Sizzling Baker Mayfield, Browns proving there’s life after 0-16
Three seasons after becoming just the second NFL team to finish winless over a 16-game season, the sizzling Cleveland Browns have clinched a winning record with four games to play.
Baker Mayfield threw for 290 of his 334 passing yards and four touchdowns in the first half and the Browns (9-3) held on for a 41-35 road victory Sunday over Tennessee.
“I appreciate this team and I believe in this team and the people we have. We’ve been building and improving as the season’s gone on,” said Mayfield, who hasn’t thrown any interceptions over his past five games, winning four. “We didn’t finish the way we wanted to, but in the first half, that was our most complete game.”
The Jets, last-second losers Sunday to Las Vegas, might add to the ranks of the winless this season, but the 2017 Browns joined the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to finish 0-16 since the schedule was expanded in 1978.
Cleveland went 7-8-1 the next year after selecting Mayfield with the first overall pick before regressing to 6-10 last year. Their last winning record was a 10-6 season in 2007.
“Winning is hard in this league, and I think our guys understand we’re just looking to go 1-0 each week and there’s so much work that goes into that,” first-year coach Kevin Stefanski said.
Cleveland only had posted one previous win over a team with a winning record entering this week, but they put up their most points in one half in franchise history in carrying a 38-7 lead into halftime.
Two of Mayfield’s first-half touchdowns were a 75-yarder to Donovan Peoples-Jones (75 yards) and a 1-yard flip to eligible tackle Kendall Lamm.
“Baker was on fire. That’s the guy that I know,” said running back Nick Chubb, who added 80 rushing yards and one touchdown. “Coach has been on us about starting fast and we came out hot and ready to play.”
Ryan Tannehill finished with 389 passing yards but NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry was held to just 60 yards on 15 carries for the Titans (8-4), who slipped back into a first-place tie with Indianapolis following the Colts’ 26-20 win over Houston.
Jags Keep Pace
Jacksonville had a chance for its first win since Week 1, forcing overtime on James Robinson’s 1-yard TD run and a two-point conversion with 1:08 remaining in regulation.
But the Jags (1-11) remained within one game of the Jets for the first overall pick in the 2021 draft, as Mike Glennon was intercepted by Minnesota safety Harrison Smith to set up Dan Bailey’s game-winning field goal in a 27-24 OT loss to the Vikings (6-6).
“As long as you have these opportunities to compete, the competitiveness in you is something that keeps you going,” said Jaguars coach Doug Marrone, whose team lost two picks and two fumbles. “We understand we still had opportunities to win the game … but you just can’t turn the ball over four times.”
Kirk Cousins’ three TD passes included one to Adam Thielen (13th) and one to Justin Jefferson (9-121), who became the first Vikings rookie receiver to surpass 1,000 receiving yards (1,039) since Randy Moss in 1998.
Mr. Rodger’ New Neighborhood
Aaron Rodgers completed three scoring throws to become the first player in NFL history with five seasons of at least 35 passing TDs, leading Green Bay (9-3) to a 30-16 win over the sinking Eagles.
Rodgers also became the sixth quarterback to reach 400 career TD passes, becoming the fastest (193 games) to reach that milestone.
Carson Wentz completed just 6 of 15 pass attempts for 79 yards before he was benched by coach Doug Pederson for rookie backup Jalen Hurts (5-12, 109) as Philadelphia (3-8-1) lost its fourth straight game.
The Fightin’ Fish (Mammals)
Tua Tagovailoa’s return after missing one game with a thumb injury was overshadowed by multiple fights and a bench-clearing scuffle resulting in five ejections in the Dolphins’ chippy 19-7 win over Cincinnati.
Dolphins cornerback and NFL interception leader Xavien Howard and Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd (72-yard touchdown) were ejected for exchanging punches in the second quarter. The benches emptied in the fourth quarter after Cincinnati’s Mike Thomas was flagged for hitting punt returner Jakeem Grant before he was able to field the punt, the second time he did that during the game.
Cincinnati’s Shawn Williams, and Miami’s DeVante Parker and Mack Hollins also were booted, and Dolphins coach Brian Flores even was in the middle of the fracas yelling at Bengals players.
“I’m going to stick up for my players. They’re going to stick up for each other,” Flores said after the game. “I have to do a better job. I have to, to not hurt the team. My emotions got the best of me there.”
The rookie Tagovailoa registered a career-best 296 passing yards with a touchdown throw to tight end Mike Gesicki as Miami improved to 4-1 in his starts and 8-4 overall in its second year under Flores.
“It speaks a lot to Flo’s character,” Tagovailoa said of his coach. “[Grant] got hit, and it wasn’t the first time. It was the second time. He stands up for us as a team. It wasn’t just him. It’s a testament to how close we are.”
The Hurt Locker
Titans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing knee surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee, according to multiple reports.
Other notable injuries: Jets running back Frank Gore (concussion), guard Greg Van Roten (foot) and safety Ashtyn Davis (foot), Raiders cornerback Damon Arnette (concussion), Dolphins guard Ereck Flowers (ankle), Bengals tackle Jonah Williams (knee), Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks (calf), Lions tackle Tyrell Crosby (ankle), cornerback Mike Ford (back) and safety C.J. Moore (ankle), Bears tight end J.P. Holtz (shoulder), Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson (leg), Falcons safety Riccardo Allen (concussion), Colts tackle La-Raven Clark (ankle), Texans tight end Pharaoh Brown (concussion).
Rams quarterback Jared Goff completed 37 of 47 for 351 yards with one passing TD and one rushing score as Los Angeles (8-4) took over first place in the NFC West with a 38-28 win over Arizona (6-6). … Saints quarterback Taysom Hill threw his first two NFL touchdown passes as New Orleans won its third straight game in Drew Brees’ absence (10-2 overall) with a 21-16 win over Atlanta (4-8). … Colts quarterback Philip Rivers completed TD throws to Jonathan Taylor and T.Y. Hilton in the first half as Indianapolis (8-4) downed Houston, 26-20. … Patriots quarterback Cam Newton threw for only 69 yards but he scored two rushing TDs as New England evened its record at 6-6 with a 45-0 rout of the Chargers (3-9). The Pats’ special-teams unit also scored twice (punt return, blocked field goal) and their defense held Justin Herbert and the Chargers to 258 total yards. … Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford totaled 402 passing yards and three TDs and Adrian Peterson’s second rushing score with 1:37 remaining lifted Detroit (5-7) and interim coach Darrell Bevell to a 34-30 win over Chicago (5-7). … Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was picked off for the first time since Week 5, ending the league’s longest active streak (237 attempts).