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2 reasons why the Cleveland Browns could win their next 6 games

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Like the rest of Sooner Nation and Browns Backers worldwide, we toasted the weekend performance of not only Baker Mayfield but also Nick Chubb, Antonio Callaway, Duke Johnson, Joe Schobert, David Njoku, Rashard Higgins, Myles Garrett and the entire Cleveland Browns organization.

This wasn’t Thursday night magic against the Jets.

This was a complete team win, a whipping put on a good Atlanta Falcons club.

There is no doubt that Baker Mayfield showed enormous improvement this weekend: decisive passing, better improvisation and world-class play action. However, Mayfield also had much better protection Sunday than at any other point this season. Heck, watching Oklahoma’s 48-47 win over Oklahoma State, we Sooners fans bemoaned the protection for Kyler Murray, something we don’t typically have to worry about.

The Cleveland defense with Joe Schobert and Denzel Ward both back in the lineup is a different beast altogether, especially Schobert. They take on a completely different identity with the third-year linebacker from Wisconsin. He clogs the middle.

Dare I say that if Cleveland were to play like they did in their 28-16 win over the Falcons, they could win any or all of their remaining six games.

The Browns have two games against the Bengals, who are at the bottom of the NFL in passing yards per game and two spots lower than the Browns in points given up per game. Cincinnati and Cleveland are No. 30 and 32, respectively, in yards allowed per game.

And come to find out this week that the Bengals plan on hiring former Cleveland coach Hue Jackson?

Who is that supposed to help? Seriously, I’m asking.

Cleveland has a shot to win both of those games, as they do the Baltimore game. The Browns have already beaten the Ravens once, a 12-9 thriller at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 7. That game was one of four overtime games the Browns have played this season, and if you think about it, there is every possibility that the other three could have fallen Cleveland’s way, meaning they’d be 7-3 right now.

The Browns are not a bad football team fundamentally; they’re just learning to put it all together and to do it with consistency.

Cleveland has a tough two-game stretch at Houston, a team that has figured out how to put it all together, and against the Carolina Panthers at home. Both of these opponents currently sit at 6-3, and on the development scale, they’re seemingly far ahead of the Browns. However, the Texas notoriously under-achieve, and we get Cam Newton in front of the Dawg Pound.

No guarantees, but definitely not for-sure losses.

When you looked at the Browns’ chances against a Steelers team in Pittsburgh or even a hot Kansas City team at home, you had to think any win would be a significant upset. When faced with the task of beating the Texans or Panthers, the thought is — if the Browns execute like they did against Atlanta.

And if they were to somehow get past the Bengals, Texans and Panthers, a trifecta that could absolutely land the beloved orange-and-brown at 0-3 for the set, Cleveland would head to Denver for a Saturday-night showdown against the Broncos that could decide the Browns’ playoff fate.

No, I’m not drinking. This is a schedule that provides some room for hope for a club that is improving under Gregg Williams the way they’ve shown over the past couple of weeks.

Cleveland absolutely could run the table and finish 9-6-1.

If they did that, Baker Mayfield wouldn’t just be Rookie of the Year; there would be serious conversation about Baker as MVP.

But he’s not even the reason I think there’s hope for such a run.

It’s this: Cleveland’s takeaway-giveaway ratio is +12, second only to the Chicago Bears.

It’s also this: The Browns are third in the NFL in total rushing yardage and sixth in yards per game at 133.2.

It helps when your running back is also an awesome rookie:

Forget what the crazy blogger man here thinks. Take those two stats seriously. Being able to run the ball and being able to force some turnovers will keep you in ball games.

And then you have a coach who nobody believes would be given a shot at the gig full-time, a Kansas City boy named Gregg Williams looking for redemption after running afoul of league rules in New Orleans. You watch him make a speech like this and wonder if, really, Cleveland hasn’t found their guy:

Williams didn’t add “in miracles” to the end of his question. He just asked the team, “Do You Believe?”

In the process. In the details. In the coaching staff. In each other.

Belief is a powerful drug. Add that to a +12 takeaway/giveaway ratio and an ability to run the ball well, and the Browns are going to have more of a chance in each of these games than virtually anybody will give them credit for.

