For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Cleveland Browns are heading into Week 2 unbeaten.
The Browns were able to win a season opener for the first time since 2004 by successfully emphasizing their ground game.
Cleveland attempts to replicate the heavy run formula and improve to 2-0 for the first time since 1993 Sunday afternoon when it hosts the New York Jets in its home opener.
The Browns (1-0) are seeking that fast start after holding on for a 26-24 win at Carolina that was decided on rookie Cade York’s 58-yard field goal with eight seconds left.
York’s game-winner earned him AFC Special Player of the Week honors and Cleveland’s victory also was significantly aided by the running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb gained 141 yards, Hunt scored a pair of touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) and Cleveland rushed for 217 yards while often using Chubb and Hunt in two-back formations.
“It’s something that we’re always going to explore week in and week out what we feel like gives the defense a tough time,” Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski said. “There were plenty of snaps versus that defense that looks like that.”
The Browns are seeking a third straight strong start under Stefanski. In Stefanski’s first season, Cleveland began 4-1 en route to an 11-5 finish and a wild-card berth, and the Browns won three of their first four games last season before finishing 8-9.
Fans may also see a franchise record shattered by Myles Garrett. Garrett had two sacks of Baker Mayfield last week and is 1 1/2 shy of matching the franchise record by Clay Matthews. Matthews needed 232 games to reach 62 sacks and Garrett will be playing in his 70th game.
While the Browns are hoping for a repeat of last week, the Jets are hoping to end a dubious streak.
Besides missing the playoffs for 11 straight seasons, the Jets own an NFL-record 13 straight losses in September since Sam Darnold opened his short tenure with the team by getting a 48-17 win in the 2018 season opener at Detroit.
New York has not scored more than 17 points in a September game since that 2018 season opener and offensive woes plagued them again last week in a 24-9 loss to the visiting Baltimore Ravens.
Joe Flacco, who has gone 17-3 in 20 starts against the Browns with 27 TD passes, will make his second straight start while Zach Wilson recovers from a preseason knee injury. Wilson is expected to miss at least two more games after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last month.
Flacco began the season by completing 37 of 59 passes for 307 yards and a touchdown in the final minute. He faced constant pressure, got sacked three times and hit 10 times behind a struggling offensive line which featured George Fant moving from right tackle to left tackle after Duane Brown injured a shoulder.
“There were a lot of things that we as a team could have done to help him out a lot during the game, too,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “We’ll give it another run, and I think Joe will be a lot better.”
The Jets ran 26 more plays than the Ravens but only gained 83 yards on the ground. New York also finished 2-for-14 on third-down conversions and did not convert a third down until nine minutes left in the fourth.
The teams are meeting for the seventh time in eight seasons and the Jets are 4-2 in the past six meetings. The Jets earned a 23-16 win in the most recent meeting in Week 16 of the 2020 campaign.
–Field Level Media