Browns leave Cincinnati with win, new lease on life

Confidence builds while they leave perpetual losing and Hue Jackson behind

Daryl Ruiter
November 25, 2018 - 7:55 pm

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati, OH (92.3 The Fan) – As Jimmy Haslam walked out of the Browns locker room at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday with his grandsons, he was all smiles.

So were members of the front office.

They finally had reason to puff their chests out and strut a little bit. The players too.

“This team is very scary right now,” safety Damarious Randall said.

After thrashing former head coach Hue Jackson and the Bengals by taking a 35-7 lead in the third quarter and winning 35-20, the Browns believe they’ve served notice to everyone that they’re no longer the laughing stock of the league and the days of them being kicked while down are finally over.

“We’re tired of being disrespected, man,” safety Jabrill Peppers said. “We’re tired of being disrespected. Before the game, they said, ‘Why are you talking? You play for the Browns.’ What does that even mean? We’re an NFL team. We don’t have the worst record in the league. We’re a tough team to beat — go watch the film. The only teams that really got the best of us were the Steelers, Kansas City and the Chargers.

“We know we’re a good football team. It doesn’t matter if Hue was over there or not. We don’t like them, and they don’t like us. We came out here and did what we had to do.”

Leading up to the game the entire locker room downplayed how personal the game was with Jackson on the other sideline less than a month after he was fired by the Browns.

It was clear Sunday that the game was indeed personal.

“Oh yeah there was definitely some smack talk with Hue,” Peppers said. “There definitely was because he was our coach. He knows us. I just said, ‘Coach you know me. I talk with my pads.’ He kinda just chuckled.”

Before the game Jackson paced near midfield between hugs and handshakes with his former team but if the scoreboard wasn’t enough to confirm how personal the game was for the Browns, the post-game exchange that saw quarterback Baker Mayfield avoid a hug from Jackson did.

“I didn’t feel like talking,” Mayfield said.

“He left Cleveland and goes down to Cincinnati. It’s just somebody that was in our locker room, asking us to play for him, and he goes to a different team who we play twice a year. Everybody can have their spin on it, but that’s how I feel.”

For all the politically correct things said since Jackson's firing and leading up to the game, a quick reminder that quotes are not sworn testimony. 

The Browns really do not miss Jackson, and many are really glad he's gone which has shown on the field the last three games. 

Beating Jackson, who went 3-36-1 in 2.5 years at the helm in Cleveland, after his quick retreat to the Bengals because the Browns threw him out the door is simply a footnote to the bigger picture and what is starting to come into focus.

Gregg Williams is now 2-1 since taking over for Jackson.

Mayfield has thrown nine touchdowns and just one interception while racking up 771 yards and completing 71.5 percent of his passes. Nick Chubb has five tocuhdowns in three gaes. 

The Browns improved to 2-1-1 within the AFC North – their best mark through four divisional games since the division was formed in 2002 – and they have either beaten or tied everyone in the division after going winless within the North the previous two years.  

The victory in Cincinnati put to rest the two remaining negative streaks that remained – road losses, now dead at 25 – and consecutive wins that dated back to Nov. 2014. With those boxes on the bucket list checked off, the Browns can move forward.

“It's huge,” Mayfield, who completed 19 of 26 passes for 258 yards and four touchdowns, said. “You see teams around the league that build on those wins. It builds the confidence and it builds the energy throughout the locker room that you need to have to play on the road and finish tight games. You need to believe in it, and so it's huge for us and so we need to continue that.”

It was also the first time since 2013 that the Browns won back to back games by double digits and Cleveland’s 28 first half points were its most since totaling 31 at Indianapolis on Dec. 1, 1991.

“This locker room is very, very talented,” Randall said. “The way we’re starting to click together, the way we’re starting to know each other and learn each other. We know the weaknesses and the strengths of the offense and defense. This team is very scary right now. I feel very good about each and every game.”

At 4-6-and-1 the Browns remain on the very periphery of the playoff picture. Their hopes remain slim to none but it’s about to be December and for the first time in years they’ll enter the month still mathematically alive.

“We know our backs are against the wall right now,” Randall said. “We’re going to approach every game like that. We’re going to go into every game just like it was a playoff game and we’re just going to try to keep chipping away at this thing.”

The Browns, who did not allow a sack in back to back games for the first time since 2007, believe they’ve finally put the perpetual losing behind them.

Just like they did Jackson Sunday.