The darlings of the NFL’s offseason bounced back from their sloppy season-opening defeat to the Tennessee Titans and gave their new head coach, Freddie Kitchens, his first victory. Beckham, the oh-so-dynamic wideout obtained in the most celebrated of offseason trades with the New York Giants, led the way with a six-catch, 161-yard performance. He turned a short pass over the middle from quarterback Baker Mayfield into an 89-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
“I was cramping all game,” Beckham told ESPN after the game. “I’ve been trying to stay hydrated, drinking more water, and I just couldn’t find a way to not cramp. So I was running down there. I was just praying that I was going to make it. I gave it all I had, tried to kick it into overdrive.”
Williams, who had swapped long-distance barbs with Beckham last week, was caught by the TV cameras expressing his extreme dissatisfaction on the Jets’ sideline as Beckham sprinted to the end zone. Beckham also set up a first-half field goal with a one-handed catch just before being ordered out of the game temporarily by the officials, much to his dismay, to have the illegally tinted face shield removed from his helmet.
“I mean, all I want is it to be fair around the league,” Beckham said. “If you’re gonna tell me to do something, do it for everybody else. You let people stay in the game on ‘Monday Night Football’ with gold visors. Everybody else has tinted visors. And then you pull me off and it hurts my team and I hurt my team on third and goal. You know, you can warn me, do something. But don’t pull me off on third and goal. All I want is it to be fair. I just want to play football.”
Beckham had accused Williams last week of teaching “cheap shots” and “dirty hits,” citing a 2017 preseason game in which Beckham suffered an ankle injury while with the Giants. He later was told by Browns players, he said, that Williams had told Cleveland players to target him.
Williams, the former defensive coordinator for the Browns who served as their interim head coach last season, countered that his defenses play “hard, fast, physical” but not dirty. Williams, suspended for more than a year by the NFL for his role in the Bountygate scandal with the New Orleans Saints, told reporters not to give Beckham attention and brought up the Giants’ decision to trade the wide receiver to the Browns.
“Odell who?” Williams asked jokingly when he met with reporters last week.
He knows now. Adore him or despise him, there’s no taking one’s eyes off Beckham when he’s on a football field.
Mayfield was told after the game Monday that Williams had suggested that Beckham was not dynamic playmaker.
“He said that?” Mayfield said, before adding soon after: “Next question. Not a dynamic football player?”
Beckham’s exploits Monday night came on his former home field at MetLife Stadium.
“Honestly it was a pretty warm reception,” he said. “It was nothing but love. I feel like I’ve lost enough games period. I’ve lost enough games here. So to leave this one with a win is a good feeling.”
The Browns weren’t all that sharp Monday but their star power was on display. Mayfield threw for 325 yards on 19-for-35 passing. Tailback Nick Chubb ran for a touchdown. Myles Garrett had three sacks, upping his league-leading total through two games to five.
The lack of restraint that plagued the Browns against the Titans also showed up Monday night, however. Garrett committed two roughing-the-passer penalties and knocked Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian from the game with a first-half late hit on which Siemian fell backward and his left leg folded beneath him. Siemian was able to walk from the field and limp to the locker room. The Jets, already playing without starter Sam Darnold, turned to No. 3 quarterback Luke Falk the rest of the night.
The schedule toughens considerably from here for the Browns. Their next five games come against currently unbeaten teams: the Los Angeles Rams, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. Three of those games are on the road. The Browns will have to be better than they’ve been so far.
“A win is a win,” Mayfield said at his postgame news conference, “especially on the road…. Yeah, we need to play better.”
But it appears to be a two-team race between the Ravens and Browns in the AFC North, with the Pittsburgh Steelers off to a 0-2 start and minus quarterback Ben Roethlisberger because of his season-ending elbow injury. The Browns will have their chances to live up to all that promise. If Beckham plays like he did Monday, they’ll be a difficult matchup for anyone.
“We fought hard,” Beckham told ESPN. “This is a banged-up Jets team. And we just found a way to win. It wasn’t our best game. We’ve got a lot to still work on. But we’ll take the W’s however they’re gonna come.”
