With Antonio Callaway a surprise inactive, Higgins caught the game-winning 7-yard TD in Sunday’s 19-16 victory by the Browns over the Bills, and the paparazzi came out in full force for “Hollywood.”
It was also a big debut for running back Kareem Hunt on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. He played in his first game back from an eight-game suspension and his first game as a Brown. He played most of the offensive snaps, lining up often in the backfield with Nick Chubb and made a huge impact.
The Browns snapped a four-game losing streak and won their first at home after three straight losses. It was the first of three straight home games for the Browns and they’re back Thursday night for a home date against the Steelers.
Chubb ran 20 times for 116 yards. Hunt ran four times for 30 yards. Receiver Jarvis Landry had a huge game, catching nine passes for 97 yards.
Baker Mayfield completed 25 of 37 attempts for 231 yards with a TD to Landry for a 93.4 rating.
Quarterback Josh Allen, who had the Bills at 6-2 heading in, rushed for two TDs and threw for 266 yards.
The Browns still have a long way to go to make the playoffs, but it’s a start. Only one team since 2002 has started 3-6 and made the playoffs, the 2012 Redskins.
But it’s a start.
Mayfield took over at the Cleveland 18 with 5:26 left in the game and the Browns trailing 16-12. He found Odell Beckham Jr. for 13 yards. On the next play, Mayfield flipped the football to Hunt as he passed right in front of him, but the ball hit the ground. The Bills recovered and ran it back for an apparent touchdown, but on review, the play was ruled an incomplete pass. Kitchens said after the game that the Browns knew the replay would be in their favor, and that the play is designed as a short 1-yard forward pass instead of as a handoff in case there’s a bad exchange.
Hunt caught a 9-yard pass to convert a third and 7, and Chubb peeled off a 21-yard run to the Bills 35, with a Hunt as the lead blocker.
Landry caught a 24-yard pass down the left side to the Bills’ 7. Two plays later, Mayfield found Rashard Higgins open on the right side of the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown that put the Browns up 19-16.
Allen took over at his 25 with 1:44 left and one time out remaining, and burned a timeout before the play clock ran out on fourth down. Steve Hauschka was short on a 53-yard FG to decide the final score. It was his second miss of the game. The first was a 34-yarder.
With the Bills trailing 12-9, Bills’ receiver Andre Roberts returned a punt 23 yards to the Browns’ 48. Allen hit tight end Dawson Knox with a 21 yarder and Cole Beasley caught a 26-yarder to the Browns’ 11. On third down, Sheldon Richardson tomahawked the ball out of Allen’s hand, and guard Jon Feliciano recovered at the Bills’ 1. Frank Gore appeared to score, but it was ruled incomplete.
Allen cashed in on a quarterback sneak on the next play to put the Bills up 16-12.
The Bills, trailing 9-7, failed to score on the opening possession of the second half when Chad Thomas blew up the drive with a third-down sack. Buffalo made up for it on the next play when linebacker Tremaine Edmunds sacked Mayfield in the end zone for a safety that tied the score 9-9 with 10:53 left in the third.
The Browns defense held after the two-pointer, and Austin Seibert kicked a 47-yard field goal to put the Browns ahead 12-9, with 3:39 left in third. Key play was a 14-yard pass to Beckham, who was more involved, as promised during the week.
The Browns led 9-7 at the half after the Bills missed the 34-yard field goal with 17 seconds left. Hauschka pushed the kick wide left at the Dawg Pound end.
The story of the first half was the Browns’ inability to score a TD after first and goal on two separate drives.
On the first one, because of Buffalo penalties, the Browns they had seven chances from the 1 and one chance from the 2 and couldn’t cross the plane. Curiously, Hunt was not on the field on any of those plays. Beckham drew a pass interference penalty on first and goal from the 1 and then Chubb lost a yard on a pitch to the right. On second and goal from the 2, Chubb was stopped after a yard, and on third and 1 from the 1, Beckham drew another P.I. on a pass in the end zone.
But Chubb was stuffed again for no gain on first and goal from the 1, and a pass to Beckham on the right side of the end zone as broken up by Tre’Davious White. On third and 1, former Browns safety Jordan Poyer stopped Chubb cold, and on fourth and 1, he was knocked back 2 yards.
The Bills took over at their 3, and the defensive held, but the Browns failed to take advantage of what should have been great field position when the Bills punted out of their end zone.
Dontrell Hilliard dropped the 59-yard punt, and then recovered it for no gain to start the Browns at their 27. They went three-and-out, failing to atone for their red zone fiasco.
A drive later, they had a chance to make up for it again, and failed a second time.
The Browns faced a first and goal from the Bills’ 3 after a nice mix of some hard running by Chubb and Hunt.
Once again, they failed to come away with a TD, which was reminiscent of last week in Denver when they went 1-for-5 in the red zone en route to a 24-19 loss.
Landry gained a yard on a quick screen and yelled at KhaDarel Hodge for missing the block. Chubb was then dropped for a 2-yard loss and dropped a shovel pass on third and goal. The Browns tried to draw the Bills offsides on fourth down, but false started instead to bring out the field goal team.
Austin Seibert kicked a 27-yarder to put the Browns up 9-7 with 3:28 left in the half.
Allen took over to try to set up a score before the half, but Hauschka missed the kick.
The Browns opened the scoring on the first drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to Landry over cornerback Levi Wallace in the end zone. But Landry taunted Wallace after the score, and the 15-yard penalty was assessed on the extra point, and Seibert missed the 48-yard kick to keep the score at 6-0 with 12:09 left in the first quarter.
Allen ran in from 10 yards to put the Bills head 7-6 with 10:09 left in the half. Allen also ran for 12 on the drive and found Robert Foster for a 20-yarder on the drive.
Callaway was a surprise healthy scratch before the game, appearing on the inactive list. Callaway might have violated a team rule to earn a trip to the bench. When asked about it after the game, Kitchens said the matter was between him and Callaway and he wouldn’t elaborate on why Callaway didn’t dress.
The Browns have a tight turnaround. They’ll host the Steelers (4-4) on Thursday Night Football, nationally televised on Fox Sports.