CHARLOTTE, NC — The Cleveland Browns are 1-0 for the first time since 2004.
Winning at the expense of former quarterback Baker Mayfield only made it that little bit sweeter.
Cade York threw a 58-yard field goal with 8 seconds left in his NFL debut, lifting the Browns to a 26-24 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday that spoiled Mayfield’s revenge bid after weeks buildup and supposed beards.
“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 go out and put things to bed.
“It left us a little free” he added, a reference to the T-shirts the Mayfield camp had produced earlier in the week.
Nick Chubb rushed for 141 yards and Kareem Hunt had 70 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns as the Browns won their first road season opener in 28 years.
Mayfield, who spent four seasons with Cleveland before being traded in July, was 16th of 27 for 235 yards with two touchdowns.
“We’d love to have bragging rights against these guys, but we didn’t finish – mainly because we didn’t start (the game) fast enough,” said Mayfield.
Mayfield nearly made it anyway.
He brought the Panthers back from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter with a 7-yard touchdown run, a 75-yard strike against Robbie Anderson and moving his team 64 yards in seven plays to set up the goal on Eddy Pineiro’s pitch. with 1:13 remaining.
But the Panthers left too much time on the clock.
Jacoby Brissett, replacing 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 game-winning kick, the franchise’s longest since 1984.
York, the team’s fourth-round draft pick, told Brissett a few months ago at his rookie dinner that as long as he gets the ball to 40, he’s in his lineup.
“Coach always says, ‘Get to the 30-yard line’ late in the game. I made the joke about “Just take me to 40″” said York.
There was a controversial call over the play ahead of York’s game-winning kick.
On third down, Brissett appeared to fake a spike, and the officials threw several flags to stop the action. But rather than move the Browns out of basket range, the officials picked up the flags after a brief encounter in midfield.
“We have determined that backing up does not prevent the quarterback from smashing the ball, and we have allowed him to do so in accordance with the rule,” said referee Brad Rogers in a pool report.
Panthers coach Matt Rhule had a different interpretation.
“A quarterback who pumps or mishandles a snap can’t take a step back or it becomes an intentional grounding,” Rhule said. “…I started screaming at the floor intentionally, a 10 second runoff and the game is about to end. They called it and then changed it.
The Browns harassed Mayfield early on, sacking him four times and flipping five passes over the line of scrimmage. The 2018 No. 1 draft pick also dropped two shotgun snaps, went behind on a game penalty and threw an interception that led to Cleveland’s first touchdown.
The fiery Mayfield kept his emotions in check until the start of the fourth quarter when – behind 20-7 – he backed up to pass, saw an opening and ran down the middle for a touchdown, then celebrated by rinsing the ball from inside stadium wall.
Carolina’s slow start cost them — they gained just 13 yards on their first five possessions and trailed 14-0.
Mayfield’s interception by Grant Delpit led to a one-yard touchdown pass from Brissett to a wide open chase. The score came after Panthers cornerback CJ Henderson essentially tackled Amari Cooper in the end zone before the ball arrived, giving Cleveland a first and a goal at 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 jump by Christian McCaffrey to cut the lead in half.
But after new Panthers kicker Eddy Pineiro sent the kickoff out of bounds, the Browns were able to add a field goal to make it 17-7 at halftime.
No injuries reported.
Browns: Host the Jets on Sunday.
Panthers: At the Giants on Sunday.