On Saturday, if you were told that the Baltimore Ravens would hold Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to just 20 yards on two catches, you’d probably think that the Ravens would handily.
But the opposite happened.
The final box score doesn’t look too bad, but the game was over as soon as Nick Chubb scored on an 88-yard run with 9:35 left in the fourth quarter. Cleveland’s 40-point outburst is just a small but hopeful taste of what this offense can do this season.
Baker Mayfield had a nice bounce-back game after a rough start to the season, completing 20 of 30 passes for 342 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, which didn’t appear to be his fault.
Mayfield also took just one sack. While he still looked a bit uncomfortable in the pocket and drift back on a few throws, there was a noticeable improvement over the first three games. He wasn’t forcing the ball downfield and took what the defense gave him, which were medium crossing routes, which is how he earned much of his yardage.
On Chubb, OBJ, RSJ, Jarvis and Pharaoh
Nick Chubb was fantastic, carrying the ball 20 times for 165 yards and three touchdowns. Showing his power, agility, and speed, Chubb now ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing yards with 398, just 13 behind leader Christian McCaffery.
Beckham’s day will be remembered less for his slim stat line than the (offsetting) personal foul for fighting with Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who then choked Beckham on the ground right in front of an official.
But even without the ball in his hands, Beckham had an impact. He drew attention away from the other targets on the Browns, springing Ricky Seals-Jones for a touchdown grab and then a 65-yard reception later on. He functioned as an option runner on Jarvis Landry‘s near-touchdown. Beckham didn’t complain about his lack of production, instead doing his job as a blocker and celebrating his teammates’ success.
Speaking of Landry, he had the best game of his career, catching eight of 10 targets for 167 yards. He would have likely had even more, but he suffered a concussion in the third quarter.
Pharaoh Brown caught one pass for 18 yards and was fantastic as a blocker, which is very encouraging. Seals-Jones was more involved in the offense than last week, hauling in all three of his targets. Cleveland used 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TEs) on 24 plays against Baltimore, the same amount they had run the formation in the previous three games combined.
The play-calling in general wasn’t all that much different from the first three games, Mayfield and Co. just executed much, much better. The creativity we saw from Freddie Kitchens in 2018 was evident on the Landry option and the Beckham reverse pass, but it was there earlier in the season as well. But when the offense plays well, the play-calling looks better.
The offensive line wasn’t great, but that was mitigated by Mayfield playing much smarter. The line is not an elite unit, but it doesn’t have to be. The data show that QBs are primarily responsible for pressure and hits, and that was certainly true over the first three games.
Reinforcements On the Way
While Landry will likely miss next week’s matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, reinforcements are coming. Rashard Higgins should be back soon, and Antonio Callaway will return from a four-game suspension, adding another deep threat to the offense. Once he gets up to speed, Callaway’s presence should open things up underneath for players like Higgins. That’s when Mayfield is at his best.
Kareem Hunt will be back after the Browns play the Broncos in Week 8, Wyatt Teller could replace Eric Kush at right guard after the bye week, and David Njoku and Drew Forbes could return from injured reserve.
This offense is still nowhere near its peak, and this could be the jump-start the team needed to begin to hit their stride. The 49ers may be a weak 3-0 team, but their defense (especially the line) poses some challenges for the Browns. They may not score 40 again, but there are plenty of signs that the offense is trending in the right direction.