Browns survive scare; move to 8-3 on season
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Cleveland Browns can sum up their week in one word: survival.
They managed to overcome key injuries, COVID-19 issues and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The last one proved to be the biggest hurdle.
Baker Mayfield and Jarvis Landry took advantage of their best game-day weather in a month and led the Browns to a 27-25 victory at Jacksonville on Sunday that kept them squarely in the AFC playoff picture.
“It definitely was one where you see the grit of a team,” guard Joel Bitonio said. “You don’t get a practice all week really, the defense was really decimated with guys missing and we had one true practice on Friday and we had one of our farther travel games of the year.
“All those things kind of added up. We knew we had to perform. … It just went down to the wire and was a little closer than we would like, but we found a way to pull it out and I think that’s what good teams in this league do — find ways to win.”
It’s something the Jaguars (1-10) haven’t done enough in recent years, and owner Shad Khan fired general manager Dave Caldwell following the team’s 10th consecutive loss that set a single-season franchise record.
“Our football operation needs new leadership, and we will have it with a new general manager in 2021,” Khan said.
Khan will keep coach Doug Marrone and his staff in place to finish out the season and likely let the next general manager decide their fate. It would be stunning to see Marrone return in 2021.
Caldwell is the fourth general manager fired during this pandemic-impacted season. Houston fired Bill O’Brien, who also was its coach. Atlanta fired coach Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff. On Saturday, Detroit released coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn.
“Right now, we’re not doing enough things to win football games,” Marrone said.
The Browns did.
Mayfield threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns and could have had two more. Landry finished with eight receptions for 143 yards and his first score of the season.
Nick Chubb chipped in 144 yards rushing and a touchdown. But the trio needed help down the stretch to dispatch of the surprisingly tenacious Jaguars.
Mayfield threw behind Kareem Hunt in the flat on a third-and-1 play late, and Hunt failed to pick up the first down on the ensuing down. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski probably should have kicked the field goal and gone up two scores.
“We made it hard on ourselves there at the end,” Stefanski said. “We can be better, but it’s a good team win and the guys fought and knew they would have to get that one.”
Jacksonville had a chance to tie. James Robinson’s 4-yard run made it 27-25. That’s because Marrone took an extra point off the board in the third quarter and attempted a 2-point conversion following an offside penalty.
Mike Glennon, making his first start in more than three years, missed throws on both conversions.
“We just came up short on two 2-point conversions,” Glennon said.
The Browns improved to 8-3 for the first time since 1994, when they were 11-5 under Bill Belichick. It’s their most wins in 13 years.
Mayfield and Landry gave the Browns some much-needed balance for the first time in weeks. Mayfield threw for 122, 132 and 204 yards the last three outings while dealing with howling wind, sideways hail and pouring rain in Cleveland.
It was 73 degrees and overcast in Jacksonville, perfect football weather. Everyone on the visiting sideline seemed to enjoy it.
Browns chief of staff Callie Brownson became the first woman to coach an NFL position group in a regular-season game as she filled in for tight ends coach Drew Petzing. Petzing’s wife, Louisa, gave birth to the couple’s first child Saturday.
“She’s a great utility player for us and she can fill in anywhere,” Stefanski said. “I’m proud of her and proud of her journey and it’s going to continue here.”
Brownson made NFL history one day after Vanderbilt soccer player Sarah Fuller became the first woman to play in a Power Five conference football game. Fuller handled a squib kickoff in Vandy’s 41-0 loss at Missouri.
Browns: Safety Ronnie Harrison injured a shoulder on the opening play against his former team and was ruled out. The Jaguars traded Harrison to Cleveland days before the season opener.
Jaguars: Defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton was carted off the field in the final minute with a significant knee injury.
Browns: They stay in the AFC South and play at Tennessee next Sunday. The Titans have won three straight in the series.
Jaguars: They play at Minnesota, which has won the last four meetings.
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