What a difference four days makes. On Sunday the Browns were the team everyone wanted to bash. So little had changed under Kevin Stefanski, the franchise’s sixth fulltime coach this decade. Now though, they have rescued some hope.
It does need a pinch of salt. The Browns went from losing 38-6 on the road to the team with the best record last season to winning 35-30 at home to the team with the worst record. Of course we can’t expect everyone to hit the ground running, especially under a new head coach and particularly given the disrupted offseason that we have had. So perhaps we need to give the Browns a mulligan.
Browns’ big guns step up
Baker Mayfield looked a lot better too. The Oklahoma alum went from 189 yards from 39 attempts at M&T Bank to 219 yards from 23 attempts against the Bengals. Perhaps it shows that the Ravens defence is stronger than first thought.
Yes the Bengals have made some additions in DJ Reader, Josh Bynes and Vonn Bell but it was still the fifth worst defence by yards last season. So while the Browns offensive improvement was good to see, it must be taken with a pinch of salt. More important was the successful connection of Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham. Beckham had almost three times higher yards/reception and six times higher yards per target. What’s more he had a 43 yard touchdown. Trade rumours will die down a bit after a solid joint performance.
Now the Browns need to back it up against tougher defensive test, with games against Washington, Dallas and Indianapolis.
Pressure on defence to step up now
It wasn’t a complete performance by the Browns, allowing 353 yards against the Bengals and 30 points. If the team are to compete for a playoff spot, they will need to reduce this. That said, they were playing Joe Burrow, a transcendent talent at QB. This is something that will need to be monitored over the coming weeks, especially with Dak Prescott on the other side of the ball in a couple of weeks.
It’s good to see signs of life from the Browns, and shows that the AFC North could be far more competitive in 2020. While both teams showed signs of promise though, there are areas of improvement as the season goes on. It’s certainly not time to write them off out of the playoff race yet though.