If you were expecting a snoozefest between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns on "Thursday Night Football", you're ecstatic to have been proven wrong. Baker Mayfield, a former first-overall pick himself, was locked in a duel with the current first-overall pick in Joe Burrow, and their respective offenses are delivering highlight after highlight -- the Browns pulling out an impressive 35-30 win in their home opener.
Despite being under pressure on a regular basis, Burrow consistently moved down the field, finishing 37 for 61 (!!) passing for 316 yards (90.6 passer rating) and his first three career NFL passing touchdowns with no interceptions. For Mayfield, it was all about establishing chemistry with Odell Beckham, Jr., and an eye-popping touchdown early in the second quarter was exactly what the doctor ordered. It also didn't hurt to have Nick Chubb beasting his way to 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns of his own, adding to a Cleveland onslaught that included Kareem Hunt racking up 86 rushing yards and a touchdown, too.
What many thought would be a filler game instantly became anything but, in a division battle between two QBs being looked at as the potential savior of their respective franchise.
Why the Browns won
As unexpected as it might've been, Mayfield got it done when he needed to. A poorly advised throw that ended in the hands of Willie Jackson notwithstanding, Mayfield looked great in the first half before cooling in the second. He got the help of Nick Chubb and the Browns rushing attack, with Chubb rushing for 124 yards while adding two touchdowns to the bottom line, and after hearing the world lob trade rumors and questions regarding his viability in Cleveland, Odell Beckham Jr. reminded the world he still has the juice.
From there, it was a matter of the Browns defense staving off a resilient Burrow, who simply wouldn't say die. But Myles Garrett is not quite human, and he helped lead a defensive effort that clamped down just enough to send the Browns back to Cleveland with a 1-1 record.
Why the Bengals lost
Well, for the second week in a row, it wasn't because of Burrow. The rookie first-overall pick continues to impress, making it happen with both his arm and his legs. Despite the Browns sacking him twice in the first half, the former LSU superstar remained poised and with a short memory, answering mistakes with big plays and would-be game-changers. One that falls into the category of the latter was a dropped pass by Tyler Boyd with three minutes and 39 seconds remaining in the third quarter, after a pinpoint throw made by Burrow in the face of Garrett on a rollout.
Burrow got punished for the play, but no reward, as Boyd dropped a sure touchdown that ultimately cost the Bengals four points in a game where every point mattered. Combine that with Burrow's biggest error of the night -- a strip-sack by Myles Garrett that put the Browns back on the Cincinnati one-yard line following a four-down goal line stand by the Bengals -- and Chubb's second TD of the night wound up being the gut-punch Burrow couldn't completely get up from.
And speaking of that Garrett strip-sack, here it is in all of its glory, completely stealing momentum from the Bengals after a tremendous defensive stand at the goal line, and giving Chubb a mulligan at punching it into the end zone. The game remained a cardiac event for much of the second half, but this was the pivot point for the Browns.
Play of the Game
While Garrett takes home the above honor, and in a game filled with highlights, nothing stole the show like this throw and catch between Mayfield and Beckham, Jr. With 12 minutes and two seconds to go in the second quarter, and up only 7-3, Mayfield rolled to his left and heaved a 43-yard touchdown that was even more impressive by the way Beckham, Jr. put Jackson on skates.
Seriously, this is criminal.
"Joe Burrow IS a rookie, right?" - NFL fantasy insider Michael Fabiano
The Browns now face a potent defensive front when the Washington Football Team heads to Cleveland in Week 3, while the Bengals will have an NFC East opponent of their own to contend with -- when they head to Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Philadelphia Eagles.
Catch all the highlights and action from you might've missed in the live blog below.