Chico: A December to remember for the Browns?

Following a tough loss, this Cleveland team proved its a team that can turn it around

Mike 'Chico' Bormann
December 10, 2018 - 2:27 pm
CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 09: Jarvis Landry #80 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates his touchdown with teammates during the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 9, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio.

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

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Heading into Sunday's matchup against Carolina, the Cleveland Browns boasted a modest record of 4-7-1. To most teams and fan bases, the game would not appear to be of the "must-win" variety. 

But a deeper dive reveals a franchise that has not had many games like this since returning to the NFL in 1999.

For starters, a football game in December which holds extremely faint playoff possibilities has been nothing more than a distant memory. Yet following the Browns 26-20 victory, you can find the team listed among a crowded field under a label identified as "In The Hunt". I won't bore you with all of the very remote possibilities that remain for a rare trip to the postseason, but just take a moment to allow this to sink in: 

The Cleveland Browns are playing meaningful games with just a couple of weeks until Christmas.

Sunday's victory over the reeling Panthers improved the Browns to 5-7-1 on the year. And while fans still have dreams of January football dancing in their heads, it's not all about the record, or the mathematical formula keeping them alive that has me excited. It's now 100% safe to say it:

These are not the same old Browns.

The Browns traveled to Houston eight days ago feeling pretty good about themselves. They had reason for a bit of swagger after consecutive double-digit victories over the Falcons and Bengals which saw the offense combine for 63 points. Better yet, it was in large part due to the play of rookies Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb.

Bu then they were rudely greeted by a Texans squad who had won 8 straight and made it 9 after easily disposing of the Browns, 29-13.

Mayfield, who had been extremely careful with the football up to that point, was picked off 3 times in the first half as old pal Romeo Crennel had him second guessing what he was seeing pre-snap with what the Texans were actually doing with a variety of coverages designed to confuse him. Chubb wasn't given much of an opportunity with only 9 carries and the Browns were fed some humble pie before heading back to Cleveland.

It would've been easy (familiar?) to feel sorry for themselves and simply go through the motions as December rolled into the lakefront. But these are not the same old Browns. Go back to the second half in Houston. Rather than dwell on a brutal first half, Mayfield responded with his signature fire and passion en route to 15-20 passing and nearly 300 yards. No quit in this kid, and you may have heard that others tend to follow his lead.

Baker and the Browns carried that same intensity into yesterday's game against Carolina on a blustery, cold day in Northeast Ohio. Mayfield would connect on 18 of his 22 passes, including some throws that reinforced why John Dorsey selected him first last April. Chubb found paydirt, so did Jarvis Landry. And Myles Garrett harassed Cam Newton all afternoon as the Browns bounced back for the 6 point victory.

Just three games remain, including a date in Mile High this Saturday night. The playoffs are still a long shot, but there is no formula or algorithm needed to realize that with an extremely talented young core, led by a fiery rookie QB, the days of daring to dream about meaningful games in December are all but history.