Sunday’s 40-28 win marked the Cleveland Browns’ first win in Baltimore since 2015. The win, which puts the team at 2-2, also puts the Browns in first-place in the AFC North over the Rans by virtue of a tiebreaker.
Here’s are some takeaways from Cleveland’s Week 4 win.
Freddie Kitchens got his groove back
The Freddie Kitchens of the first three week was a lesser version of the coach who took the Browns’ offense to new heights last season. The structure of the offense felt vanilla, predictable and, when it went away from quick-hitting calls, not very good. To boot, Baker Mayfield was tied for second in the NFL interceptions over three weeks – not what you want for a quarterback whose accuracy is massive part of his skill set.
That changed Sunday against the Ravens. The version of Kitchens who is willing and able to call up creative, unorthodox plays was back. There was the play designed to let Odell Beckham Jr. throw it deep, which almost worked. There was the shovel pass to Jarvis Landry that gave Landry the option to, well, option to Beckham Jr,. if he wanted to. And it wasn’t the same stagnate formation groups from weeks past either. Kitchens used some bunch formation, including a set where running back Dontrell Hilliard went out to the flats and got the first down on an easy pass from Mayfield.
Now, this wasn’t the same Baltimore defense everyone is used to. It’s still pretty darn good – 11th in DVOA coming into Week 4 – but not the exact same dominant group from years past. But this was clearly Kitchens’ best coaching performance to date and a good sign that he’s not going to lose what made him such an appealing head coaching candidate last year.
Mayfield, by the way, finished 20-30, 342 yards, a touchdown and one pick.
Nick Chubb’s big Sunday
The Ravens came into Sunday’s game as one of the league best run defenses, so it was interesting to see the Browns come out and ran the ball over and over again with Nick Chubb. But, ultimately, that proved to be the right call.
Chubb, aside from maybe Jarvis Landry, had the best performance of any Browns skill position player. On the day, he finished with 20 carries for 165 yards and three touchdowns. His day had every kind of run – bruising carries between the tackles, carries outside on pitches and runs where he got more than he probably should have by using his strength to his advantage.
His three touchdown runs showed that all too. His first was elusive and him correctly reading the defense, breaking a few tackles and getting into the end zone. The second was just getting the job done right on the goal line. And the third was Chubb showing that, yes, he does have speed too, en route to an 88-yard touchdown. It was a complete game from Cleveland’s workhouse back.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry’s differing days
To start with Beckham, this was his quietest game to date. He was targeted seven times, but only had two catches for 20 yards. The Ravens put a lot of effort into keeping him covered, so to Mayfield’s credit, it was probably better not to force it. And his presence did still have an impact.
As for Landry, he had maybe his best day as Brown with eight catches (on 10 targets) for a career-high 167 yards. Against a Ravens defense that leaned on zone defense, he was great in picking his spots and finding spaces where Mayfield could find him. The only knock on his day was not really going for the pass that ended up being Mayfield’s sixth interception of the season.
Looking ahead, it’s also unclear what Landry’s status will be. He left the game in the second half and was placed into concussion protocol.
Jermaine Whitehead comes up big
The Browns defense had a bit of bend but don’t break, to it on Sunday. There was no Myles Garrett dominate performance as there’s been most every week this season either.
But there were some key players stepping in. Olivier Vernon picked up his first sack of the season on a day where Cleveland pressured Lamar Jackson consistently. Joe Schobert was often the guy making a tackle in the open field; he led the team with 17 on the day and also had a sack. And Jermaine Whitehead, one of the sub starters in place of three injured defensive packs, made two plays in the fourth quarter that really sealed the game.
First, he forced a fumble. Then, he picked off Lamar Jackson on a deep throw to tight end Mark Andrews. Against a Cover 2 zone, Andrews went straight up the seam and was running a bit ahead of Schobert. Whitehead instead came in and took it away. And on the very next possession, Whitehead came in unchecked on a blitz to create another pick. It’s exactly what you’d want to see.
Next week, the Browns head to the West Coast to face the San Francisco 49ers in their second Monday Night Football game of the season. The 49ers are on a bye week this week, but are 3-0 on the season with wins over the Buccaneers, the Bengals and the Steelers.