Garrett’s helmet swing ruins impressive Browns win

Five thoughts on the Browns’ 21-7 win over the Steelers:

A WIN NEVER FELT SO BAD: Myles Garrett ruined the game. He ruined the satisfaction of the win.

Luckily, he didn’t ruin Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph.

With the Browns in firm control of the game in the final minute, Garrett brought Rudolph down after the QB let go of a pass. Somehow, the situation between the two escalated. Rudolph appeared to reach for the tackle, and Garrett ripped off Rudolph’s helmet, then used it as a weapon, hitting the QB in the head.

It was, frankly, one of the most horrifying things I’ve seen on a football field.

And one of my favorite players in the league did it.

After Garrett’s shot at Rudolph, Steelers’ lineman Maurkice Pouncey attacked Garrett.

It marred a Browns win, their second straight. The Browns also are 2-0 in their division. It’s the first time in franchise history they have beaten the Steelers and Ravens in the same season.

Cleveland is 4-6, and with the tanking Dolphins coming to town next week, it could be 5-6 and in the playoff hunt.

But somehow, very little of that seems to matter.

Garrett has been suspended for the rest of the season, and potentially longer. Look, I thought Rudolph was far from blameless, and I love Garrett as a player and respect him as a person.

But his actions on Thursday warranted that suspension.

MAYFIELD’S MADNESS: Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield continued to play better. He was responsible for all three of the Browns touchdowns Thursday. He scored on a 1-yard sneak in the first quarter, then threw for a pair of touchdowns.

His final TD pass was the backbreaker for the Steelers. With the Browns leading 14-7, Mayfield avoided pressure, then threw a strike to Stephen Carlson, who made a brilliant catch with a defender faceguarding him in the back of the end zone.

Honestly, before the pass, I was only vaguely aware of Carlson’s existence. I seem to remember Mayfield targeting him during the Broncos game.

His first career catch. As announcer Dick Stockton said after linebacker Van Waiters hauled in a touchdown catch in 1989 on a fake punt against the Vikings, “It could be his last one, too. But who cares?”

Now watch him have a 20-year career.

Mayfield’s best moment actually came after the game, when he called Garrett’s actions “inexcusable.” He was stoic and candid. Mayfield has taken criticism from many — including me — for his brash personality.

But he found the right tone Thursday in a difficult situation.

SCHOBERT’S CAREER GAME: There have been games where I’ve wondered if Browns’ linebacker Joe Schobert was that good.

He seems to disappear from time to time.

Well, he was terrific Thursday.

Ten tackles, a sack and two interceptions.

The Browns had four picks on the night, while not turning the ball over themselves.

No one will confuse the Steelers’ offense with the 1999 St. Louis Rams, but this game was Steve Wilks’ best as the Browns defensive coordinator.

He dared Rudolph to beat the Browns with his arm.

Time and time again, Rudolph showed he couldn’t.

The Browns defense finally looked like it was clicking.

And Schobert was right in the middle of it.

KITCHENS: There’s been plenty to be critical about with Freddie Kitchens, but I must admit I found less to be angry about after this one.

At least from a game-planning perspective.

Some will blame the Browns’ lack of discipline for Garrett’s behavior, though it’s hard to imagine what type of culture would permit those actions.

More than likely, Garrett’s attack was the result of a momentary lapse of personal judgement, and not due to some culture Kitchens has cultivated.

Nonetheless, three Browns were ejected Thursday: Garrett, safety Damarius Randall (after a head-to-head hit on a receiver) and defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi, who shoved Rudolph to the ground during the late melee.

Ogunjobi was suspended a game by the NFL.

And this comes after Jermaine Whitehead was issuing death threats on social media. Thankfully, he was released.

I have wanted the Browns to be good for so long. But I was hoping it could happen without them turning into a dirty team, like the Raiders of the ’70s or the Bengals of the 2000s.

Fair or not, those teams had reputations. And reputations can be hard to lose.

I can’t blame Kitchens for all of what’s happened this year, and maybe he’s not even to blame for most of it.

But if the Browns get that reputation, Kitchens might get it, too.

That’s not what anyone wants.

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT: In Thursday’s edition of The Advertiser-Tribune, there was a story on the front page by Jill Gosche about a Browns’-themed snowman, built by 9-year-old Kaydence Kopp and her family.

The snowman actually has an uncanny resemblence to my friend Matt Russell, who I grew up with in the Cleveland suburbs.

Matt attends many of the games (he was there Thursday night) and tailgates. I saved the paper for him.

But what’s interesting to me is Kaydence is the same age I was the last time the Browns won a division title.

It makes me feel good that families still follow the Browns, in spite of their futility over the last three decades.

It makes me feel even better to see that loyalty expressed in creative ways.

For Kaydence and her family, it was a snowman.

For me, it was dressing up like a Browns dawg on Halloween in 1987.

I hope Kaydence and her family can enjoy a number of good games, and good seasons in the time to come.

And hopefully we can see the snowman again soon.

Zach Baker is the sports editor for The Advertiser-Tribune.

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