CLEVELAND (AP) — With their latest edge-of-your-seat thriller, the Cleveland Browns’ days as a laughingstock appear over.
They look legit.
And with a rookie star leading them, one of the NFL’s best feel-good stories this season.
Baker Mayfield displayed some of the late magic he performed routinely for Oklahoma and Greg Joseph lined a 37-yard field goal that may have been deflected through the uprights with two seconds left in overtime to give Cleveland its second win, 12-9 on Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens.
The Browns (2-2-1) aren’t the Browns any more. By beating one of the AFC’s perennial playoff teams, the Browns showed more evidence that they’re on the rise and that Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick who has an energized a city desperate for football success, might be the quarterback to restore a team that went just 1-31 in the past two seasons.
“There is just something about this young man,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said of Mayfield, who passed for 324 yards and a TD in winning his second career start. “He has a feel to him. He does not blink at situations or opportunities.”
Mayfield didn’t bat an eye against the league’s second-ranked defense.
Backed up near his goal line late in OT after an 11-yard loss on first down, Mayfield went to work.
He scrambled for 13 yards on second down and then bought time in the pocket before firing a pass to undrafted rookie Derrick Willies, who worked his way down the sideline for 39 yards. After Duke Johnson picked up 24 yards on three running plays, Joseph, another rookie cast-off signed after Week 2, kicked a field goal that never got more than 12 feet off the ground as the Browns snapped an 18-game winless streak in the AFC North.
Mayfield was afraid to watch Joseph’s kick. It was the only time he showed any fear.
The Ravens were impressed.
“Baker is one of those guys, he’s a playmaker,” Baltimore safety Tony Jefferson said. “He has that ‘it’ factor to him. We were talking a little trash on the field. You have to respect a guy like that, especially a rookie who’s coming into a defense like ours.”
It was the second straight week the Browns went to overtime, and Mayfield joked that he hopes all his starts aren’t as nerve-wracking.
But unlike a week ago in Oakland, where the Browns blew a 14-point lead and had two questionable calls by the officials ago against them, they finished the job and won for the first time in 37 Sunday games.
“It’s huge for confidence,” Mayfield said. “I think that we have been in this situation a lot. No, it has not gone our way. We had one tie and two losses. It is good to see the other side of it. Once we get into the situation, we have been there before but able to come out with it. Just keep pushing. We were frustrated that we did not score as many times as we wanted, but we never gave up.
“Our guys believed in it.”
In Cleveland, everyone is starting to believe.
Baltimore came in riding momentum after beating Pittsburgh last week. However, the Ravens were flat and flopped.
Quarterback Joe Flacco never got in sync with his receivers and Michael Crabtree let a potential game-winning TD pass slip through his hands in the final minute of regulation.
Baltimore’s defense still hasn’t given up a TD in the second half this season, but the Ravens couldn’t get a big stop when they needed it.
“I don’t think it’s anything to hit the panic button on,” defensive end Terrell Suggs said. “The path that we’re on is a force. It’s not a straight line. I’d have loved for us to go 15-1 this year, but 14-2 is still up there.”
Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins’ breakout season could have a setback.
Higgins sustained a knee injury in the fourth quarter and will undergo an MRI on Monday. Before he left, Higgins scored the game’s only TD, a 19-yard pass from Mayfield and finished with three catches for 66 yards.
Willies came in with zero receptions, but more than filled in for Higgins.
“Rashard made some huge catches early in the game, but I watched Willies walk in there and make plays towards the end,” Jackson said. “That was outstanding. That is what pro football is.”
Former Tennessee receiver Rishard Matthews is scheduled to work out for the Browns on Monday. The free agent was granted his release by the Titans last month.
A week after they felt robbed by the officials, the Browns had more questions about how the game was called.
On fourth down in OT, receiver Jarvis Landry was flattened by cornerback Brandon Carr as he ran a sideline route. Mayfield threw deep on the play, and the officials ruled the pass was uncatchable and therefore no penalty was called.
“No defender can impede the progress of a receiver beyond five yards, I know that,” said Landry, who had five catches for 69 yards. “It’s something we are going to have to play through because I don’t think it’s going to stop. It’s going to make our team better.”