Cleveland Browns: These 4 characteristics make Baker Mayfield a winner

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Cleveland 21, New York Jets 17.

That was pretty much the most entertaining Thursday Night Football game in the history of #TNF. Or that I know of. I don’t know; I don’t typically watch Thursday Night Football, but damn if I’m not a fan of the NFL all of a sudden.

Thanks to Baker Mayfield.

Down 14-0 and having lost their quarterback to a possible concussion, Mayfield came into the game and immediately injected energy into FirstEnergy Stadium. He also led them to a FG to cut into the Jets lead before the half, 14-3.

And then we got the word that Tyrod Taylor was out for the game. Baker would start the second half.

Truth be told, I was a bit apprehensive about that prospect as an Oklahoma Sooners fan suddenly devoted to all-things Cleveland Browns. Bob Wylie’s offensive line had played like trash in the first half, forgive the frankness.

Baker might get killed out there.

But he didn’t. Mayfield’s passes were quickly released, crisp, and he didn’t even really have to stretch the field. Soon-to-be new daddy Carlos Hyde took advantage of the Browns’ success through the air, racking up 98 yards on 23 carries and two scores.

Mayfield caught his first score before he threw for his first, a 2-point conversion reminiscent of Oklahoma’s play against Georgia in last year’s Rose Bowl.

The Philly Special? Naw. This is the Oklahoma Special.

But then Baker Mayfield led the Cleveland Browns on a 15-play, 75-yard game-winning drive that ate up 6:52 off the fourth-quarter clock. It’s a drive the likes of which we saw in Norman, Oklahoma, time after time after time.

Baker was clutch, effective and efficient, finishing the night with a quarterback rating over 100. And to his credit, Mayfield is not an all-heart sort of leader. His accuracy is uncanny. His release is quick. And his teammates would knock over a brick wall for him.

However, that’s not the thing that makes him a winner, and his recipe for success is centuries old.

Credit other people. You’ll regularly hear Baker take the focus off himself and praise his teammates and coaches.

Be situationally aware. It’s clear Mayfield was ready to play tonight despite the insanity of the Cleveland coaching staff giving him no reps during the practice week.

Be competitive. I don’t know that competitiveness has to be the polar opposite of contentment, which is a fine state unto itself, but I’d suggest that a nagging hunger to achieve or win is pretty much a standard characteristic of winners.

Exude positive energy, in public and in private. Brush off your shoulders and don’t let nothin’ affect you.

Will all that mean Baker leads the Browns to the Super Bowl, win Rookie of the Year and never lose again? Of course not.

Tap the brakes.

Not even Mayfield is perfect. We’ve seen the video from Fayetteville, Arkansas. That guy ain’t out-running an NFL defensive end.

But those of us Oklahoma Sooners fans also saw Baker admit his mistake, apologize, move on and not repeat it. Knock on wood. That’s part of the formula as well, to be able to overcome adversity.

Anyway, I guess what I’m saying to Browns fans or anybody who will eventually get sick of an Oklahoma fan telling you that Baker Reagan Mayfield is a winner, it’s not about his Heisman Trophy or the big wins at Oklahoma (a-plenty) or the two trips to the college football playoffs.

It’s not because of the results that people say he’s a winner.

It’s because of the way he takes care of business and how he executes.

And the super sweet thing is that the winner part of this formula is something anybody can do with enough practice.

Beyond Baker: How HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’ converted me to the Cleveland Browns

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When half of Oklahoma decided to become Cleveland Browns fans, we did so out of our loyalty to Baker Reagan Mayfield, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner and, arguably, the greatest college football quarterback of all time over the course of a career.

Stores in Oklahoma have Cleveland Browns sections now. Seriously.Β 

I’m a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan who has just grown apart from the franchise in the days after Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson, Texas Stadium and the hole in the roof so God could see through it. I’d largely tired of Jerry and problem players and a lack of success on the field that made their troubles off it pretty unbearable.

Long story short, I started looking for other teams to support, and I landed upon the Rams, moving from St. Louis to Los Angeles. Aside from the remaining gold, I love their uniforms, and I love the fact that Joe Pendleton was a Ram. “Heaven Can Wait” was my late mother’s favorite movie, or one of them.

And I still support them.

