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Rams 20, Browns 13: Baker Mayfield's late interception ends bid for upset

Nate Ulrich, Akron Beacon Journal on

Published in Football

CLEVELAND -- The shorthanded Browns flirted with upsetting the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams on "Sunday Night Football," but their weaknesses haunted them in the fourth quarter of a 20-13 loss at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Desperate for a touchdown in crunch time, the Browns went three-and-out during a possession starting at their 10-yard line with 6:29 left in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was sacked twice in the sequence, by defensive Aaron Donald on first down and by linebacker Clay Matthews III on third down.

But the Browns (1-2) received another shot after linebacker Joe Schobert deflected a Jared Goff pass intended for receiver Robert Woods, allowing safety Juston Burris to intercept the pass and return 14 yards with 2:54 remaining. Burris fell down after he ran into Schobert.

Mayfield's passes of 27 yards to receiver Jarvis Landry on third-and-15 from the Browns' 45 and 16 yards to receiver Damion Ratley on second-and-7 at the Rams' 25, plus Donald's roughing the passer penalty on that play help set up the Browns with first-and-goal at the 4.

Mayfield threw three consecutive incomplete passes, then a game-clinching interception with 27 seconds left. On fourth-and-goal, Mayfield threw under pressure toward Ratley, but safety Jon Johnson III picked off the pass in the end zone.

Mayfield went 18-of-36 passing for 195 yards and a touchdown with the interception. He posted a passer rating of 64 and took three sacks.

 

Goff went 24-of-38 passing for 269 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. He took two sacks and posted a passer rating of 79.8. He improved to 6-1 against fellow quarterbacks who were drafted first overall. Goff was the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, Mayfield the top choice in 2018.

The Browns' entire starting secondary -- cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams (hamstrings), strong safety Morgan Burnett (quadriceps) and free safety Damarious Randall (concussion) -- was inactive.

With right offensive tackle Chris Hubbard (foot) inactive and tight end David Njoku (broken wrist, concussion) and starting linebacker and captain Christian Kirksey (chest) recently placed on injured reserve, a total of seven Browns starters were out. And it would be eight if you're counting No. 3 wide receiver Rashard Higgins (knee).

But excuses aren't tolerated in the NFL, and the harsh reality is Browns coach Freddie Kitchens is 0-2 at home. Meanwhile, the Rams (3-0) improved to 9-0 in the regular season versus AFC opponents under coach Sean McVay.

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