The Cleveland Browns beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7, but they lost one of their best players in Odell Beckham Jr. Even if the Bengals are a bottom tier team, the Browns proved that they are true contenders in the AFC.
Here are four ways they proved that they are a team to watch in the AFC.
Baker Mayfield Showed Resiliency
Throughout his career, Baker Mayfield has struggled in big moments and after bad plays. That all changed Sunday versus the Bengals.
After an 0-5 start and an interception on his first throw, Mayfield delivered 21 straight completions. He threw absolute darts to Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones in the final minute to win the game.
Following a rough outing against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mayfield bounced back and showed true franchise quarterback qualities. His demeanor and poise in the face of adversity against Cincinnati gave Cleveland fans the outing they have been craving.
The Receivers Showed Out
Odell Beckham Jr. went out on the second play of the game and was lost for the year with a torn ACL. Despite that, the young guns showed up in a big way to help deliver the Browns their fifth win of the season.
Rashard Higgins dominated the stat line with six catches for 110 yards, with a massive catch in the final minute of the game to put the Browns in striking distance.
Donovan Peoples-Jones was drafted in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft and had yet to catch a pass in his rookie season. However, he showed up when they needed it most catching three passes for 56 yards. The rookie receiver caught the game winning, 24-yard touchdown with only 11 seconds left in the game.
Not only did the young receivers show out, but rookie tight end Harrison Bryant proved to be a reliable red zone target, catching two touchdowns to keep the game close.
If these receivers continue to step up in place of OBJ, the Browns can continue their hot streak and carry it into the playoffs.
Denzel Ward Is The Real Deal
The former fourth overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft continued his dominant form. Ward made his presence known on the Bengals’ first drive. Joe Burrow dropped back to pass inside the five yard line and tried to float a ball to Tyler Boyd who was open in the end zone. Denzel Ward jumped and batted the pass in the air, leading to an interception for the Browns and points saved for the defense.
Throughout the game, Ward continued his hot streak of play with three pass deflections and six total tackles. His best play came on a bubble screen to Tyler Boyd. Ward ran and slid under a block to hit Boyd in the backfield and forced a tackle for loss.
If Ward keeps his play up, he could make an All-Pro team and bring this Browns defense to the next level as the playoff race heats up.
The Browns Offensive Line Is Powerful
Bill Callahan was named offensive line coach heading into the 2020 season. In his 45 seasons as a football coach, Callahan has proved that he is one of, if not the best, offensive line coaches in the NFL. And that is still true with the work he’s put in with the Browns offensive line.
Last week, the Browns did not allow a single sack to the Bengals. Yes, the Bengals struggle to get pressure on the quarterback, but not allowing a single sack let Mayfield get into his groove. The Bengals only hit Mayfield six times, but none of those truly affected the game in any way.
The Browns’ offensive line can carry this team into the playoffs. They can keep Mayfield upright and open up gaping running holes for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and keep this offense rolling.