Cleveland Browns batter Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields with 9 sacks in rookie's first start

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CLEVELAND — Historic performances by All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett and kicker Chase McLaughlin stole the show Sunday as the Browns defeated the Chicago Bears 26-6 in the highly anticipated return of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Garrett set the single-game franchise record for sacks with 4½, surpassing linebacker Andra Davis' previous mark, which had been set on Nov. 3, 2003.

As a team, the Browns sacked Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields nine times.

McLaughlin made field goals of 57 and 52 yards, joining Phil Dawson as the only Browns kickers to make at least two field goals of 50 yards or more in a single game. Dawson accomplished the feat twice in 2011 and once in 2012.

Beckham had a special day at FirstEnergy Stadium, too.

OBJ made his 2021 debut, playing for the first time since the three-time Pro Bowl selection suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Oct. 25 against the Cincinnati Bengals and underwent surgery Nov. 10.

He played the majority of the offense's snaps and finished with five catches on nine targets for 77 yards with a long gain of 26.

The Browns (2-1) were without five-time Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry for just the second time since they traded for him in 2018.

Landry landed on injured reserve Tuesday with the sprained medial collateral ligament he suffered in last week's 31-21 win over the Houston Texans, meaning he must miss at least three games – Sunday against the Bears, Oct. 3 at the Minnesota Vikings and Oct. 10 at the Los Angeles Chargers.

Beckham honored Landry before the game, sporting a “Juice Landry” T-shirt while warming up. An invaluable team leader, Landry spent Sunday's game on the Browns' sideline, wearing a black sleeve on his left leg.

Beckham gave the Browns a much-needed lift without Landry, his close friend and former Louisiana State teammate.

Baker Mayfield and Beckham entered the game with the second-worst completion rate (54.6%) of any quarterback-receiver tandem with at least 150 attempts since 2019, when the Browns acquired Beckham in a trade with the New York Giants, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

But they established a good connection against the Bears (1-2).

Coming off a left, non-throwing shoulder injury suffered against the Texans, quarterback Mayfield went 19-of-31 passing (61.3%) for 246 yards and one touchdown without an interception for a rating of 97. Mayfield took five sacks.

Mayfield led the NFL through the first two games with a completion percentage of 81.6.

The Browns halted a three-game losing streak against the Bears, prevailing in the series for the first time since Oct. 9, 2005, when they won 20-10 in Cleveland.

The Bears, who made the playoffs last season with a record of 8-8, had their nine-game winning streak against AFC North opponents snapped.

Kareem Hunt gives Cleveland Browns big boost to begin fourth quarter

Despite being dominated in many facets of the game, the Bears were able to use a 48-yard penalty to cut the Browns' lead to one score late in the third quarter.

On third-and-19 from the Chicago 40, Fields launched a deep pass intended for wide receiver Allen Robinson II. Safety John Johnson III barely touched Robinson before intercepting the pass, but the officials flagged Johnson for pass interference with 3:50 left in the third quarter.

The questionable call gave the Bears first-and-10 at the Cleveland 12, and Cairo Santos made a 22-yard field goal three plays later to trim the Browns' advantage to 13-6 with 1:43 remaining in the third quarter.

But Browns running back Kareem Hunt refused to let the game become more dramatic.

On the next series, the Browns faced third-and-3 when Hunt took the handoff, avoided safety Deon Bush in the backfield and later evaded rookie defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga and safety Eddie Jackson while ripping off a 29-yard touchdown run with 14:46 left in the fourth quarter. The Browns captured a 20-6 lead with the six-play, 75-yard scoring drive.

Hunt finished with 10 carries for 81 yards (8.1 average) and a touchdown and six catches for 74 yards.

After the Browns earned a stop on defense, they produced a six-play, 37-yard scoring drive capped by McLaughlin's 52-yard field goal. The kick gave the Browns a 23-6 lead with 10:40 remaining in the fourth quarter.

McLaughlin tacked on another field goal from 28 yards as the Browns extended their lead to 26-6 with 3:43 left to play.

Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) celebrates a sack during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) celebrates a sack during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett turns it on in second quarter

With the score tied 3-3, Garrett took control.