But because of Mayfield and especially the HBO series, “Hard Knocks,” I fell for the Cleveland Browns. During the final moments of the Browns’ game versus Pittsburgh, I was white-knuckling it as if the Sooners were playing the Longhorns. And this week against the Saints, I was bemoaning every missed kick from Zane Gonzalez, while at the same time feeling completely sorry for him.

I’ve even made Browns friends on Twitter, which is cool particularly when you figure out that lifelong, die-hard Browns fans are at once bewildered why anybody would join their misery and completely welcoming of the commiseration.

It also feels good to start at the bottom. I don’t feel like I’m bandwagoning anything.

But I also figured out by watching “Hard Knocks” that the Browns organization appears to be fronted by good people. No offense, but I haven’t had that sense with the Dallas Cowboys for 20 years. My only gripe about the show is that all the guys we were pulling for got cut!

Devon Cajuste? Couldn’t there have been a spot for a TE who mostly receives and doesn’t block? Situationally speaking? He’s such a good soul; that kind of positivity with any inkling of ability is an asset.

Carl Nassib? As one of my new Twitter friends noted tonight, he’s got long arms and he gets after it. The 2-0 Tampa Bay Bucs know that now.

Nate Orchard? Not only are the guys not enjoying his wife’s cookies, he got picked up by the worst team in the NFL right now, the Buffalo Bills.

When I first started watching, I didn’t get the sense that Hue Jackson had the gravitas to lead an NFL team with success. By the end of the show, I figured out he had the compassion.

Two games in, and it doesn’t really matter how crusty Gregg Williams is. His defenses play hard, and the Browns have a pretty decent one.

I probably liked Todd Haley the least. Just thought he was unnecessarily mean at times. However, he sure dialed up some offense when the Browns needed it late versus his former team, the Steelers, and the Saints this past week.

And of course, I love that GM John Dorsey and head coach Hue Jackson saw what those of us who love the Oklahoma Sooners saw in Baker — a transformational winner. Truth be told, I’ve come to like Tyrod Taylor, too, indicative of the Browns looking for character above all else.

That showed today when they said goodbye to Josh Gordon.

Participating in publicity gimmicks such as “Hard Knocks” isn’t a dumb thing to do. I just wish they’d keep it going all season. It would turn the season into a season-long drama.

They’d hate it. I’d love it.

Besides, they accomplished what they set out to do: earned a new fan.

Go Browns.

Sam Darnold shines; Jets may have just ended the Matthew Stafford era in Detroit

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The most impressive first game of the new NFL season goes to the New York Jets, a 48-17 winner over the Detroit Lions.

And that comes after the most disastrous career-opening pass I can ever remember. Watch it for yourselves as rookie Jets QB Sam Darnold passes against the grain into the hands of Quandre Diggs, who returned it 37 yards for a score on the first play of the game Monday night.

Those curse words of anger turned to curse words of joy for fans of the J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets. New York turned that 7-0 deficit into a 17-10 lead at the break — and then scored a mind-blowing 31 points in the third quarter, a quarter that could be the moment we pointed to the end of the Matt Stafford era in Detroit.

It was an opener to forget for new Detroit head coach Matt Patricia, too.

That third quarter started promising for the Lions, as Golden Tate caught a 24-yard pass to tie it up at 17-17. However, the Jets struck back quickly with a 21-yard touchdown from Darnold to Quincy Enunwa to make it 24-17.

And then 1:29 later, the game was over.

https://twitter.com/BuckeyeVideos/status/1039323163061112833

Darron Lee picked off Stafford and took it to the house. Stafford finished 27 of 46 for 286 yards, four interceptions and a QB rating of 47.9. Check out this factoid:

I’m not sure about right this second, but as of last summer, Stafford was the highest-paid player in the history of the NFL — and I can’t think of a player less worth it, unless you go back to the rookie contract Sam Bradford got.

On the other hand, Darnold finished his first night in the NFL with 198 yards on 16 of 21 passing and a 116.8 rating. He also joined some fantastic company with his career-opening Pick 6: Brett Favre, who did the very same thing as a member of the Atlanta Falcons back in 1991.

