It turned out to be a very exciting "Thursday Night Football" game between two teams not exactly known for their offenses. Not bad for an early September matchup between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, two of the laughing stocks of the NFL over the past few decades. Baker Mayfield vs. Joe Burrow has the potential to be a must-see primetime matchup for the next decade, especially if Cleveland and Cincinnati continue high-scoring affairs in the years to come.
The grades are up, and both the Browns and Bengals received high marks for a game that made the NFL proud on its 100th birthday. Enjoy, consume, and criticize. You know where to find me.
It's hard to give the Browns anything less. Four days after Cleveland was embarrassed by Baltimore, Kevin Stefanski's offense looked just like we thought it would over the summer. The Browns have two running backs that are just as good as each other and feed off one another. Nick Chubb ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns while Kareem Hunt rushed for 8.6 yards per carry and had a rushing TD and receiving TD of his own. Cleveland didn't have 200 yards rushing once in a game last season, but they already eclipsed that total in their second game of 2020.
Stefanski finally went to what was Baker Mayfield's bread and butter at Oklahoma by emphasizing the play action pass and the 2018 No. 1 overall pick was near perfect. Outside of an interception on a pass he didn't need to make, Mayfield threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns while completing nearly 70% of his passes. Thursday was the best Mayfield has looked in a long time -- arguably since December of his rookie season (2018).
The Browns pass rush took advantage of one of the worst offensive lines in football, forcing Joe Burrow to throw 61 passes -- which is unheard of for a rookie QB in his second career game (more on that in a bit). Cleveland finished with seven quarterback hits, with Myles Garrett's forced fumble serving as the game-changing play the Browns needed after failing to score a touchdown from the 1-yard line on four consecutive plays. The Browns also held the Bengals to under 300 net passing yards, extending the longest streak in the NFL to 23 games. Keeping the streak intact was even more impressive since the Browns' defense made the Bengals offense one dimensional. It was a huge victory for Cleveland in a game the Browns needed.
The Bengals offensive line is horrible. Their run defense is still the worst in the league, one year after actually finishing worst in the league. This would be one of the league's worst teams --and still probably is -- but they have a very bright future with Joe Burrow and that was made clear on Thursday night.
It's scary Burrow threw 61 passes in just his second career start, especially since he is just the third rookie QB EVER to throw 60+ passes in a game. However, Burrow is just the 10th quarterback in NFL history to throw 60+ pass attempts and have zero interceptions and the first rookie ever to accomplish the feat. Keep in mind Burrow was facing constant pressure from the Browns defensive line all night because Cincinnati has one of the worst offensive lines in football (especially on the right side of the line). This just makes what Burrow accomplished all the more impressive.
The Bengals get this grade because of Burrow. 88 offensive plays -- 64 designed passes -- Burrow still was able to complete 60.7% of his passes and throw for three touchdowns. Cincinnati has a franchise quarterback and a strong cast of pass catchers for him to work with, even if there isn't much else around him. Great times are ahead Bengals fans.