Lorenzo Reyes USA TODAY
Published 11:30 PM EDT Sep 16, 2019
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — John Dorsey nervously chewed his gum.
It was the third quarter. The general manager of the Cleveland Browns peered through his binoculars inside the press box at MetLife Stadium. He set them down, then patted his fists. “Let’s go,” he mouthed, audible enough to hear from a few feet away. His team was up 13 points, but the New York Jets, down to their third quarterback, were battling back. They crept up to the Browns’ 13-yard line. It was fourth down.
Cleveland’s defense clamped down. Turnover on downs. On the next play, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield flung a quick slant to receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in stride. Seconds later, it was over. Beckham jaunted 89 yards to a score that was all about redemption.
The Cleveland Browns toppled an undermanned Jets team, 23-3, Monday night to claim their first victory of the season, and the first of rookie coach Freddie Kitchens’ career. They improved to 1-1. But this was a performance marked as much by Beckham’s return to the stadium he once called home as it was about Cleveland working through its flaws.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield was not crisp. He did have the long touchdown, but aside from that, he missed on several throws. Mayfield didn’t appear to drive through the ball and often mistimed his targets. He finished the game 19 of 35 for 325 yards and a touchdown, and an interception that he forced into a tight window.
The Browns’ rushing attack, aside from a well-executed 19-yard touchdown rush in the second quarter from Nick Chubb, has been inconsistent. The Browns, even as they tried to nurse a lead all game, ran for 62 yards.
Penalties, almost all of them avoidable, continued to be an issue. Cleveland was flagged nine times for 85 yards just one week after it was penalized 18 times. Defensive end Myles Garrett himself was targeted three times — two personal fouls for landing on the opposing quarterback with his body weight, and one offsides.
The Browns still have plenty of young talent and are still growing as a team. With the Pittsburgh Steelers sitting at 0-2 and now trying to navigate life without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will undergo right elbow surgery and will miss the rest of the season, Cleveland has a chance to contend in the AFC North. Its main competition is the 2-0 Baltimore Ravens. But for Cleveland to begin to consider a return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season, it needs cleaner performances.
Without starting quarterback Sam Darnold, who missed his first game with mono, the Jets offense stalled. Backup Trevor Siemian got the nod, but couldn’t get New York’s attack in rhythm. Siemian completed his first pass when there was 2:05 left to play in the first quarter. The Jets earned seven yards in the period and one first down, which came via a penalty.
Siemian left the game in the middle of the second quarter after Browns defensive end Myles Garrett hit him and landed on him in a way where Siemian’s left foot was pinned into the turf, awkwardly bending his ankle. Siemian actually walked off the field on his own, but did not return to the game.
In Siemian’s place stepped Luke Falk, a second-year quarterback taken in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL draft, No. 199 overall.
In the first half, both Siemian and Falk combined for four completions on eight passes for four yards. The Jets finished the half with minus-13 passing yards.
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