Cooper Kupp’s comeback is complete. The Rams have another weapon.
The shifty wide receiver caught two touchdown passes from Jared Goff and Los Angeles stopped Baker Mayfield four times from the 4-yard line in the final minute as the Rams hung on for a 20-13 win on Sunday night over the short-handed Cleveland Browns, who were missing their entire starting secondary.
The Rams (3-0) remained unbeaten — and perfect against AFC teams in the regular season under coach Sean McVay — by barely holding back the Browns (1-2).
On the Browns’ final drive, Mayfield, who was under pressure most of the night, tried to force a pass to receiver Damion Ratley on fourth down. Safety John Johnson III picked him off.
Kupp underwent surgery on his left knee and missed the final six games last season, as well as the Rams’ run to the Super Bowl. But he’s back, giving Goff an additional target and McVay more firepower to work with. McVay is 9-0 against the AFC, with his only loss coming against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
Kupp finished with a career-high 11 receptions for 102 yards.
Greg Zuerlein kicked two field goals for the Rams.
The Browns showed they can hang with one of the NFL’s elite teams. However, their star-studded offense remains out of sync, Cleveland had too many penalties and first-year coach Freddie Kitchens made a questionable decision on fourth down in the fourth quarter.
Mayfield threw one TD pass but isn’t playing with the same confidence he showed as a rookie. He finished 18 of 36 for 195 yards and was sacked three times — twice in a three-play span in the fourth by Rams star Aaron Donald (his first this season) and Clay Matthews III, who had two sacks.
Goff’s second TD pass to Kupp gave the Rams a 17-13 lead with 12:48 left. After a false start penalty moved the Rams back to the 6, Goff hit Kupp streaking across the end zone virtually uncovered.
The Browns marched to the Rams 40 and stalled. But instead of punting on fourth-and-9, Kitchens went for it and Nick Chubb was stopped for 2 yards.
Cleveland caught a break when safety Juston Burris intercepted Goff with 2:46 left. Mayfield completed a 27-yard pass on third-and-15 and drove to the Rams’ 4, but he threw four straight incompletions as the comeback came up short.
The Browns came in battered and bruised. They were missing eight starters, including their entire defensive secondary and it was such a desperate situation that Burris, who was claimed Friday off waivers from Oakland, started and played the entire game.
The Rams wasted no time in the third quarter, taking the second-half kickoff and driving 75 yards in 10 plays to take a 10-6 lead on Goff’s 11-yard pass to Kupp.
On third-and-goal, Goff waited for Kupp to get some separation before hitting him on the left side of the end zone.
The Browns responded with their own, 11-play scoring drive that Mayfield capped with a 2-yard TD pass to tight end Demetrius Harris. It was the first touchdown pass allowed by the Rams this season.
Clay Matthews, a steady and popular linebacker for 16 seasons with the Browns, was inducted into the team’s ring of honor at halftime. Matthews was a four-time Pro Bowler, played in 278 games and had 76.5 sacks. He’s a semifinalist this year for the third time to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
His son, Clay, who is in his first season with the Rams, emerged from the locker room at the end of the ceremony and hugged his dad.
Rams: host Tampa Bay next Sunday. The Rams have won the last five matchups between the teams.
Browns: visit Baltimore on Sunday. AFC North rivals split their two games last season.