Before the Cleveland Browns took on the Miami Dolphins this afternoon, coach Freddie Kitchens had a very simple message. He reportedly told his players that, after ten incredibly heavy days for this franchise, everyone just needed to go out and have some fun.
I haven’t been subtle when critiquing Kitchens this season, but I’ll say this much – that message was exactly what this team had to hear, and I can’t help but think it helped the Browns come up with a drama-free victory they desperately needed.
Cleveland pulled off its first lopsided win since Week 4, topping the Dolphins 41-24. It also officially put the Browns in winning-streak territory, as they’ve now come out on top in three straight games as they attempt to make a final push for a playoff berth.
Most importantly, though, it was the kind of one-sided contest Cleveland needed after everything that went down in the final seconds of the game before it.
The past week has been nothing short of a sideshow for the Browns. A win over the rival Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 11 was marred at the last minute by Myles Garrett hitting quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with his own helmet. Garrett’s teammates were quick to note the ugliness from this moment made it feel as though the Browns lost, despite the scoreboard indicating otherwise.
Attempts to move past it have been futile, as Garrett’s bid to appeal his indefinite suspension for the aforementioned helmet swing included his claim that Rudolph used a racial slur during their skirmish. The NFL, quickly noting it had no recorded audio from the game, ruled to uphold his suspension, making it so Garrett had to apply for reinstatement at the start of next season.
The fallout from this continues to get uglier, especially as Cleveland gears up to visit those same Steelers a week from today. For all intents and purposes, both the Browns and their fans were in need of a pleasant distraction.
They received one today in a game that featured Cleveland’s offense finally firing on all cylinders.
The Browns stormed out of the gate, quickly piling up a 28-0 lead over Miami. Before the first quarter had even ended, Baker Mayfield had thrown touchdown passes to both Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. It was the latter’s first TD catch since Week 2.
On the ground, Cleveland received solid play from both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Each running back found the end zone, with both averaging over 4.5 yards per carry on the day.
Mayfield finished the game with his highest passer rating of the season (118.1), also topping 300 yards passing for the first time since Week 4.
All in all, it was a box score everyone expected to see from the Browns this year. The team finally took advantage of its full arsenal of play-makers, and it resulted in a 41-point effort.
To be fair, the victory didn’t come without its warts.
Kitchens still insists on dialing up too many pass plays when trying to ice a game, seemingly forgetting the fact he has two of the league’s best running backs at his disposal.
Mayfield’s streak of interception-free games ended at three on a pass which was well behind Beckham.
The team, in general, took the field in the second half as if it had already won, which helped Miami make the game more competitive than need be. A 28-3 advantage turned into a 28-17 edge in the blink of an eye, forcing Cleveland to spend the rest of the game shaking out the cobwebs.
Despite all this, despite the fact the Browns still have more than a few kinks to work out as we head into Week 13, it’s still tough to complain about what we saw from them today.
Cleveland spent the past week finding itself in national headlines for all the wrong reasons. It’s been ten days since the Garrett-Rudolph incident, and there’s no sign the fallout will be stopping any time soon. The drama will likely only be increasing as the Browns prep for their rematch with Pittsburgh.
As a result, it was clear everyone involved with the team needed a palate cleanser, something to serve as a bright spot during a particularly bleak week.
The Browns provided that today. The game wasn’t perfect, but after the past few days, who are we to gripe about how Cleveland comes across a 17-point victory.