Norwalk Reflector: Browns top Bengals for seventh win
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Browns top Bengals for seventh win

By MARY KAY CABOT • Dec 23, 2018 at 5:22 PM

CLEVELAND — Baker Mayfield invited Browns fans out to his Christmas party at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday afternoon and showed them one hell of a good time.

He had urged fans to come out in full forced for the home finale against the Bengals, and they happily obliged, snatching up all 67,895 tickets and filling the seats all the way up to the thin air at the top to watch a 26-18 win by the Browns that was never that close.

Mayfield and his teammates, who were warned by the QB to give their all or ‘get out,’ put on a show for Browns fans, who were loud and proud throughout the game.

Mayfield (27-of-37, 284 yards, 3 TDs, 121.9 rating) came 2 shy of tying the NFL rookie record for TD passes with 24 on the season, and Nick Chubb (19 for 112) set the Browns rookie record for rushing yards in a season (972), surpassing Trent Richard (950 in 2012) and Jim Brown (942 in 1957).

Jarvis Landry got in on the party, firing a 63-yard TD pass off a gadget play to Breshard Perriman. The Bengals made things tense with 18 fourth-quarter points, but Mayfield sealed the win with a short pass to David Njoku, who rumbled 66 yards to the Bengals' 4 at the 2:00 minute warning.

The victory improved the Browns to 7-7-1 and closed out their home record at 5-2-1 — their best home mark since they went 7-1 in 2007. They swept a division rival for the first time since 2007 when they beat the Ravens twice, and swept the Bengals for the first time since 2002.

They also improved to 3-1-1 in the AFC North, and Gregg Williams improved to 5-2 as interim head coach. Mayfield evened his record at 6-6.

After Mayfield’s third touchdown pass of the afternoon, a 17-yard bullet to Rashard Higgins on which he stretched his left hand over the pylon before crashing to the ground, Mayfield took a breather on the bench and whipped the crowd into a frenzy when he was shown on the scoreboard.

A good time was had by all, and the Browns fans stayed until the end.

Never mind that the Browns had been eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday afternoon when the Titans beat the Redskins. Browns fans, who have fallen head over heels for their rookie QB, know they won’t see Mayfield at home again until the next season, and they decided the Christmas shopping could wait.

Mayfield also got involved in a sideline scrum late in the game when he ran for a first down to the Bengals’ 18 and was shoved out of bounds by Carlos Dunlap, who fell on him. A dustup ensued, with several Bengals getting involved and Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins coming to Mayfield’s defense.

The drive ended in a 31-yard Greg Joseph field goal that made it 26-3 with 7:26 left in the game.

By then the game was already out of reach for the Bengals, who fielded their B team for this contest because of all their injuries. They were without quarterback Andy Dalton, star receiver A.J. Green, and leading receiver Tyler Boyd. By the second half, they had also lost starting linebacker Vontaze Burfict to a concussion and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick to a shoulder injury.

Mayfield opened the scoring with 3-yard touchdown pass to David Njoku in the back left corner of the end zone in the second quarter and then threw a 1-yard TD pass to tight end Darren Fells on the right side later in the quarter to make it 13-0. Joseph missed the extra point, his fourth of the season.

Fells’ TD was set up by a beautifully executed gadget play by the Browns. Mayfield handed off to Callaway, who flipped it to Landry, who launched a 63-yard strike down the right side to Breshad Perriman to the 7. Mayfield found Fells singled up with Burfict in the end zone for the TD.

A 37-yard Joseph field goal made it 16-0 at the half, and then Higgins’ TD on the Browns’ first possession of the third quarter made it 23-0 with 4:53 left in the third.

Bengals quarterback Jeff Driskel fired a 14-yard TD pass to tight end C.J. Uzomah to pull the Bengals to within 26-10 with 4:56 left in the game.

On that Bengals’ TD drive, Browns cornerback Denzel Ward got up woozy after a tackle, and went to the blue tent on the sidelines. He soon went to the locker room to be checked for a concussion.

With 3:53 left in the game, the Bengals blocked a Britton Colquitt punt and recovered to start at the Browns' 23. Three plays later, Driskel hit John Ross with a 3-yard TD pass to make it 26-16, and then hit Cody Core with the two-point pass that made it 26-18 with 2:56 left.

Not to be denied, Mayfield hit Njoku with the short pass and he rumbled 66 yards to the Bengals' 4.

Mayfield’s three TD passes gave him 24 for the season. Only Peyton Manning (26 in 1998 in 16 starts) and Russell Wilson (26 in 2012 in 16 starts) have more TD passes as a rookie.

Up next

The Browns close out the season Dec. 30 in Baltimore and have a chance to play spoilers to the Ravens.

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