Browns 26, Chicago 6
Summary: The most dominant performance by a Browns team since … I can’t remember.
The key moment: The opening whistle? The moment the Bears announced Justin Fields would be starting? Maybe when Myles Garrett got mad after last week’s performance? OK, let’s face it, when you outgain your opponent 418-48, there are no key moments.
Happiness level (scale of 1-to-10): 9. Hard to be much happier. The only thing that keeps this from being a 10 on the happiness scale is that the Bears are not very good, and they did not seem to have any real plans to win this game. But that’s nitpicking.
There was a wonderful moment in the second quarter that I think about now. The score was 3-3 at the time, but it was already clear even to the most shellshocked and dubious of Browns fans that Cleveland was going to win the game comfortably. The Browns had moved the ball at will only to fail twice on fourth down. Meanwhile, the defense was dominating. It was only a matter of time.
Anyway, the Bears had the ball and it was third and long, and rookie Justin Fields, playing in his first NFL game, dropped back to throw. The Browns’ Myles Garrett was rushing from the right side. He got chipped and double-teamed and after he failed to break through on first burst, and you could see him slow for an instant. See, quarterbacks get rid of the ball so quickly in the NFL that it’s almost impossible for a defensive end who gets delayed for even a second to get to the quarterback. For defensive ends, the play is often over before it begins.
Only this time, after getting paused, Garrett looked up and realized that JUSTIN FIELDS STILL HAD THE BALL.
It was a bit like an antelope deciding to stop to catch an episode of “Ted Lasso” while being stalked by a lion.
Oh, those rookie quarterbacks. You gotta love ’em.
So Garrett just rushed forward and sacked the guy.
It was one of four and a half sacks Garrett would have on the day, a team record. It was one of nine sacks the Browns would have on the day, a record. But there were two things about it that I found particularly delightful. First was the pretty apparent surprise Garrett felt when he saw that Fields was still holding the ball; it was like exclamation points appeared over his head.
And the second was the realization that everybody seemed to be feeling all at once: This Browns team has a chance to be really, really good.
Before we talk about what it feels like to watch the Browns — the CLEVELAND BROWNS — play a near-perfect football game, we obviously must talk about this piece of art:
I mean, pull up a chair. I have thoughts.
We are the Spitzer offensive line.
With the Spitzer shield, you get peace of mind.
Let’s try to explain this — Spitzer Autoworld is a massive family-owned car dealership group that has been around since 1904. George Spitzer was apparently approached by Henry Ford himself. There are now Spitzer Autoworlds in three states, most of them around Cleveland. Spitzer Auto is pretty legendary around Cleveland.
OK, none of that really explains what is happening here.
Get the benefits that prevent any struggle
Let’s all do the Spitzer Shield shuffle!
This is the time when they dance. “They” includes Andrew Spitzer and Browns offensive linemen Joel Bitonio and Jack Conklin. The Spitzer Shuffle involves awkwardly shifting to the right while making the “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man” movement with the left arm. The synchronicity is impressive.
My name is Jack, and I protect
Your city’s favorite quarterback
I want you to notice that, so far, we have not had a single rhyme that actually rhymes. Line and mind don’t rhyme. Struggle and shuffle don’t rhyme. Protect and quarterback don’t come close to rhyming. And this is joyously terrible since THE GUY’S NAME IS JACK which DOES RHYME WITH QUARTERBACK.
I have literally no idea why the line didn’t go:
I’m a shield, my name is Jack
I protect your favorite quarterback.
But you have to give Jack Conklin full marks for the way he sells the line he was given. He even makes a half-hearted passing motion as he says “quarterback.” Perfect performance. No notes.
But, only now are we ready to hit the crescendo:
My name is Joel, and I guard
the City of Rock and Roll
This is so great on so many levels, it’s what lifts this commercial into the stratosphere with Snuggies and Farmer’s Only. I have no idea how that line was written or why, or how someone didn’t put a halt to it, but there it is, in all its splendor. I guess Joel and Roll are supposed to rhyme, even though that’s not the actual structure of the couplet. Bitonio, as great as he is, does not protect the City of Rock and Roll. He does do a killer air guitar.
OK, big finish!