The most impressive part of the Jets victory, however, was the defense and special teams. New York’s secondary accounted for five interceptions in all, including two from Lee. Andre Roberts returned a punt 78 yards for a TD in the third quarter, too.

It might be that the Detroit Lions are all sorts of terrible.

On the other hand, the New York Jets sure looked solid on defense, and their new quarterback looked more poised than a guy who’s been in the league for nearly a decade.

The future is bright, Jets fans. Very bright.

Cleveland Browns 21, Pittsburgh Steelers 21: Recap + stars + disappointments

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Our first game as official Cleveland Browns was quite the experience, and we didn’t lose!

We tied.

Cleveland battled back from a 21-7 deficit against Pittsburgh to send the game into overtime, but then offenses stalled for both teams. Not helped by a rain that was steady for all four hours of Sunday’s season-opening NFL broadcast, the Browns had a chance to win at the end thanks to a Joe Schobert interception that caused an earthquake along Lake Erie.

And in northwest Oklahoma City.

Kristi and I were out of our chairs on that one, reminiscent of Torrance Marshall’s pick against Texas A&M back in 2000. (Oklahoma Sooners) Schobert’s pick should have sealed a win for Cleveland except for a block-in-the-back penalty on Myles Garrett.

Ugh.

Zane Gonzales’ field goal attempt from 10-12 yards back was blocked.

And the Browns would have to settle for a tie, and so would we, their new football fans in Oklahoma.

The reason so many Oklahomans are now Cleveland Browns supporters? Easy. Baker Reagan Mayfield.

He didn’t play a single down against Pittsburgh, and that’s OK. The weather was 58 degrees and rainy, not ideal conditions for a newbie signal-caller. However, I’ll present this: Tyrod Taylor’s box score.

Taylor went 15 of 40 for 197 yards for a quarterback rating of 51.8.

Just sayin’.

He showed some poise at times, and to be fair, he didn’t make nearly the mistakes that Ben Roethlisberger made. Big Ben went 23 of 41 for 335 yards with three interceptions and a quarterback rating of 60.5.

What Baker Mayfield could have brought was some downfield urgency to Cleveland drives at the end of the first half, fourth quarter and overtime periods. Mayfield was used to working super fast at Oklahoma, and his accuracy is uncanny. I get that he’s new, but I’ll stand on this until my dying day: the Cleveland coaches played this week to “not mess it up” today instead of playing to win.

Kudos to Gregg Williams and the Cleveland defense, and major kudos to new cornerback Denzel Ward. Ward signed a four-year contract worth a little more than $29 million, and I think he’s got the early clubhouse lead on Rookie of the Year honors, finishing the day with six tackles and two interceptions for 26 yards.

Todd Haley’s offense failed to capitalize on momentum, I thought. In the third quarter, running back Carlos Hyde went off, leading the Browns to a touchdown and a 7-7 game. While Taylor finished off the drive with a 20-yard run, Hyde accounted for 34 yards on four carries.

And then the Browns pretty much abandoned the run.

Pittsburgh immediately made it 14-7, and while Cleveland attempted a couple of Hyde runs, Taylor threw incomplete on first down deep to Jarvis Landry. Landry finished the day with seven balls for 106 yards. Hyde lost a couple on second down, and then Taylor was sacked by T.J. Watt, who had a monster game for Pittsburgh.

I don’t believe Watt is J.J.’s brother. I believe he’s a clone. Phenomenal player. Watt finished the day with 11 tackles, including four for loss.

The Steelers opened up a 21-7 lead, and Cleveland worked a little magic to tie it up. After a fumble was recovered and then nearly squandered by Jabrill Peppers at the goal line, Hyde rammed it home from the 1 to make it 21-14 with 7:32 to play.

After a pair of quick series, Taylor did his best work with a two-play drive that culminated in a 17-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon with 1:58 left to play. The first play of that series was a 38-yard pass to Rashard Higgins.

Zero complaints there, and from Haley’s perspective, it was the right play-calling at the right time.

Cleveland got the ball back one last time, but Taylor was intercepted on a deep ball to Gordon.

The story of the day was: nice comeback and plenty of chances for the Browns at the end. If there was a disappointment for me as a new fan who absolutely watched the “Hard Knocks” series on HBO, it was David Njoku. The TE from the University of Miami caught three balls for 13 yards, but it sure seems like he dropped a whole bunch of easy balls. I’d also cite end-of-period game management as a frustration.

