The Cleveland Browns won. It wasn’t pretty, and it isn’t a win that puts the rest of the league (or even the division on notice), but it’s a win.
Overcoming historic ineptitude in the red zone, Cleveland pulled out a 19-6 win over the Buffalo Bills.
Browns’ fans had this game circled on their calendars for a while, as it’s finally a chance to get things back on track. Cleveland was told for weeks how the schedule gets easier in the second half of the season, and to just wait until then because the team will really get rolling.
The Browns did get rolling early with an impressive 6-play, 75-yard drive to open the game. However, from then on, it looked like fans would see a typical 2019 Browns’ performance.
Cleveland moved the ball with Nick Chubb gaining over 80 yards in the first half and Baker Mayfield passing efficiently. When the Browns’ offense reached the red zone, the productivity dried up. The Browns ended up settling for a field goal or not scoring any points.
For many Browns fans, their reactions remained the same: “Here we go again.” Cleveland watched as the Browns settled for field goal after field goal against Denver last week, and eventually, it cost them.
Red zone stagnation has been a problem all season. The Browns are scoring touchdowns on just 46% of their trips inside the red zone. This is down from 66% last season.
The Browns reached new and historic lows in the red zone this Sunday against Buffalo.
The Browns are the first NFL team in 26 years to run six plays from an opponent's 2-yard line or closer on a possession without scoring, per @EliasSports
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) November 10, 2019
On one first-half possession, the Browns ran eight plays inside the Buffalo 2-yard line due to a timely pass interference call. They failed to score.
It gets worse. Freddie Kitchens called four toss plays to Nick Chubb inside the 5-yard line, losing two yards.
This lack of production in the most crucial area of the field continues to frustrate players and fans.
The Browns dominated the first half of the game against Buffalo and should’ve been up by multiple scores. However, because of their inability to put the ball in the end zone, Cleveland was only up two points.
When Buffalo drove down the field late in the fourth quarter, scoring the go-ahead touchdown, how many Browns’ fans looked at the person on the couch next to them thinking this team could put together a game-winning drive?
I just hope the browns score before they get inside the 10 yard line.. because lord knows we won’t score if we do.
— Dustin Fox (@DustinFox37) November 10, 2019
It happened. The Browns found magic on their final drive, and it didn’t end inside the 20-yard line. They couldn’t settle for a field goal, down three with under two minutes to play. They had to score a touchdown.
On a 7-yard pass in the back of the end zone to Rashard “Hollywood” Higgins, who has been wandering around in football purgatory for the last few weeks, the Browns threw off the burden of their record, and scored.
The roar from the crowd was filled with pent up frustration and relief. For once, Cleveland lived up to expectations and performed when it mattered most.
Is this the beginning of a run to a division title and the Browns’ first playoff birth since 2002? Probably not, but it was a much-needed sign of life for a fan base who came into this season with so much hope.
As Baker Mayfield said in a post-game interview, “We still didn’t play perfect, by any means, but we improved.”
"We still didn't play perfect, by any means, but we improved."
Baker Mayfield breaks down the first home win of the season. pic.twitter.com/KaeXbC4RbT
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) November 10, 2019
That’s all Browns fans want at this point; progress and improvements they can see.
That, and to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night.