CLEVELAND -- In January, they faced off on opposite sides of the field, two guys leading their teams in the college football playoffs.
Now, they are teammates, more correctly cornerstones, as the Cleveland Browns try to make the long, slow climb back to respectability.
Mayfield threw three touchdown passes and completed his first 13 passes. Chubb ran for 176 yards, 92 of them on a touchdown that was the longest run in Browns history.
They were the main reasons the Browns had their most impressive win certainly of this season, and perhaps going as far back as the last time they played Atlanta. That was in 2014, when Brian Hoyer guided a comeback to put the Browns at 7-4. Between that win and Sunday, the Browns had gone 6-55-1.
Perhaps this win can undo the downward spiral in which these Browns have found themselves. And perhaps the Falcons can be the bookend between misery and success.
“Got to build on it,” Mayfield said.
He and Chubb certainly give the Browns two large pieces on which to build -- especially when added to the proven and consistent success of cornerback Denzel Ward, another first-round pick.
Mayfield finished 17-of-20 for 216 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His 151.2 passer rating was the best ever by a Browns rookie and the fifth-highest in Browns history -- behind only Otto Graham (1954), Brian Sipe (1978) and Milt Plum (1959 and 1960).
Mayfield was not sacked and completed passes to nine different receivers.
“When I woke up [Sunday] I was feeling pretty dangerous,” Mayfield said.
Yes, he was kidding. At least he seemed to be.
The losing obscures it, but Mayfield has put together quite a streak of success. In his past four games, Mayfield has completed 69 percent with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating in those four games: 104.6.
After the win over Atlanta, Mayfield improved his season rating from 81.5 to 87.5.
Which could be why Mayfield was surprisingly upbeat after a bad loss to Kansas City on Nov. 4. He felt good about the way things were trending even if the score didn’t show it. Against Atlanta, the score reflected the play on the field.
Which may have been a reason Chubb made a point to say last week of practice that “this team would follow [Mayfield] anywhere.”
“To me, there is nothing better than that,” Mayfield said. “As a quarterback and as somebody that wants to be a leader of this team, it does not get better than that.”
Chubb showed why the Browns felt comfortable trading Carlos Hyde four games prior. Chubb had shown breakaway ability, and the ability to turn good runs into big ones. He did just that with the 92-yarder as he broke free and ran away from the pursuit.
Because of his size, Chubb’s speed is deceiving. But he has shown with three touchdowns longer than 40 yards this season that if he gets any space he is always a threat to score.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Chubb hit a max speed of 20.67 mph on his 92-yard TD. It's the second time this season he has hit 20 mph on a rush TD, joining Isaiah Crowell as the only ones to have multiple such rush TDs this year.
Chubb also owns the fastest max speed on a rush TD this season at 21.15 mph in Week 4 on his 63-yarder.
“The moment he broke out, it looked like he was going,” Duke Johnson Jr. said. “I just knew to meet him in the end zone.”
“He is playing at a very high level,” Mayfield said. “The best part about it is he never expected anything else.”
Of course Mayfield described the 92-yard run this way: “Great handoff.”
In the four games he has been the main back since Hyde was traded, Chubb has run for 406 yards (101.5 per game) and has averaged 5.2 yards per carry.