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Browns’ Baker Mayfield again uses Thursday night game to break through – Cleveland Browns Blog



CLEVELAND — Baker Mayfield’s NFL career began on a Thursday night. It might have just been revitalized on a Thursday night, as well.

Coming off a rough 2019 season and even rougher season opener on Sunday, Mayfield roared back with perhaps the sharpest performance since his rookie year, as he propelled the Cleveland Browns to a 35-30 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Mayfield came out hot, completing his first five passes, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to Odell Beckham Jr.

Mayfield was far from flawless. He threw an ill-advised interception on Cincinnati’s half of the field in the fourth quarter — his NFL-leading eighth consecutive game with a pick — which allowed the Bengals to hang around late. But in lighting up Cincinnati up to that point, Mayfield also seemed to rediscover the same touch, poise and accuracy that allowed him to break the NFL rookie record with 27 touchdown passes in 2018.

“That’s gonna build confidence for us, and us playing complementary football with the defense,” Mayfield said. “That’s the scary part — if we start clicking and (get) better, it’s gonna be a fun ride.”

After struggling in the opener, a 38-6 loss in Baltimore, Mayfield said this week that the potential of a talented offense built around him was “not just false hopes.” That was on full display against Cincinnati, as Mayfield coolly spread the ball around to his array of dynamic weapons.

After Mayfield found running back Kareem Hunt on third-and-goal in the second quarter for his second touchdown throw, he turned to the Browns’ sideline and aggressively pumped his fist. A moment of swagger reminiscent of a Thursday night two seasons ago, when Mayfield came off the bench to help snap Cleveland’s 635-day winless streak in a scintillating league debut.

Promising trend: After the quiet showing in Baltimore, Beckham said this week that it was important for him to get touches to begin a game: “It’s like a shooter putting up a couple of threes early — you hit one, two of them, like, you might drop 60. Just how I feel. I would love to get involved early.” That’s exactly what happened Thursday, as Beckham got rolling in the first half, leading to chants of “O-B-J” from the FirstEnergy Stadium crowd of 6,000 fans following the 43-yard touchdown grab. A lack of chemistry with Mayfield has seemingly plagued Beckham’s production since he was traded to Cleveland last spring. Against the Bengals, the two might have finally unearthed the foundation of what could become the dangerous rapport the Browns initially envisioned.

QB breakdown: Mayfield thrived off numerous rollout opportunities out of coach Kevin Stefanski’s play-action-heavy attack. In fact, he completed his first three play-action throws outside the pocket for 78 yards and the touchdown to Beckham. Before Thursday, Mayfield had gone just 4-of-12 for 37 yards on such passes in his previous six games combined, according to ESPN Stats & Information. After the play-action bootleg was conspicuously absent in the opener, the Browns flashed the blueprint to success for Mayfield — underscoring one big reason why Cleveland brought in Stefanski and his scheme in the offseason.



After a lackluster Week 1 performance, Nick Chubb’s offense kicks into gear as he has a successful bounce-back game against the Bengals by recording two rushing touchdowns.

Pivotal play: Five plays after the Bengals stuffed Nick Chubb on fourth-and-goal from the 2, defensive end Myles Garrett euro-stepped past Cincinnati’s right guard and clobbered Joe Burrow, forcing a fumble the Browns recovered back near the goal line. This time, Chubb punched the ball in, giving Cleveland a comfortable 28-13 lead in the third quarter.

Eye-popping NextGen Stat: Mayfield’s completion percentage (69.5%) was +13.1% over expected Thursday night. That’s the highest completion percentage over expected of his career.

Describe the game in two words: Tension reliever. The pressure in Cleveland would have reached an almost unmanageable level had the Browns flopped against Cincinnati to open 0-2. Instead, this impressive performance, especially offensively, should help the Browns finally play more freely and with more confidence moving forward as they seek to end the NFL’s longest playoff drought.

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Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson week-to-week with foot sprain



RENTON, Wash — Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson is considered week-to-week after an MRI confirmed a mid-foot sprain, coach Pete Carroll said Monday.

Carson suffered the injury in the first half of Sunday night’s 37-34 overtime loss at the Arizona Cardinals and did not return to the game.

“There’s something there that we could see,” Carroll said of Carson’s MRI. “It’s just week-to-week, so we’ll see what happens. We don’t know. He was real determined to say, ‘I can go with it,’ but we won’t know until the end of the week, for sure.”

That’s just the start of the injuries the Seahawks (5-1) are dealing with in a suddenly banged-up backfield.

Veteran Carlos Hyde and rookie fourth-round pick DeeJay Dallas were their only available tailbacks by the end of Sunday night’s game, after Carson and Travis Homer went down hurt. But Carroll is unsure of Hyde’s status for this week due to tightness in his hamstring. The coach said Homer has a knee bruise and not an injury, adding, “So that’s something he has a chance to recover from.”