No, we newbie Oklahoma fans of the Dawg Pound have nothing to complain about. We haven’t suffered like you guys in northeast Ohio, but I wish you would have seen us when Schobert intercepted that ball in OT. We damn near brought the house down.

And you’d best believe we’ll do it again for Cleveland-New Orleans next week.

Go Browns!

Featured photo by Erik Drost

 

Baker Mayfield’s Cleveland Browns debut was about what I expected

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It’s tough being a Cleveland Browns fan.

I’ve been one for only one game, so maybe it’s not so tough. The Brownies are 1-0 on the young preseason thanks to a good first drive by Tyrod Taylor and two super solid quarters from No. 1 draft pick Baker Mayfield, resulting in a 20-10 win over the New York football Giants.

For the record, I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan by birth, but I’ve wandered like Jimmy Swaggart over the years. I’m currently following the Los Angeles Rams because I like their uniforms, the Jacksonville Jaguars because of their unis and the fact that they nearly dethroned the Patriots last year.

And the Browns.

Because Baker.

Because I’m a Sooner, and that dude was the greatest Sooner of them all.

Was he a better quarterback than Sam Bradford? Don’t know about that.

Was he a better passer than Jason White? Don’t know about that.

But Oklahoma fans had prayed and prayed for somebody with a transformational spirit about him, somebody whose energy was as contagious as Tim Tebow’s — and we got him in Baker Mayfield. I’d guess that 95% of all Cleveland Browns fans are in Ohio (where Baker’s flag is already planted, ha ha).

The other five are in Oklahoma. Seriously. There’s Browns gear in every sports store in the Sooner State.

What makes Baker a hell of an NFL prospect was on display tonight. The dude can place the pig where nobody else but you can catch it, and he can do it in a way that doesn’t risk your body and that leads you into the clear.

Mayfield’s first touchdown pass came with 6:43 to go in the half, a 10-yard strike to David Njoku, who caught two touchdowns against the Giants. The tight end from the U was all about the scores Thursday night, finishing with 46 yards on two receptions, both scores. However, it was Mayfield’s pass into triple coverage that attracted all the attention.

He put it where only Njoku could have gotten it.

It was the same deal when Mayfield fired an across-the-middle strike to Antonio Callaway for a 54-yard touchdown with 13:37 left in the game to give the Browns their final margin of victory, 20-10.

Sure, Baker showed off his legs a couple times on crucial third downs, but he didn’t look like Cam Newton running the ball.

And it’s hard to tell the extent to which Baker has the ear of the rest of the club. At Oklahoma, Mayfield had a way of getting everybody around him on board with the plan, and those guys would have taken a bullet for him.

That very well could happen in Cleveland.

Having watched HBO’s first episode of “Hard Knocks,” I’m not 100 percent sure Hue Jackson is the type of coach who’s going to turn around an organization like Cleveland. He’s not rah-rah enough. I recall watching the Cardinals’ season on “Hard Knocks” and thinking, “Bruce Arians is a guy who can affect change.”

We’ll see.

What’s particularly exciting for Browns fans and even me, a first-time Cleveland Browns rooter, is that if they could get Josh Gordon back (and keep him off drugs) and if they could somehow lure Dez Bryant to the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland would be set up quite nicely at the receiving corps.

Njoku is solid, and Jarvis Landry is already fantastic.

I’m sure Tyrod Taylor is a talented dude, and he seems to be a terrific guy.

But Baker Mayfield demonstrated throughout his college career an uncanny ability to place a football precisely where it needs to go. And then he turns around and does it for two scores in his NFL debut, albeit preseason.

What will eventually separate Mayfield from his competition, however, is that he’s a transformational leader. People flock to him. They want to play with him, play for him and will get on board (eventually) with whatever he wants to do on the field.

Even though it was just a preseason game, tonight’s effort against the Giants was a fantastic start to the NFL career of Baker Reagan Mayfield.

I’m not crazy. I don’t have him booked for Canton already.

But of all the people on planet Earth, Mayfield is probably the last dude I’d bet against.

Cleveland should be very excited to have this guy on their team.

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