CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)The Cleveland Browns are 1-0 for the first time since 2004.
Winning at the expense of former quarterback Baker Mayfield only made it a little sweeter.
Cade York kicked a 58-yard field goal with 8 seconds left in his NFL debut, lifting the the Browns to a 26-24 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday that spoiled Mayfield’s bid for vengeance after weeks of build-up and supposed barbs.
”The tone was set with the attitude of some of the guys on the other side,” said Browns defensive lineman Myles Garrett, who had two sacks. ”We were just ready to get out there and put things to bed.
”It had us a bit off the leash,” he added, a reference to T-shirts that Mayfield’s camp had produced earlier in the week.
Nick Chubb ran for 141 yards and Kareem Hunt had 70 total yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns as the Browns won their first road season opener in 28 years.
Mayfield, who spent four seasons with Cleveland prior to being traded in July, finished 16 of 27 for 235 yards with two touchdowns.
”We would love to have the bragging rights against those guys, but we didn’t finish – mostly because we didn’t start (the game) fast enough,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield nearly pulled it off anyway.
He led the Panthers back from a 13-point fourth quarter deficit with a 7-yard touchdown run, a 75-yard TD strike to Robbie Anderson and by moving his team 64 yards in seven plays to set up Eddy Pineiro’s go-ahead field goal with 1:13 remaining.
But the Panthers left too much time on the clock.
Jacoby Brissett, filling in for suspended Browns star Deshaun Watson, completed passes for 13 yards to Donovan Peoples-Jones and 9 yards to Amari Cooper to set up York’s winning kick, the longest for the franchise since 1984.
York, the team’s fourth-round draft pick, told Brissett a few months ago at his rookie dinner that as long he gets the ball to the 40, he’s in his range.
”The coach always says, `Get to the 30-yard line’ in late-game situations. I made the joke about, `Just get me to the 40,”’ York said.
There was a controversial call on the play prior to York’s winning kick.
On third down, Brissett appeared to fake a spike and officials threw several flags stopping the action. But rather than moving the Browns out of field goal range, officials picked up the flags after a brief meeting at midfield.
”We determined that stepping back does not disqualify the quarterback from spiking the ball, and we allowed him to do that by rule,” referee Brad Rogers said in a pool report.
Panthers coach Matt Rhule had a different interpretation.
”A quarterback pumping or mishandling a snap can’t take a step back or it becomes intentional grounding,” Rhule said. ”… I started screaming intentional grounding, a 10-second runoff and the game is about to be over. They called it and then changed it.”
The Browns harassed Mayfield early on, sacking him four times and tipping five passes at the line of scrimmage. The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2018 also fumbled two shotgun snaps, took a delay of game penalty and threw an interception that led to Cleveland’s first touchdown.
The fiery Mayfield kept his emotions mostly in check until early in the fourth quarter when – trailing 20-7 – he dropped back to pass, saw an opening and raced up the middle for a touchdown, and then celebrated by riffling the ball off the inside wall of the stadium.
Carolina’s slow start cost them – they gained just 13 yards in their fist five possessions and fell behind 14-0.
Grant Delpit’s interception of Mayfield led to a 1-yard touchdown pass from Brissett to a wide open Hunt. The score came after Panthers cornerback C.J. Henderson essentially tackled Amari Cooper in the end zone before the ball arrived, giving Cleveland a first-and-goal at the 1.
Hunt’s 24-yard TD run gave Cleveland its biggest lead at 14-0.
Mayfield appeared to get some of his mojo back on Carolina’s sixth possession, connecting on a 50-yard pass to Ian Thomas to set up a 1-yard touchdown leap by Christian McCaffrey to cut the lead in half.
But after Panthers new kicker Eddy Pineiro sent the kickoff out of bounds, the Browns were able to add a field goal to make it a 17-7 game at the half.
No injuries reported.
Browns: Host Jets on Sunday.
Panthers: At Giants on Sunday.
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