The Seahawks have no other tailbacks on their active roster or practice squad. Rashaad Penny, their 2018 first-round pick, is still on the physically unable to perform list as he works his way back from a knee injury. Carroll said Penny is “getting close” to practicing, but the coach didn’t give the impression Penny would begin doing so this week.

It’s a potentially problematic situation for the Seahawks given how COVID-19 protocols make it difficult for teams to adjust to injuries on the fly. Players must go through several days of testing before they’re allowed to enter an NFL facility. That will make it impossible for the Seahawks to sign a free agent in time to reinforce their backfield for this week’s home game against the San Francisco 49ers (4-3), unless that running back had already started or completed his testing.

The Seahawks are hoping to have All-Pro strong safety Jamal Adams back this week, but Carroll said it isn’t clear whether he’ll be ready to practice by Wednesday. Adams has missed the past three games with a groin injury. Seattle had its bye during that span.

“I talked to him on Saturday before we left, and his workouts are going great and all that,” Carroll said of Adams. “He really wants to get back, but he’s going to have to show it that he’s capable of doing all the stuff that we need him to do football-wise. Because he’s so close to being back, I think this will carry into late in the week and we’ll see how it works out. But I can’t tell you conclusively right now.”

Carroll expects defensive end Rasheem Green (neck) to practice this week with the hope of playing next week. He has been on injured reserve, as has wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. Carroll said Dorsett is running at 90 percent capacity but isn’t sure if Dorsett will practice this week.

Cornerback Shaquill Griffin is also dealing with a nagging hamstring injury in addition to the concussion he suffered against Arizona, Carroll said.

The 2,875 yards Seattle’s defense has allowed this season are the most through six games in NFL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

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Struggling New York Jets QB Sam Darnold gets pep talk from Adam Gase



Coming off one of the worst statistical games of his career, New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold received a pep talk and a vote of confidence from coach Adam Gase.

“I just keep thinking, ‘He’s 23, none of this can be easy,'” Gase said Monday, adding that he spoke with Darnold on Sunday night. “He’s a guy that did so much good in college and won a lot of football games. Things haven’t always gone as smoothly as everybody always hopes when they get to the NFL.”

The Jets haven’t won any games this season, as Darnold — expected to make a big jump in the second year under Gase — has shown signs of regression. The slump has fueled questions about Darnold’s future, with speculation the Jets might draft Clemson star Trevor Lawrence if they land the top pick.

In Sunday’s 18-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Darnold passed for only 120 yards with two interceptions for a 31.1 passer rating, the second-lowest of his career. It was a horrible offensive performance by the Jets (0-7), who managed only four yards in the second half — the team’s fewest yards in a half in 40 years.

Gase absolved Darnold of any blame, putting it squarely on the offensive line, which allowed six sacks. Gase said “it was collapsing quick on him” and he “didn’t have a lot of time to throw the ball.” When he did, the throws were tight-window attempts.

In five starts, Darnold has twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdown passes (three). His numbers have declined from last season in all the major statistical categories.

Gase, hired to develop Darnold, insisted his pupil isn’t going backward.

“If you look at it statistically, we’re not good anywhere statistically,” he said. “What I see in practice a lot of times, I see things that were better than last year. When we get to games, we just have to figure out a way to protect him and let him get in rhythm. I saw some really good things the first half [Sunday]. Then it started getting really muddy in the second half.”

Darnold said he remains upbeat, although he admitted his interception at the end of the first half was “a terrible mistake, something I truly feel won’t happen again.” He called it a “dumb decision,” a pass into heavy coverage.

He was under duress throughout the game, as the Bills cranked up their safety blitzes in the second half. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, calling plays for the first time, had no answers.

The rebuilt offensive line was supposed to be improved this season, but it has allowed 24 sacks.

“I think everyone is frustrated. I don’t think it’s unique to Sam,” guard Greg Van Roten said. “We need to put him in a position to be successful. If we, as an offensive line, are playing like we did [Sunday], we’re not giving him a chance to show what he can do.

“And that’s not fair to him. That’s not fair to the team.”

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Cowboys DC Mike Nolan feels heat after hot sauce mishap during conference call



FRISCO, Texas — When the Dallas Cowboys practice Wednesday, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan might be on the injury report. The reason? Tabasco.

Nolan had to step away from his weekly conference call with reporters Monday because he got some hot sauce in his eye in the middle of answering a question about the effectiveness of pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence.

“He’s been active every week as far as, I think, disrupting the quarterback. He’s escaped several times to do that,” Nolan said. “Obviously, the frustration for him as well is — look, it’s when he misses them. Whoop, excuse me. I’ve got something in my eye. Just had some Tabasco on my finger and it went in my eye, that wasn’t good. Ugh. Terrible, geez. I’m sorry.”

It’s been that kind of season for Nolan.

The Cowboys are on pace to allow 555 points this season. They have given up 243 points so far, which is more than they have given up overall in 11 seasons in franchise history, not counting the strike season in 1982, and equal to what they allowed in 1992.

Nolan was able to clean out his eye and return to the news conference.

“My eye feels a lot better,” Nolan said. “But it was burning.”

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