And it’s all backed by our Spitzer Shield
Featuring a lifetime powertrain warranty
Online at Spitzer.com
Now that’s a lazy songwriter. What happened? They just gave up on the rap two-thirds of the way through a 30-second commercial? Did they just go “We have to get to the lifetime powertrain warranty and nothing rhymes with warranty?” No one thought of:
I’m Joel Bitonio, and I cause pain
But Spitzer protects your powertrain
All the cars. All the styles.
Unlimited time. Unlimited miles.
We give our quarterback time to bomb
Shop online at Spitzer.com
I guess the Browns players absolutely crushed Conklin and Bitonio in team meetings this week, which is delightful especially because Bitonio’s response apparently was, “At least my kid’s tuition is paid for,” which is pitch perfect.
“If I’m ever in something that terrible,” Myles Garrett told reporters, “go ahead and take me off the field.”
I cannot tell you how happy all this makes me. This team has already brought me more personal joy than just about any Browns team since the Kosar years.
OK, so let’s count the good things that happened Sunday.
1) Myles Garrett was as dominant as a defensive lineman can be. He was unblockable on every single play. We wrote last week how stunning it felt to see him be a complete non-factor against Houston; he just seems too amazing a player to ever have a zero-pressure game like he did.
Well, apparently he felt that way too because he talked all week about how he wants his teammates to step up when he gets double-teamed and taken out of the play. His frustration was palpable. And he unloaded. It was awe-inspiring.
2) Odell Beckham Jr. was back, and not only was he back … he and Baker Mayfield seem to have found a stronger bond. As you might remember, last year Baker and OBJ just never seemed to be on quite the same wavelength. I don’t think it was anybody’s fault. OBJ is a big personality with big talent and a hunger for the ball, and Mayfield was still trying to calibrate his game to NFL speeds, and the two couldn’t really connect. It seemed like Mayfield was constantly either missing OBJ or trying to force balls in when OBJ wasn’t open.
But it’s different now. Mayfield has figured things out. OBJ has been out for almost a year. They’re both in a different place, and it seems like they see each other now. And that’s really exciting.
3) Kareem Hunt was electrifying. I talk often here about St. Nick Chubb because for me he’s already in the pantheon of Browns legends, and that means that sometimes I unintentionally slight Kareem Hunt. He’s a terrific player, versatile, catches the ball, runs hard, seems from afar to have been working hard to get his life together.
And so it was nice to see him have his day. The Bears defense is pretty good but they had no answers for Hunt, who spent the afternoon catching passes, making people miss, breaking through tackles and dominating as few in this league can. Between rushing and receiving he was good for 155 yards on 16 touches with a spectacular touchdown run mixed in there.
4) Jeremiah Owusah-Koramoah! Wow. Here was another rookie who seemed to be all over the field — this year, Anthony Schwartz was big in Week 1, Demetric Felton has been dynamic, Greg Newsome II has shown some real promise and now Owusah-Koramoah was all over the field. How did the Browns go from the most incompetent team in sports to one that seems to hit on pretty much every draft pick? It’s mind-blowing.
5) Wait, do the Browns have an actual kicker? I do realize that Chase McLaughlin has bounced around the NFL a bit, playing for five different teams the last two years, but he sure looked good on Sunday. Good from 57? Five-for-five on field goals this year? This is like the draft pick thing — it’s like for two decades absolutely nothing went right for this team and now everything goes right … they pick up a journeyman kicker and he turns into Morten Andersen! Wow, this is fun.
OK, let’s check in on Kevin Stefanski’s new weekly update on how the crowd did:
“I thought our crowd was outstanding. They make a difference in these home games and they certainly did today. They made life very hard on the opposing offense today and hats off to the crowd. I thought they were outstanding.”
I was a little bit disappointed that our guy didn’t make specific mention of Section 103 and did not break down the performances of the Gilly family of Elyria; I believe that while Lisa had a fine game cheering and making life difficult for Justin Fields, Greg’s timing was a little bit off, particularly during the “Myles Garrett” chant.
And what did Stefanski think of his team’s near-perfect performance?
“Our defense, six points allowed, nine sacks, one-for-11 on third down, which was a huge emphasis for us … I thought the guys played sound, played together, ran to the ball, did obviously a nice job to hold me now, whoa, warm my heart, stay with me, let loving start, let loving start, whoa.”
Whoops, sorry, no idea how this could have happened, I must have blacked out from boredom again and ended up inside the British chill-out band Thompson Twins’ chart-topping song, “Hold Me Now.”
But before I did black out, I could just tell that Our Guy Stefanski was happy.