Josh McCown entered the Browns record book in spectacular fashion Sunday, having a career day on his way to becoming the only Browns quarterback in history to throw for over 300 yards in 3 consecutive games.
Most importantly, this time his big day translated to a 33-30 overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens. The Browns overcame a slow start and a 12 point third quarter deficit mainly through his heroics and the leg of rookie kicker Travis Coons. McCown connected on 36 of 51 passes for 457 yards and 2 touchdowns. He added another touchdown on a 10 yard scramble late in the third quarter to pull within 6 and keep the Browns hopes alive. He completed passes to nine different receivers, but his favorite target continued to be tight end Gary Barnidge, who caught 8 passes for 139 yards and a spectacular touchdown that gave the Browns their first lead at 22-21 at the 12:23 mark of the 4th quarter.
Though their rushing totals were lackluster, both Cleveland running backs contributed in the passing game, with Duke Johnson catching 6 passes for 55 yards and Isaiah Crowell catching 2 passes for 39 yards and the final touchdown of the day, which put the Browns up 30-27. Breakout wide receiver Travis Benjamin hauled in 6 passes for 83 yards, raising his team leading season total to 411 yards, surpassing his career high for any season in only 5 games. Coons connected on all four field goals he attempted, including the game winner in overtime.
On a day when each team’s defense seemed overwhelmed, the Browns did just enough to hold off the Ravens, allowing only a tying field goal in the last 25 seconds after the home team had a first and goal at the 10 yard line. On the Ravens’ only overtime possession, the Browns defense forced a three and out, giving the offense the chance to seal the victory. While he was outplayed by McCown, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw for a touchdown and added two more with his legs, while Ravens running back Justin Forsett carried the ball for 121 yards on 21 carries and added a touchdown of his own. Overall, the Browns’ defensive woes continued, allowing the Ravens 181 yards on the ground and nearly 400 total yards after consecutive games of struggling against the pass. Neither defense generated a turnover on the day.
The victory was the Browns’ first in Baltimore since 2007. Their 505 total yards were the most by any Browns team since the 2007 squad led by Derek Anderson tallied 554 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals.
– With 1:22 remaining in the third quarter and the Browns trailing 21-9, the Browns faced 3rd and 9 from the Baltimore 15 yard line. McCown’s pass attempt fell incomplete, meaning they would have had to settle for another field goal attempt. Ravens Defensive End Jasin Babin was called for Hands to the Face, which gave the Browns an automatic first down. Two plays later, McCown’s scramble would pull the Browns to within 6.
Other Key Moments
– With 1:03 left before halftime and the Browns trailing 14-6, Justin Tucker missed a 51 yard field goal, giving the Browns possession at their own 41 yard line. The Browns would march down the field to kick a field goal of their own, making the score 14-9 at halftime instead of 17-6.
– With the Browns trailing 21-16 in the fourth quarter, McCown hit Taylor Gabriel for a 56 yard strike that gave them the ball at the Ravens 23 yard line. Three plays later, Barnidge would catch the ball between his legs and fall into the end zone to give the Browns their first lead.
Keys to the Victory:
– McCown. In the 3 full games he has played this season, he has averaged 384 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air. At this pace, he would end the season with 5,379 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. While McCown is unlikely to keep up this pace, any discussion about going to second year quarterback Johnny Manziel has been silenced the remainder of the season presumably. McCown is the main reason the team won Sunday and the major reason the team has been competitive this season.
McCown’s previous career high was 385 yards, set in 2005 with the Arizona Cardinals against the San Francisco 49ers. McCown now holds team records for passing yards in a regular season game and most passing yards over a three game span. The previous team record for passing yards in a regular season game was 444, set by Brian Sipe against the Baltimore Colts in 1981, though Bernie Kosar threw for 489 yards in a playoff game against the New York Jets in 1987. Sipe also held the previous record for passing yards over a three game span, set in 1980.
– Barnidge. In the first 5 games of 2015, Barnidge has caught 24 passes for 374 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is on pace for 77 receptions for 1197 yards and 10 touchdowns for the season. In his entire 5 year career prior to 2015, he caught only 44 passes for 603 yards and 3 touchdowns. He never had a 100 yard game until 2015. He has had 2 out of the last 3 he has played.
– Coons. The rookie kicker is now 11/11 on field goals and 9/9 on extra points for the year. His only real mistake on the day was an unnecessary roughness penalty that gave the Ravens great field position after a kickoff. His kickoffs also could be going out of the end zone with greater regularity to avoid that situation entirely, but if he remains perfect on his scoring kicks, I think the team can deal with his kickoffs being a little short.
– John DeFellipo. The Browns #6 ranking in total yards is the first top ten ranking for the unit since 2007. The offense may tail off as the season progresses, but the start to the season has been impressive for the first time offensive coordinator.
The Browns host the 5-0 Denver Broncos. The offense will be tested by the 2nd ranked Broncos defense, which is giving up a sting 15.8 points per game. The Broncos’ offense, on the other hand, is ranked a decidedly un-Peyton Manning-like 25th in the league. The venerable quarterback, who comes into the game with a pedestrian 77.3 passer rating on the season, is 6-0 lifetime against the Browns.