CINCINNATI — Tight end David Njoku caught the screen pass from Baker Mayfield, took a few steps and leaped toward the end zone. He landed at about the 2-yard line in a sea of bodies and was pushed across the goal line by teammates to complete the 6-yard touchdown.
“He tried to fly. I loved it. He tried to take off, spread his wings or whatever,” defensive end Chris Smith said Sunday after Cleveland’s 35-20 win. “He thinks he can fly. He thinks he’s fly, too.”
Njoku, a national high jump champion as a high school senior, started his long jump from the 5-yard line.
“I don’t want to see it because it’s Njoku,” running back Duke Johnson said. “Njoku, for some reason, thinks he can fly and every game somebody has to remind him that he cannot fly.”
Njoku said he didn’t know what was going through his head.
“I don’t know, bro,” he said. “Sometimes I think to myself of what I’d be thinking and it’s stupid. I don’t know why my mind thinks the way it thinks sometimes.
“It happened and I owe it all to my teammates for that touchdown.”
Johnson, center JC Tretter and right guard Kevin Zeitler were among the group of Browns who pushed the pile for the touchdown. Njoku said he was “thrown” into the end zone.
“It was all the O-line. That had nothing to do with me,” he said. “It was all their instinct to push me in because I was not going to go in without them.”
Mayfield, offense find rhythm early, roll over Bengals.
Njoku led the team with five catches and 63 receiving yards. Before his touchdown he caught an out route for 24 yards and dived for a 21-yarder over the middle. He’s tied for the team lead with three receiving touchdowns.
Njoku usually celebrates his scores with the “Chief Slam,” in which he takes a couple of giant steps then leaps and spikes the ball through his legs. Because of the help, he gave the ball to left guard Joel Bitonio and told him to do it.
“I was like, I think I remember how he does this thing,” Bitonio said. “Usually I’m not paying too much attention to it. So I tried to throw a little O-lineman razzle dazzle in there.”
Bitonio didn’t get high enough off the ground to spike the ball between his legs.
“We’ve got to work on it,” Njoku said. “I don’t think he’s as flexible as he once was, but we’ve got to work on that.”
NO LOVE LOST
The Browns and Bengals talked trash before the game and scrapped during it. Mayfield said former coach Hue Jackson taking a job with the Bengals added “a little bit” of motivation but said much more went into the hostility.
“We have a lot of guys that have history with Cincinnati,” Mayfield said. “Orson Charles was playing like a maniac today, he kept saying that they’re the people that cut him.
“And then our QB coach, Kenny Zampese, was there for 15 years.”
Charles, a fullback/tight end, took a swing at a member of the Bengals during a skirmish after a play but didn’t connect and wasn’t penalized.
“We have history with Cincinnati, that’s what happens when you have a division rival, you play them twice a year, there’s going to be that,” Mayfield said. “The best thing about that is our guys handled it well. That motivation and sometimes that emotion can get in the way, but our guys handled it the right way.”
WELL, MAYBE SOME
Defensive end Myles Garrett, the No. 1 pick in 2017, chased after Jackson and gave him a big hug after the game.
“Respect him,” Garrett said. “He had enough confidence in me to make me the first pick. I appreciate what he did for me and for this organization in the time he was with us. He didn’t do me wrong at any time I was here, we just weren’t the right fit.”
Garrett had a quiet game on defense despite going against backup left tackles but got a sack, his 10th of the year. He also blocked a 54-yard field goal in the first quarter, the first of his career.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton left the game in the third quarter with a right thumb injury and didn’t return. He was injured trying to recover a loose ball after a shotgun snap sailed over his head.
Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah recovered and the Browns scored two plays later for a 35-7 lead to begin the second half.
“On first look, it’s not (serious),” coach Marvin Lewis said of the injury. “But they’re going to do some further tests.”
Dalton went 10-for-17 for 100 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a 70.7 rating. Jeff Driskel came off the bench and led a mini-rally. He was 17-for-29 for 155 yards, a touchdown and an 84.7 rating.
** Bengals cornerback Tony McRae was strapped to a stretcher and rolled off the field after getting hit covering a punt. He remained on the ground for several minutes. The team announced he suffered a concussion and Lewis said things were “positive.”
Bruce Arians has a plan if he is hired as Browns coach: Keep offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens and consider retaining interim coach Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator.
Arians, a former Cardinals coach and Browns offensive coordinator, reiterated his interest in the Browns job in an interview with NFL Network. Arians is an analyst on CBS and said the Browns are the only team he’d consider after retiring last season.
“I would listen to the Browns,” Arians said. “And only them.”
Arians was Alabama’s offensive coordinator when Kitchens was quarterback in the mid-1990s, and Kitchens was an assistant under him with the Cardinals.
General manager John Dorsey wouldn’t say whether he’d interview Arians when asked Nov. 14. Dorsey called the coaching job “very attractive” because of the talent on the roster, salary cap space and number of draft picks in 2019.
Arians has a different reason for wanting the job.
“Mostly the fans,” he said.
Greg Robinson started his third straight game at left tackle. The Browns have allowed two, zero and zero sacks.
Desmond Harrison, an undrafted rookie who started the first eight games, was inactive for the third straight game. The other healthy inactives were third quarterback Drew Stanton, receiver Da’Mari Scott, defensive back Juston Burris, defensive end Chad Thomas, tight end Pharaoh Brown and defensive tackle Carl Davis.
** Nathan Zegura, the sideline reporter on the team’s radio broadcasts returned from an eight-game suspension. He was suspended after yelling at head linesperson Sarah Thomas during a loss at New Orleans on Sept. 16.
** Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar turned 55 Sunday.