CINCINNATI — Nick Chubb was caught from behind.
Cleveland’s second-year running back left the field Sunday after the season-ending 33-23 loss to the Bengals with 1,494 rushing yards and a 165-yard lead over Tennessee’s Derrick Henry for the rushing title.
Henry chased down Chubb with 32 carries for 211 yards in a late-afternoon win over the Texans that clinched a wild card spot for the Titans. Henry finished with 1,540 yards.
Chubb carried 13 times for 41 yards Sunday against the Bengals’ last-ranked rush defense that entered allowing 153.9 yards a game. He had 15 carries for 45 yards last week in a loss to the Ravens.
The Titans also started Cleveland’s season off on a sour note, winning 43-13 at FirstEnergy Stadium in coach Freddie Kitchens’ debut.
Chubb, the No. 35 pick in 2018, had been in the lead for several weeks but was more concerned with winning. After the loss that ended the Browns’ season at 6-10, he was hoping to hang on for the title.
“I’m excited. Just for the team and to find a positive this year — I hope I can get it just for teammates and the organization,” he said.
Chubb’s total is fourth in franchise history and the most since Jim Brown’s 1,545 in 1965.
Chubb is described by coaches and teammates as the ultimate team player but has had to deal with individual letdowns in each of his first two seasons. He reached 1,000 yards as a rookie only to lose yards on his last carry and finish with 996.
He was focused Sunday on the frustrations of the season that began with playoff expectations.
“It is disappointing, especially with all the excitement coming into the season,” Chubb said. “I’ve been here before in high school and college, and you can learn from it and get better next year.
“I’ll remember the good times we had this year. We came a long way from where we once were. Just trying to find a positive.”
His teammates, especially the offensive linemen, were pulling for Chubb to win the franchise’s first rushing title since Leroy Kelly in 1968.
“It’s a great testament to who he is and how hard he works and it’s a great accomplishment,” center JC Tretter said. “He would be the first person to tell you it doesn’t mean as much as what team success would mean, so I think as a whole, we look at it the same way. I think when the sting of this season goes away, we’ll look back fondly on being able to accomplish that as a group, but for now, no kind of individual successes make anything about this year feel any better.”
Baker Mayfield’s second season will be remembered for a coaching change, a personal regression and interceptions. He was picked off three times against the Bengals to bring his season total to 21, second most in the league behind Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston, who threw 30.
Receiver Jarvis Landry fell down on the first interception in the first quarter, but cornerback Darius Phillips had good coverage. Phillips got Mayfield again in the third quarter when Mayfield went deep on third-and-long and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. stopped running. The third pick was with 59 seconds left in desperation mode.
“The amount of interceptions I had this year is, I think, more than I’ve had in the past two or three years combined,” Mayfield said. “So it’s quite frankly embarrassing for me, and something I take pride in. I’m not happy with that, but there are a lot of things where I can look back on the film and point out exactly where I went wrong. That’s the good thing about it — it all can be fixed.”
Mayfield threw 14 picks as a rookie and six as a senior at Oklahoma.
He was 12-for-27 Sunday for 279 yards, touchdowns of 56, 46 and 20 yards and a 79.6 passer rating. He was sacked six times. He finished with a 59.4 completion percentage, 3,827 yards, 22 touchdowns, 21 interceptions and a 78.8 rating.
His 7,552 yards are fifth in NFL history through two seasons, and he’s the ninth quarterback with 20 touchdowns in each of his first two seasons. He’s the first Browns quarterback with consecutive 20-touchdown seasons since Brian Sipe in 1979-80, and the first since Tim Couch in 2001 to start all 16 games.
“I think he grew a lot from this season,” Kitchens said. “Not everything you can see in the stats. But he learned a lot from this season, he’ll be better moving forward because of it.”
UP AND DOWN
Receiver Rashard Higgins’ lost season ended with a whimper, as he was a healthy scratch for what could’ve been his final game with the Browns.
Higgins finished with four catches for 55 yards and a touchdown in 10 games. The touchdown was the winner vs. the Bills on Nov. 10 — the last catch of the year and possibly of his Browns career. He’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March.
** Tight end David Njoku was active after being a healthy scratch the last two weeks. He played sparingly and wasn’t targeted with a pass.
** Defensive end Olivier Vernon started after missing six of seven games with a knee injury. He had two tackles and a half-sack, giving him 3.5 for the year.
WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR
The Browns will host the Texans, Colts, Eagles, Washington, Raiders, Bengals, Steelers and Ravens in 2020.
They’ll travel to play the Titans, Jaguars, Giants, Cowboys, Jets, Bengals, Steelers and Ravens.
** The Browns have the 10th pick in the draft, so they’re slated to pick in the top 10 for the seventh time since 2012.
** The Browns have lost 10 straight finales.
** They have 16 double-digit-loss seasons since 1999.
Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was forced by officials to leave the game near the end of the first half and walked gingerly to the sideline.
It wasn’t his sore back acting up. He was forced to get checked for a concussion.
“I don’t know why, I got kicked in the groin,” Richardson said. “Now they want to be safe with the defensive linemen, it’s funny.”
Landry caught two passes for 82 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown. He led the team with 83 catches for 1,174 yards and six touchdowns. The yards rank fourth in franchise history.
** Odell Beckham Jr. ranks 10th with 1,035.
** Chubb, middle linebacker Joe Schobert and defensive back Eric Murray were the game captains.
Schobert could’ve played his final game for the organization, as he’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Murray returned to his role as nickelback after knee surgery Nov. 1.