Baker Mayfield outplayed Cam Newton, Jarvis Landry caught a touchdown pass and ran for another score and the Cleveland Browns damaged Carolina’s playoff hopes with a 26-20 win Sunday over the Panthers, who dropped their fifth straight.
Mayfield bravely threw a 51-yard TD pass into traffic to Landry, who had a 3-yard scoring run and added a long run — on a similar call — early in the fourth quarter to set up a go-ahead touchdown.
Playing the spoiler role down the stretch, the Browns (5-7-1) improved to 3-2 under interim coach Gregg Williams, who needed just five games to match former Browns coach Hue Jackson’s win total over two-plus seasons.
The Panthers (6-7) suffered a loss that could haunt them for months and will increase the heat on coach Ron Rivera.
Newton passed for 265 yards, but overthrew Jarius Wright on 4th-and-goal at the 3 with 2:35 left. Carolina got the ball back, but Newton, who has been playing with a sore right shoulder, badly missed Devin Funchess and was intercepted by Damarious Randall with 57 seconds left.
Before taking a knee on the final two plays, Mayfield revved up Cleveland’s crowd, who counted down the final seconds.
Mayfield finished 18 of 22 for 238 yards, continuing his bounce back after throwing three interceptions in the first half last week at Houston.
Carolina came in just a half-game out of the second wild-card spot in the NFC, but with only three games left, including two against New Orleans, the Panthers are going to need help to make the postseason.
Christian McCaffrey had two TD runs for Carolina and finished with 101 total yards.
Browns rookie Nick Chubb scored on a 1-yard run to give the Browns a 23-20 lead with 13:05 left. The score came one play after Landry took an inside handoff and weaved his way down field. Greg Joseph clanged the extra point off the left upright, keeping the Panthers within three.
Newton drove the Panthers to the 3 before throwing two straight incompletions, ending Carolina’s best chance to take the lead.
Mayfield’s 51-yard TD pass to Landry tied it 14-all with 8:27 left in the second quarter.
Rolling left out of the pocket to buy some time, Mayfield stepped up and confidently delivered a perfect strike to Landry, who was well covered on the play by safety Eric Reid, his former LSU teammate. As fans celebrated, Landry and several teammates sat down in the end zone’s corner and pretended to warm themselves around a camp fire.
Mayfield and Newton were both hot in the first half. Mayfield completed 8 of 10 passes for 176 yards and a TD while Newton was 15 of 20 for 185.
Newton drove the Panthers to a touchdown on their first possession with McCaffrey scoring on a 4-yard run.
Rivera took over defensive play calling from coordinator Eric Washington this week, and Mayfield wasted no time challenging the Panthers.
On Cleveland’s first play, Mayfield unloaded a pass that traveled more than 60 yards in the air to wide receiver Breshad Perriman for a 66-yard pickup. Two plays later, Landry scored.
With his first completion, Newton eclipsed 3,000 yards passing for the eighth straight season. He came in needing 1 yard to reach the plateau and surpassed it on a 25-yarder to Curtis Samuel on Carolina’s second snap.
Newton joined Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks in history to reach 3,000 yards in each of their first eight seasons.
Mayfield joined Kurt Warner (1999) and Brad Johnson (1996-97) as the only players since 1966 to throw at least one TD pass in each of their first 10 career starts.
Panthers: No significant injuries.
Browns: C JC Tretter barely made it off the field in the third quarter before dropping to his knees. Tretter, who has played several weeks with a severely sprained right ankle, returned to the game.
Panthers: Host New Orleans on Sunday.
Browns: At Denver on Saturday.