Bell loses fumble: The frustrations continue for the Jets. Le’Veon Bell had a 17-yard catch for what would have been a first down at the Cleveland 7-yard line. But he lost a fumble and the Browns recovered. (Browns 23, Jets 3 with 7:34 remaining in the 4th quarter)
Long TD for Beckham: Odell Beckham Jr. has won the night with an 89-yard touchdown catch. Beckham took a short pass from Baker Mayfield in the middle of the field and sprinted the remaining 78 yards or so to the opposite end zone. (Browns 23, Jets 3 with 3:32 left in the 3rd quarter)
Jets fail on fourth down: The Jets finally got their offense moving a little bit with Luke Falk at quarterback. He had a 36-yard completion to wide receiver Robby Anderson. But Coach Adam Gase left his offense on the field for a fourth-and-two try from the Cleveland 12-yard line, and Le’Veon Bell was tackled just shy of a first down after taking a swing pass from Falk. (Browns 16, Jets 3 with 3:35 left in the 3rd quarter)
Garrett dominating: Myles Garrett has three sacks in this game and five on the season to lead the NFL. He also had two first-half roughing-the-passer penalties and knocked Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian from the game with a late hit. (Browns 16, Jets 3 with 7:10 left in the 3rd quarter)
Halftime at the Meadowlands: Take that, Gregg Williams. Odell Beckham Jr., after trading long-distance barbs last week with the defensive coordinator of the Jets, had a good first half for the Browns, with three catches for 54 yards. He had one of his trademark one-handed grabs to set up a Cleveland field goal. There also was some of the drama that so often surrounds the wide receiver, albeit in mild form tonight. He and Browns Coach Freddie Kitchens had words with the officials early in the game when Beckham was ordered to have the tinted face shield removed from his helmet because it violates NFL rules. Beckham jogged off the field with 20 seconds remaining in the first half after sitting on the ground in the end zone following an incompletion on Cleveland’s final drive of the half. A 25-yard completion from Baker Mayfield to wideout Jarvis Landry set up the third field goal of the night for Browns kicker Austin Seibert, a 43-yarder as time expired in the half. Cleveland got a second-quarter touchdown run by tailback Nick Chubb. Beckham accused Williams during the lead-up to this game of coaching dirty hits and cheap shots. But it was the Browns who were guilty of the most egregiously illegal hits in the first half. Cleveland’s Myles Garrett was penalized twice for roughing the passer, the second time with a late hit on Jets fill-in starter Trevor Siemian that knocked him from the game. Siemian was bent over backward and his left leg folded beneath him. He was able to walk off the field on his own and he later limped to the locker room. The Jets, already without starter Sam Darnold, turned to No. 3 quarterback Luke Falk. Siemian and Falk combined for four first-half passing yards on four completions. The Jets even tried a Wildcat offense at times, with direct snaps to tailback Le’Veon Bell, but scored only on a 46-yard field goal by kicker Sam Ficken. (Browns 16, Jets 3 at halftime)
FG for Jets: The offense of the Jets actually began to move the ball after Luke Falk took over for the injured Trevor Siemian at quarterback. That was accomplished mostly by Falk handing the ball off to running back Le’Veon Bell. Sam Ficken connected on a 46-yard field goal to get the Jets on the scoreboard, drawing loud cheers from a Meadowlands crowd weary of the team’s kicking misadventures. (Browns 13, Jets 3 with 2:56 left in the 2nd quarter)
Siemian hurt: Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian was hurt on a late hit by the Browns’ Myles Garrett that drew a roughing-the-passer penalty. Luke Falk has taken over at quarterback for the Jets, who already are without starter Sam Darnold. Siemian was able to walk off the field and then limp to the locker room even after having his left leg folded beneath him as he fell backward when hit by Garrett after delivering a throw down the field. It was the second roughing-the-passer penalty of the game for Garrett. (Browns 13, Jets 0 with 7:58 left in the 2nd quarter)
Browns convert fourth down on way to TD: The Browns have the first touchdown of the night courtesy of a 19-yard run by tailback Nick Chubb. That came just after Coach Freddie Kitchens left his offense on the field for a fourth-and-two gamble from the 24-yard line. Baker Mayfield threw an incompletion but the drive was extended by a defensive holding penalty on the Jets. (Browns 13, Jets 0 with 10:16 left in the 2nd quarter)
Jets’ offense sputtering: The Jets are doing nothing on offense so far with quarterback Sam Darnold out of the lineup because of mononucleosis. Fill-in starter Trevor Siemian doesn’t have a completion yet and was sacked once by Myles Garrett on the opening drive. The Jets unveiled a Wildcat-style offense on their second possession with a direct snap to running back Le’Veon Bell on the opening play. Nothing is working so far, and the Jets have punted twice. (Browns 6, Jets 0 with 5:18 left in the 1st quarter)
Second FG for Browns: The Browns made it two field goals on two possessions. Kicker Austin Seibert connected from 48 yards after Baker Mayfield overthrew Odell Beckham Jr. on third down. (Browns 6, Jets 0 with 6:15 left in the 1st quarter)
Beckham told to get rid of helmet shield: The problem with Odell Beckham Jr.’s helmet shield was that it was tinted, rather than clear. He was told by officials that was not permitted, and he had to leave the game to have it removed from his helmet. Beckham was not pleased about it and could be seen protesting about it to officials.
Beckham catch leads to FG: It was an uneventful opening drive for Odell Beckham Jr. and the Browns. Beckham made one of his brilliant one-handed catches along the sideline for a 33-yard gain that gave the Browns a first down at the 4-yard line of the Jets. But he was on the sideline for their third-and-goal play from the 5-yard line, obviously displeased, as team officials worked on his helmet for what ESPN described as an issue with Beckham’s tinted face shield. Both Beckham and Browns Coach Freddie Kitchens exchanged words with the officials over the matter. Baker Mayfield threw the ball away on the third-and-goal play, and the Browns settled for a field goal. (Browns 3, Jets 0 with 10:27 left in the 1st quarter)