Jets blow big lead to hand Browns first victory since 2016

CLEVELAND — The Jets got burned by the Baker.

Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield came off the bench to hand the Jets and their rookie quarterback Sam Darnold a stunning, epic 21-17 loss Thursday night.

The Jets blew a 14-point lead and now have the indignity of losing to the Browns, whose previous win came on Dec. 24, 2016. The Browns entered the game 1-35-1 in their last 37 games, but they left as victors.

Mayfield led the Browns to two second-half touchdowns to overtake the Jets, who fell to 1-2 this season. The Jets had a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter when Mayfield led the Browns on a 15-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Carlos Hyde scoring a 1-yard touchdown with 2:04 left in the game. The touchdown sent the city of Cleveland into a celebration and the Jets to the losers’ column.

The Jets got the ball back twice with a chance to take back the lead, but Darnold was intercepted twice — first by linebacker Joe Schobert on a terrible pass to Jermaine Kearse, who was double-covered, and then Terrance Mitchell on a desperation heave.

Darnold did not have his best game. He went 15-for-31 for only 169 yards and the two interceptions. He looked skittish at times, and the coaches seemed to put restrictions on him out of deference to the Browns’ pass rush. The Jets’ defense played an amazing first half, but Avery Williamson’s sack of Tyrod Taylor resulted in Taylor exiting the game with a concussion. Mayfield, whom the Browns drafted No. 1 instead of Darnold, showed what he can do — and a new star was born.

Browns fans were waiting for a reason to cheer all night, and FirstEnergy Stadium exploded late in the third quarter when the Browns tied the game at 14-14 on a dramatic two-point conversion that reminded everyone of last year’s Super Bowl.

It was set up by a nice drive by the Browns to march down the field. Jarvis Landry made a remarkable catch at the Jets’ 1-yard line, going over safety Doug Middleton to make the catch. Hyde then plunged in for the 1-yard touchdown to make it 14-12.

The Browns went for a two-point try to tie the game. The Jets sacked Mayfield, seemingly getting out of it with the lead secure. But cornerback Morris Claiborne was called for holding and the Browns were called for holding, offsetting penalties resulting in another two-point try.

On this one, the Browns ran a trick play with a direct snap to running back Duke Johnson, who then flipped it to Landry, who threw a pass to Mayfield in the end zone to tie the game. It was the same play the Eagles ran in the Super Bowl last year, known by them as the “Philly Special.”

The Jets answered with a 12-play drive that went 65 yards, but they could not reach the end zone. Jason Myers kicked a 28-yard field goal for the Jets to retake the lead at 17-14.

The Jets nearly handed the Browns a touchdown in the middle of the third quarter. Wide receiver Robby Anderson fumbled for the second straight week. Denzel Ward forced and recovered the fumble, bringing it 20 yards to the Jets’ 8. But the Browns could not reach the end zone. Jets safety Doug Middleton nearly picked off Mayfield on third down but could not secure the catch. The Browns settled for a 27-yard field goal from Greg Joseph with 5:21 left in the quarter, making the Jets’ lead 14-6.

Mayfield entered the game with 1:42 left in the second quarter after Taylor left the game with the concussion. He immediately connected on his first two passes — a 14-yarder to Jarvis Landry and a 17-yarder to David Njoku — and energized the stadium. The drive stalled after Jorden Jenkins got a strip-sack on him. The Browns recovered, but it ended their momentum. Joseph, signed by the Browns this week, kicked a 45-yard field goal to cut the Jets’ lead to 14-3 with 27 seconds left before halftime.

The Jets’ defense came out super-aggressive. They were blitzing Taylor from the moment the game started. Jamal Adams, Buster Skrine and Avery Williamson were flying around the field. They sacked Taylor three times and Mayfield once in the first half. The Browns managed just 112 yards, 36 through the air.

Taylor was terrible. The veteran quarterback went 4-for-14 for 19 yards before exiting. Now, he probably will never start again for the Browns.

The Jets’ offense looked scared of the Browns’ pass rush when the game begin. The play-calling was heavy on short passes and screens with Gregg Williams’ defense known for its blitzing. After three ineffective series, the Jets began to run the ball aggressively with Isaiah Crowell, the former Brown, and Bilal Powell.

The first scoring drive for the Jets was set up by a big special teams play. Kevin Pierre-Louis blocked the punt from Britton Colquitt and the Jets took the ball over at the Browns’ 28. On third-and-11, offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates drew up a perfect call against the aggressive Cleveland defense — a screen to Quincy Enunwa that gained 16 yards. Crowell scored the first of his two touchdowns on the first play of the second quarter, a 7-yard run.

Crowell would reach the end zone again about seven minutes later. On a drive where 47 of their 63 yards came on the ground, the Jets marched down the field in 10 plays. Crowell scored a 2-yard touchdown to grab a 14-0 lead. Crowell was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after the touchdown for acting like the ball was toilet paper and then throwing it into the crowd.

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