pelt in helping Mayfield blossom into the QB that Browns fans have been crying for over the last 20-plus years.
And no, we ain’t benching him for Case Keenum or tanking for Ohio State’s Justin Fields.
Aside for that a truly classic game that gave all football fans a roller coaster of a ride, and provided some much needed clarity on the QB and LB spots, Cleveland may have lost on the field to a Super Bowl contender, but they won off of it in earning some national praise.
As the Browns now turn their attention towards the New York Football Giants, all the talk of not competing and playing with the big boys has been silenced. Cleveland still controls their own destiny in making the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and the best team in over 30 years.
Everyone in Northeast Ohio can agree on one thing; this Browns team is one we can all cheer for and are going to be a tough out in the post-season for whatever team they have to face.
On to Jersey!
Also published on Medium.