So much for a Super Bowl hangover.
The Los Angeles Rams moved to 3-0 on the season with a 20-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night at FirstEnergy Stadium. The defending NFC champions are tied with the San Francisco 49ers atop the NFC West and appear well on their way to another successful season.
Cleveland was unable to build on a win over the New York Jets in its second straight prime-time game and is now 1-2 despite elevated preseason expectations.
The Browns drove all the way to the Rams' 4-yard line on their final possession, but John Johnson III intercepted Baker Mayfield's fourth-down pass in the end zone to secure the win.
Notable Fantasy Stats
- Baker Mayfield: 18-of-36 passing for 195 yards, one touchdown and one interception
- Nick Chubb: 23 carries for 96 yards and zero touchdowns; four catches for 35 yards and zero touchdowns
- Odell Beckham Jr.: six catches for 56 yards and zero touchdowns
- Jarvis Landry: three catches for 62 yards and zero touchdowns
- Jared Goff: 24-of-38 passing for 269 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions
- Todd Gurley: 14 carries for 43 yards and zero touchdowns
- Cooper Kupp: 11 catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns
- Robert Woods: three catches for 40 yards and zero touchdowns
- Brandin Cooks: eight catches for 112 yards and zero touchdowns
Cooper Kupp Proves to be Ultimate Security Blanket
Everything set up perfectly for a dominant showing from the Rams offense.
Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reported before the game Cleveland’s entire starting secondary of Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams, Morgan Burnett and Damarious Randall was out with injuries, which was worrisome to say the least against the combination of Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods.
Cleveland’s defense still had Myles Garrett, who minimized the time the backups had to defend in the secondary and notched a strip-sack in the final minute of the second quarter to set up a go-ahead field goal. He also forced Goff to rush his throws at times, which helped lead to second-half interceptions by T.J. Carrie and Juston Burris.
Fear not, Rams fans. The offense that reached last season’s Super Bowl finally showed up for spurts in the second half thanks in large part to one of the league’s best safety valves in Kupp.
He torched single coverage in the corner of the end zone to cap off a methodical 10-play, 75-yard drive for Los Angeles’ first touchdown and then caught the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter on a drive that saw him convert a critical third down with a 21-yard catch.
Cleveland’s injury-plagued secondary had no chance against Kupp at times, and some of the additional attention he drew created lanes for the always dangerous Cooks and fewer defenders in the box to counter Gurley.
It wasn't Goff's top performance by any means, but his best throws almost always involved Kupp. Don't be surprised if the Rams ride that formula all the way to another deep playoff run.
Browns Failing to Live Up to the Hype in All Phases
Those preseason Super Bowl hopes in Cleveland seem like distant memories at this point.
These are the types of games against the league’s best teams the Browns will need to win if they plan on making the playoffs for the first time since 2002, but Mayfield and Co. failed to establish anything resembling a consistent rhythm and fell to 0-2 in games not involving the Jets’ third-string quarterback.
Mayfield struggled whenever his first read wasn’t there, fumbled an exchange with Nick Chubb, missed a wide-open Jarvis Landry when his team had the lead and momentum in the second half, and couldn’t direct a final comeback attempt after Burris’ interception gave him one more chance.
The pressure was on Cleveland’s offense to deliver with its short-handed defense, but Chubb was the only one who looked up to the task for most of the game. Even he couldn’t overcome terrible play-calling from the coaches, though, particularly on a 4th-and-9 draw play in the fourth quarter that never had a chance.
To be fair to the Browns, creating anything on offense against Aaron Donald is a thankless task.
The dominant defensive tackle stuffed a 3rd-and-1, split double-teams throughout the game, caused havoc up the middle for Mayfield and opened blitzing lanes for his teammates. He was at his best with the game on the line with a sack, broken up screen and consistent pressure on Cleveland’s final two drives, which helped secure the win.
Both teams face conference foes in Week 4. Los Angeles hosts the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while Cleveland hits the road to play the Ravens.