Browns look to further validate start against tough Colts
CLEVELAND (AP) - Baker Mayfield knows all about the tortured history of the Browns over the past two decades. It got caught in his throat.
Almost from the moment he was drafted # 1 overall in 2018, Mayfield has been told the expansion-era horror stories of botched designs, devastating injuries, coaching errors, debilitating dysfunction, and loss. So much to lose
Mayfield cannot handle Cleveland's painful past. So why try?
"I wasn't here for all of this," he said. "I was here to change it and that's what I do."
It's true. The Browns (3-1), three years away from a 0:16 season and owners of what is currently the longest playoff drought in the NFL, have their best start since 2001. They show a balanced, high-profile offense and ball. Cleveland is one of the league’s first surprises in 2020 - for everyone but the Browns.
"You look at the games we won and it wasn't like it was a coincidence," said star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who had three touchdowns in Dallas last week.
Maybe not, OBJ. But the Browns' three wins after their Baltimore opener have fallen against teams with a combined 3-8-1 record, making Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts (3-1) a real test of Cleveland's legitimacy we Dare to say it, playoff contenders.
The same case could be made for the Colts, who shook off a week 1 loss to Jacksonville and won three straight. However, Indy's schedule for the first quarter of the season has been just as soft, so Cleveland will be a good benchmark for now.
The matchup will be played by the NFL's top rushing team (Cleveland averaging 204.5 yards per game) against the best overall defense in the league. The Colts lead in permitted points, yards and interceptions.
“We play as a unit. We're playing smart, ”said Indianapolis coach Frank Reich. “We were good against the run. It starts by stopping the run. That's why this week is going to be such a challenge, it will really test it. "
It could have gotten easier as the Browns can do without the Pro Bowl without Nick Chubb, who sprained his right knee in the Dallas win last week and could be sidelined for a month or more.
Kareem Hunt will likely get the most of Chubb's broadcasts as Brown's coach Kevin Stefanski is unlikely to deviate from a formula that worked for the first year.
"Nobody is replacing Nick Chubb," said Brown's security guard Joel Bitonio. "That guy's a stallion. It hurts to see him go under a bit, but it's the NFL, and unfortunately that kind of thing happens."
If Chubb's injury had a silver lining, the Browns have played without him for most of the last week and have succeeded.
Hunt rushed for 71 yards and two TDs, and D'Ernest Johnson, who came in with five career carriers, added 95 on 13 attempts.
It turns out that tobogganing against a Colts front anchored by DeForest Buckner is much tougher and turns out to be worth every penny of his $ 21 million a year contract after a trade from San Francisco.
"Game Wrecker," said Reich. “He's like Myles Garrett, a force against the run and the pass. His influence can be felt in every game. "
OLD MAN RIVERS
Colt's quarterback Philip Rivers can add two more milestones to his resume this weekend.
Sunday's start marks the 38-year-old's 229th in a row, joining him with Hall of Fame attacking lineman Bruce Matthews for the fourth-longest run in league history.
And with four degrees, Rivers will be the fifth NFL player to have 5,000 in his career. Earlier this season, Rivers finished sixth with 60,000 yards and 400 touchdown passes.
He just keeps a statistic.
"You always want to keep improving and getting better. If you win, that's a pretty good sign," said Rivers. "Find a way to win, do the things necessary to win. These are all good qualities of a team that has the chance to improve and do something special."
WE TAKE THIS
Cleveland's defense, led by a rejuvenated Garrett, has forced eight turnovers in the past two weeks and leads the league with eleven food stalls. Garrett has a strip sack for three games in a row, and coordinator Joe Woods said he is looking for every opportunity to find matchups for the quick, strong ending.
"I think if we can get him one on one he has a chance to win every time," said Woods.
The Colts competed this season thinking linebacker was one of their lowest positions. After four games, it may be the thinnest.
Backup Matthew Adams was injured in Week 3 after injuring his ankle. Three other linebackers were injured last week: Darius Leonard (groin), Bobby Okereke (thumb) and E.J. Speed (elbow).
Reich hasn't ruled out anyone but Adams, but it's certainly not ideal when it comes to the league's top-rated rushing offense. Leonard and Okereke missed training time this week. The speed was limited.
"We just have to get to them, quickly to them. Don't let the rewind begin," said cornerback Xavier Rhodes. "As soon as they touch the ball, we have to get to them as soon as possible because they did." some great runners, some tough runners. "
AP sports journalist Michael Marot contributed to this report.
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
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