NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP / WJW) – Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns can do more than run the ball, and the NFL’s longest active playoff drought is nearing its end after 18 seasons.
You just need to finish what you start a little better.
Mayfield started for a season-high 334 yards with all four of his Touchdowns in the first half, and the Browns scored the first 17 points before going on to win their fourth in a row, 41-35 over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
With both teams looking for AFC playoff spots, the Browns looked like the team leading a division-they are second in the AFC North behind the unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers – while improving their record to 9-3 for the first time since 1994. Cleveland has won just nine games in a season three times in its expansion era that began in 1999.
“We’re 9-3,” Myles Garrett said at a news conference. “It’s about as good as I can bet. I have to take it one week at a time. That’s the record now, and we’re hoping for only 1-0 after next Monday. Just do our best to prepare yourself and go ahead on the next team-wise preparation, film-wise study and do what we can to know what you’re going to do.”
The Titans (8-4) came top of the AFC South and Drew after the Colts beat Houston 26-20, though Tennessee still has the best division record. The Titans broke up after a poor fourth-place finish on their first drive. NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry lost his first fumble this season on the next drive.
“I think people know we’re a good team now if we play well, and that’s what we did today,” Brown’s halfback Nick Chubb said.
“Things snowballed,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.
Mayfield prevented the Browns from needing the NFL’s best offense in a showdown against the Titans and Henry. The Browns had their highest score ever, leading 38-7 at halftime, surpassing 35 points in the second half at Cincinnati in 2004.
The Titans made things interesting at the end of the game and outscored the Browns 28-3 in the second half.
Kenny Vaccaro took a fumble from Mayfield in fourth and 1 and ran 53 Yards with 48 seconds left. Ryan Tannehill hit cam Batson to make an 8-yard TD pass with 28 seconds left, but Andy Janovich recovered the kick to seal the win.
“Of course, if I stick to fucking football, it won’t be close — or as close as it should have been,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield was the first Browns quarterback to throw four TDs in the first half since Hall of Famer Otto Graham in 1951. Mayfield, who pitched four of his five TDs in the second half of a win against Cincinnati in October. 25, had only two combined Touchdowns in the last four games.
No one else in the NFL has thrown four TD passes in a half this season, and Mayfield had 290 yards at halftime, just off his season high of 297 yards.
This time, Mayfield completed passes to eight receivers with one TD pass each Jarvis Landry; tackling abilities-assist-Kendall Lamm, who was the first player in the Browns line, catching a TD pass since 2001 A 75-yarder to Donovan Peoples-Jones; and a 17-yarder over Rashard Higgins.
“Baker was on fire,” said Chubb, who also finished a 1-yard td run. “He’s the guy I know. He’s the guy the Cleveland Browns know who he is. He came out, had a good game and led us to a win.”
The Browns stopped Henry ran on fourth-and – 1 on the Titans ‘ first drive. He seemed to take the first, but the officials scored him just before the marker. Vrabel denied the spot without success.
Tennessee opened the second half to score consecutive Touchdowns in the first six minutes. First, Tannehill threw a 22-yard pass to MyCole Pruitt. The tight end took A. J. Brown’s fumble on a 16-yard catch and ran 3 yards for a TD on the next drive to pull the titans within 38-21.
The Titans came up with a league below five rounds. Cleveland forced three, the last at the end of the third quarter. Adam Humphries, playing his first game since Nov. 1 due to a concussion, bobbled a pass from Tannehill that was taken by cornerback M. J. Stewart at the Browns 9.
It’s a long way from where the Browns were a few seasons ago.
“I don’t remember going 0-16,” Garrett said. “I’m focusing on this year. I’ll have time to remember what happens at the end of this season when it’s over. Build on the success we have now and keep this movement moving.”
Garrett got a sack from Tannehill early in the fourth quarter, giving him 10 1/2 for the season. He reached second in the league despite two missed games tied. He led the league in the pockets when he went on the COVID-19 list.