Garrett had 2½ sacks in the first half against Fields. Garrett and rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah split a sack on second-and-9 from the Chicago 24. On the next play, Garrett sacked Fields by himself for another 5-yard loss on third-and-14 with about 11 minutes remaining in the second quarter.

The Browns' ensuing drive fizzled, but when the Bears got the ball back, Garrett sacked Field again on third-and-5 from the Chicago 39, forcing another punt.

Cleveland Browns lead 10-3 at halftime after Baker Mayfield's clutch touchdown pass

The Browns took over at their 11 with 2:54 left in the first half and produced a 12-play, 89-yard scoring drive to capture a 10-3 halftime lead.

On second-and-10, Mayfield's 13-yard touchdown pass over the middle to tight end Austin Hooper capped the march with 19 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

A highlight of the series came on third-and-5 from the Cleveland 16 when receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones caught a back-shoulder pass from Mayfield for an 18-yard gain along the Cleveland sideline against the coverage of cornerback Kindle Vildor. Peoples-Jones also had an impressive sideline catch for 21 yards in the first quarter.

The Browns outgained the Bears 224 to 41 yards in the first half. Through two quarters, the Browns had 17 first downs, and the Bears had just two.

Pass rush of Cleveland Browns awakens against Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields

Led by Garrett, the Browns sacked Fields four times in the first half.

The unleashing of the Browns' pass rush came a week after safety Grant Delpit provided their lone sack in a 31-21 win over the Houston Texans.

The defense began the second half by registering another three-and-out, with end Takk McKinley and tackle Malik Jackson splitting a sack on third-and-10 from the Chicago 25.

Then the Browns went ahead 13-3 when McLaughlin finished a seven-play, 21-yard drive by making a 41-yard field goal with 9:32 left in the third quarter.

The next series ended with Garrett sacking Fields on third-and-8 from the Chicago 25, leading to another three-and-out. The play allowed Garrett to top his previous career best of three sacks in a game, which happened Sept. 16, 2019, against the New York Jets.

The Browns defense coordinated by Joe Woods left plenty to be desired in the season-opening 33-29 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and the Week 2 win over the Texans, but the unit turned up the heat on Fields, whom the Bears drafted 11th overall out of Ohio State in April.

Fields experienced some welcome-to-the-NFL moments in his starting debut. Fields filled in for Andy Dalton, who suffered a knee injury last week in a 20-17 win over the Bengals.

Fields finished 6-of-20 passing (30%) for 68 yards without a touchdown or an interception. His rating was 41.2.

Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski's gambles don't pay off early

Coach Kevin Stefanski is going to be aggressive more often than not, so it's not shocking he chose to go for it on fourth down on the Browns' first two possessions.

The problem is it backfired both times.

The game's opening series ended on fourth-and-5 from the Chicago 38-yard line with edge rusher Robert Quinn and defensive tackle Angelo Blackson sacking Mayfield for a 9-yard loss and a turnover on downs with 11:26 left in the first quarter. Nobody blocked Quinn.

The Bears turned the momentum into a 3-0 lead when Cairo Santos ended a five-play, 24-yard drive by making a 47-yard field goal with 8:40 remaining in the first quarter.

With a chance to counter, Stefanski gambled again on the next series, going for it on fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 20. Edge rusher Khalil Mack proceeded to sack Mayfield for an 11-yard loss with 4:18 left in the opening quarter.

But this time, the Bears didn't score off the turnover on downs. The Browns recorded a three-and-out, sparked by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's first-down sack of Fields for a 10-yard loss. It was Clowney's first sack with the Browns and the free-agent acquisition's first one since Nov. 11, 2019, when he played for the Seattle Seahawks.

The Browns flirted with failing to take advantage of the three-and-out, but McLaughlin delivered in a major way. He made a 57-yard field goal with 12:31 left in the second quarter, capping an eight-play, 38-yard drive and tying to score 3-3.

McLaughlin had missed off the crossbar from the same distance Aug. 29 in the preseason finale in Atlanta, but he made it when it counted and earned a place in the record books. His successful attempt Sunday is tied for the third-longest field goal in franchise history, it's the longest since Steve Cox made a 60-yard try in 1984 and it's the longest by a Browns kicker at FirstEnergy Stadium.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Cleveland Browns batter Justin Fields for 9 sacks in rout of Bears