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Browns snap 19-game winless streak in Mayfield debut

Breathing life into a desperate home crowd after taking over for concussed starter Tyrod Taylor, Browns rookie Baker Mayfield led Cleveland to a thrilling 21-17 victory over the New York Jets in Week 3. Here's what we learned on Thursday Night Football:

  1. Open the beer coolers in Cleveland! An electric Mayfield orchestrated a trio of second-half scores, lifting the Browns to their first victory since Christmas Eve of 2016 -- and snapping with gusto a notorious 19-game winless streak. As soon as the draft's No. 1 overall pick entered the game, slow-developing sacks gave way to pinpoint darts into tight windows. Mayfield showed impressive anticipation and a lightning-quick release, shredding a Jets defense that had dominated the game's first 28 minutes. Winning the battle of the hotshot rookies against No. 3 pick Sam Darnold, Mayfield completed 17 of 23 passes (73.9 percent) for 201 yards at 8.7 yards per attempt for a 100.1 passer rating in just over two quarters of action. Browns fans have to be asking themselves if their team would be sitting pretty at 3-0 if Mayfield had been allowed to take first-team practice reps over the past month and a half.
  1. While Mayfield's dramatic comeback might have seemed scripted by the football gods, that certainly wasn't the case in the middle of the fourth quarter. Jarvis Landry had teamed with Mayfield for a high-wattage "Cleveland Special" that electrified FirstEnergy Stadium by way of a trick play to tie the game at 14 with a two-point conversion. Darnold promptly answered with a methodical 12-play, 65-yard field-goal drive that gave the Jets a three-point lead with nine minutes remaining. Charged with mustering a scoring drive of his own, Mayfield hit Antonio Callaway in stride down the sideline only to watch the ball slip out of the rookie's hands in a what-might-have-been scenario. Would the young Browns crumble in the wake of that crucial gaffe? Not so fast. After converting a pair of first downs, Mayfield threw a strike that bounced off of Landry's chest for another brutal drop. Once again, Mayfield bounced back, this time with a first-down redemption to Callaway. Facing adversity one final time when a 16-yard touchdown run was nullified by an illegal-block penalty, Mayfield found Landry for a 12-yard gain that set up Carlos Hyde's game-winning touchdown. Cleveland's defense closed out the victory, intercepting Darnold twice in the game's final two minutes.
  1. Even before Taylor was forced out with a concussion, there was a strong sense that coach Hue Jackson had no choice but to turn to Mayfield at halftime. Taylor received little help from his offensive line and play-caller, but he was failing in so many different ways: frozen like a deer in headlights against an array of Jets coach Todd Bowles blitzes, underthrowing a wide open Callaway on a deep bomb that might have gone for a 70-yard touchdown, overthrowing Landry on a disconnect that resulted in an intentional grounding penalty. In two and a half games at the helm of coordinator Todd Haley's offense, Taylor had completed just 48.8 percent of his passes at 5.5 yards per attempt for a 64.0 passer rating and 13 sacks. Taylor's toothless attack had converted a whopping eight defensive takeaways into just 10 points under his watch.

Showing a head-scratching inability to read the city and the moment -- much less the room -- Jackson insisted after the game that he's not yet ready to name a starting quarterback for next week's tilt at Oakland.

  1. In contrast to Mayfield, the draft's No. 3 overall pick, Darnold, struggled for the second straight week. Credit Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for shrinking the field, dialing up blitzes and squeezing Darnold like an anaconda for 58 minutes prior to the game-ending misfires. Mayfield played just six first-half snaps and was still the game's leading passer entering halftime with 47 yards on four throws. The two teams combined for eight punts on eight first-quarter possessions until a blocked punt set up the first of two second-quarter Isaiah Crowell scores against his former teammates.

Outside of those two run-heavy possessions, the Jets offense was simply stymied. Through three weeks, an up-and-down Darnold, 21, has completed 56 of 93 passes (60.2 percent) at 7.5 yards per attempt with a 3:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 72.0 passer rating. It's no surprise that the youngest quarterback since the league's 1970 merger is experiencing growing pains leading up to next week's clash with the ferocious Jacksonville defense.

  1. While the Jets' pairing of safety Jamal Adams and defensive lineman Leonard Williams might just rank as the AFC East's top defensive duo, the Browns can boast their own exciting young nucleus in disruptive second-year pass rusher Myles Garrett and playmaking rookie cornerback Denzel Ward, the No. 4 overall pick. Garrett came through with two more sacks while Ward changed the game's momentum with a strip of Jets receiver Robby Anderson, giving the former Ohio State star three takeaways in three NFL games. Throw in pocket-pushing defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, rookie linebacker Genard Averay and hard-nosed tackling machine Joe Schobert, and this Cleveland defense is starting to smother opposing offenses.
  1. Three cheers for hopelessly devoted lifelong Browns fan Marc Sessler, the Around The NFL Podcast's resident soothsayer. At a live performance in London two days before the NFL Kickoff Game earlier this month, Sessler foretold in vivid detail the exact scenario in which Mayfield would come off the bench to save the day for the Browns and, more importantly, jumpstart an exciting new era of Cleveland football:
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