4 quick takeaways from the Browns win over the Giants
The Cleveland Browns passed their Sunday night test in New York. The Browns defeated the Giants with a methodical 20-6 win in Week 15 to end the action on Sunday.
The Browns improve to 10-4 with the win, the team's first 10-win season since 2007. It wasn't a blowout, but the result was never really in doubt after halftime.
Here are four quick tips for the Browns' impressive win over the Giants.
Baker was cooking
(AP Photo / Seth Wenig)
Baker Mayfield had one of the most effective games of his career in victory. It has been one of the most consistent and most accurate performances in the NFL by anyone all year round. Mayfield was on fire. In the zone. Feel it. Whatever euphemism for playing awesome football you want it was for Mayfield against the Giants. His throwing accuracy was incredible. The Giants defense wasn't bad at coverage, but Mayfield was still taking them apart with precise throws across the field. He aggressively shot the second tier of receivers, often adding difficulty to these throws rather than settling for shorter openings. But almost all of them went on strike. https://twitter.com/Jake_Trotter/status/1340872823489908736?s=20 Mayfield finished 27-of-32 for 297 yards and two TDs. He didn't turn the ball and was released once.
The defense of the red zone was huge
(AP Photo / Seth Wenig)
The Giants offensive had some chances at the start of the game. Each of the first three trips in New York were in the Browns' red zone. Cleveland's defense allowed only three points on the three trips. New York was part of the Browns success. A bizarre wrong field goal on the first trip led to a strange throw to the backup center, which was covered three times in the end zone. Karl Joseph and Sheldon Richardson finished a 4-down run on the 6-yard line at the other stop, pinched by a Giants field goal. If the Giants even score three field goals on these drives, that's a different game. The Browns' defenses tightened than needed, and they saved the day early.
The depth increased
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The Browns got some strong performances from some unexpected players filling more than their normal spots on the depth map. Safety Karl Joseph, usually a part-time player when Ronnie Harrison and Andrew Sendejo are healthy, was the front runner in his position with regulars. Joseph played his best all-round game of the season. He led the Browns in tackles (10), made two major stops including a TFL, and broke two Colt McCoy passes. Rookie Nick Harris was put into action after Chris Hubbard was injured in the Browns' second snap. Hubbard played for Wyatt Teller, the regular right guard who was out with an injury of his own. At least it has proven that it is worth developing and maybe making a place on the depth map in another year. Cleveland's fifth round election from Washington and the nominal backup center played quite well on the right. He did post a sack, but that was the only block blown for Harris in the evening. David Njoku, a former starter who is now relegating to the reserve, caught all three passes that got in his way. He also had a crush block for the second week in a row.
(AP Photo / Seth Wenig)
Some one-note observations from the game:
Apart from punter Jamie Gillan, the specialty teams made too many mistakes. The first kick coverage allowed the Giants to cross midfield. Kicker Cody Parkey missed an extra point after a penalty. Brown's position in the field with a punt return cost another penalty. The coverage team also failed to knock down a well-executed Gillan boat that landed and bounced in the Giants 5, but no one was there to cover it.
Austin Hooper was an important part of the offensive schedule early on and it worked well. In the first two trips he got three passes.
It didn't show much on the stats sheet but Olivier Vernon played great on his return to play for his old team. Vernon had half a sack, four tackles in total, and one more QB pressure. He also drew a critical suspension penalty, but it was his responsible running defense on the sidelines that really stood out.
The defense was lucky that it was Giants backup Colt McCoy and not a fastball thrower who played quarterback. The lack of speed on some throws allowed the cover to catch up a half step past where it should have been. Watch out for over-reliance on the secondary from this game.
Goodson played well at finishing passing games. Sione Takitaki had great running gear. The rest of the game was a nightmare for the linebackers. It's the weakest position group on the field and it's not close.
It's an interesting twist when D'Ernest Johnson takes on Browns axle drive. Both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt were healthy. Johnson actually outperformed Hunt, 24-21.
It was nice to hear the NBC crew praise rookie head coach Kevin Stefanski's clever play prompt and ego management both during the game and at halftime. It is also true.
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