July 27, 2021

Browns vs. Bengals final score: Cleveland wins shootout on Baker Mayfield’s fifth touchdown

The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals went toe to toe in Ohio’s Queen City Sunday. Baker Mayfield’s fifth touchdown pass lifted Cleveland over their rival, 37-34, with 11 seconds remaining. The Cleveland offense had gotten the ball back with just 1:06 remaining after Cincinnati scored the go-ahead touchdown.

Bengals fans are probably tired of hearing how good their rookie quarterback has been in losses but Joe Burrow is a future star in this league. He completed 35 of 47 passes for 406 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on the afternoon after throwing 61 passes in the first meeting between the two teams.

Relive all the action in the live blog below.

Why the Browns won

It was a slow start and boneheaded mistakes in critical situations that nearly cost Cleveland the game. Quarterback Baker Mayfield threw five incomplete passes, including an interception, to open the game. Cincinnati was moving the ball while Cleveland was anemic. The Browns were penalized five times for 40 yards, which does not sound bad but those lapses in judgment came in critical moments. Mayfield threw an interception intended for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who was hurt on the play. Kevin Johnson was flagged for a pass interference on the Bengals’ second drive. It set them up with a first-and-goal from the Browns’ 1-yard line and it was converted into a touchdown. Despite it all, the Browns were able to overcome, rally together and stand victorious at the final whistle.

For years, the northeast Ohio team has been a franchise defined by its creative ways to lose: Dwayne Rudd removing his helmet in celebration and being flagged, the field goal attempt returned for a touchdown as time expired against Baltimore. The narrative has begun to change, whether it was Beckham’s game-sealing end-around for a touchdown against Dallas or Donovan Peoples-Jones’ acrobatic catch in the end zone during today’s game. Fans never consider a Browns game to be over until the clock hits 0:00, but maybe that is changing. Coach Kevin Stefanski has strengthened this team mentally and turned a losing culture into an expectation of victory. The current season may not end with a Lombardi Trophy but, for the first time since their 1999 return, fans are optimistic about the direction of the team.

Why the Bengals lost

The defense allowed 21 consecutive completions by Mayfield, which is a Browns franchise record. The league’s top rushing offense leaned on their 29th-ranked passing attack to rally back from a 17-10 halftime deficit. Cincinnati’s defense registered five quarterback hits but zero sacks. The defensive struggles and ill-timed penalties were costly in Week 7, and seven penalties and two turnovers are simply too much for a team expecting to achieve victory.

For the second consecutive week, the Bengals were within arm’s reach of a win and managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against a potential AFC playoff team.

Stats of the game

Burrow became the first rookie quarterback in franchise history to throw for 400-plus yards in a game. He is the second rookie, joining Patrick Mahomes, since 1950 to throw for 300-plus yards five times in the first seven games of a career.

Myles Garrett forced his fourth fumble of the season, which is a single-season record for the player. His seven sacks — including two more on Sunday — are the second-most in the NFL behind Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Play of the game

The Cincinnati offense, at their own 46-yard line on first-and-10, saw quarterback Joe Burrow drop back to pass looking for wide receiver A.J. Green. Instead, Green was on a different page and continued on a route longer than the throw by the rookie. Cornerback Terrence Mitchell had the pass thrown right to him with no one around him, and he dropped it. That interception may have been returned for a potential game-clinching touchdown, but instead, the play  was an incomplete pass and the drive continued for the Bengals. Burrow made them pay by scoring a go-ahead touchdown. Prior to Cleveland’s game-winning drive, this missed opportunity was queued up as the game-defining sequence.

But Cleveland did complete a game-winning drive. With 1:06 remaining in the fourth quarter, Baker Mayfield and the Browns offense got the ball back at their own 25-yard line. Between the initial 13-yard completion to rookie wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones and the game-winning 24-yard touchdown pass to the same player, Mayfield completed 2 of 3 passes, with his first incompletion since the first quarter being a spike. It was a masterful rebound.

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