Thanks to the heroics of No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield, the Cleveland Browns won their first game in 635 days with a rally from behind to defeat the New York Jets by a score of 21-17 on Thursday night, September 20.
For the diehards who held onto hope inside of FirstEnergy Stadium and fans who continued to tune in despite a 14-0 deficit as the clock ticked down on the first half, the contest turned out to be one to remember. Leading up to the midway point, the Jets defense dominated with a constant surge of pressure that relegated Tyrod Taylor to 4 completions on 14 pass attempts for a total of 19 yards, according to CBS News. But little did demoralized viewers know that the nightmare they had become sure they were about to relive, would foreshadow the birth of a star before long.
With the exception of a lone breakout run that helped him put 22 yards on the ground, Taylor struggled to move the ball. While he didn’t receive much help from an offensive line that continually folded under siege from the Jets’ pass rush, neither did the veteran play-caller help his own cause with his failure to command the pocket. The result was three sacks, with the third taking him out of commission to be evaluated for a concussion.
Taylor’s exit opened the door for Mayfield to show what he could do on the whim. The promising rookie was working on a short week and reportedly hadn’t been taking regular reps with the first-team offense. His predecessor’s performance was so bad that the cameras had been panning over to catch glimpses of Mayfield urgently studying the plays on his wrists as TNF’s commentators began to openly speculate that they may have been witnessing the night that the Browns’ coveted prospect usurped the starting spot. Sure enough, Mayfield was substituted in for Taylor with 1:42 left in the second quarter.
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner’s first ever NFL completion came on a 14-yard pass to receiver Jarvis Landry. He then hit tight end David Njoku for a 17-yard gain, as the Browns marched down the field to position themselves within field goal distance. It would be their first of four scoring drives behind Mayfield, who went on to finish the thriller by throwing for 201 yards on 17 completions – and at one point even contributed by catching a touchdown.
With the victory, Cleveland snaps a 19-game winless streak that dates back to December of 2016. The Browns’ triumph on that day came over a 5-10 Chargers team that was still playing in San Diego. It was the only time they avoided a loss throughout that entire season, thereby providing fans of the 74-year-old organization one last outcome to cheer about before subjecting them to a wretched 0-17 record in their 2017 campaign.
Needless to say, in Mayfield’s phenomenal debut, Browns fans got what they have long been thirsting for. “You know, we finally put the pieces together a little bit,” he’d go on to tell NFL Network after the game. “This crowd deserved to see that first win at home. So, that’s the thing I’m most proud of – is we put it together for the fans at home.”