Browns fans everywhere can finally rejoice, as the Cleveland Browns (11-5) clinched their first postseason appearance since 2002 with a 24-22 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4). This was their first week 17 win since 2009 but more importantly got them in the playoff dance which is something their fan base hasn’t experienced in a long time. That 17 year playoff drought was tied for 2nd longest in the Super Bowl era but it’s clear a new era has begun in Cleveland and they can no longer be considered the laughing stock of the NFL.
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Cleveland used their power running game to overpower the Steelers defense and build a 24-9 lead in the 4th quarter. Lead back Nick Chubb finished the day with 14 rushes for 108 yards and a touchdown, while QB Baker Mayfield also added 44 yards on the ground. Even top receiver Jarvis Landry got in on the fun with a rushing touchdown of his own. I knew this ground game was in for a big day when Chubb broke off for a 47 yard touchdown run on the 6th offensive play of the day. Feel free to relive the play by watching the video below to see just how much trouble the Steelers defense were in all game.
What was more encouraging than anything else the fact that QB Baker Mayfield finished the game with ZERO TURNOVERS. He finished the day with 196 yards, a touchdown and a completion percentage of 63% to pair with his 44 yards rushing. Jarvis Landry was his go to target with 5 catches for 51 yards and TE Austin Hopper hauled in 4 catches for 37 yards and the only passing touchdown of the game. I guess anything is better than losing to the Jets, after losing your top 4 receivers to the COVID-19/reserve list, but only scoring 7 points in the 4th quarter against the Steelers backups is something that should make the Browns nervous moving forward. When you face the league’s top teams in the playoffs, not being able to finish games consistently will send you home empty handed.
It also concerns me that their defense surrendered a 15 point lead in the final quarter. The Steelers were forced to punt three times and kick two field goals in the first half. The 2nd half was just as good for Cleveland’s defense as they forced a field goal and picked off Mason Rudolph. That led Landry’s score and a 24-9 lead but that’s when a near disaster struck. Rudolph fired two touchdown passes on the next two drives, while the Browns were denied on 4th and 7 on the drive in between. The 2nd touchdown brought the score within two points, but Rudolph overthrew Chase Claypool by a mile on the 2-point conversion. A failed onside kick and a QB keeper by Mayfield 3 plays later, sealed the Browns win. Sighs of relief could be heard all around Cleveland.
Dawg Pound Faces Tough Foe Again
The Browns prize for winning this game, is a second straight rematch with the Steelers on wildcard weekend. The game will kickoff at 8:15 pm next Sunday on NBC/Peacock. The Steelers will be a full strength after resting several starters this week on both sides of the ball and clearly have more playoff experience than the Browns have. However, to have any chance to win at Heinz Field next week, they need to dominate in the run game and need a huge game from their pass rush led by Myles Garrett. They also need to find an answer for Chase Claypool, who finished with 5 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. A great pass rush will help counter that but Big Ben is a veteran QB who can make plays under pressure, so they need to make sure they get him on the ground. They can’t afford to blow a second half lead like they almost experienced this week. Giving a two time Super Bowl champion QB extra opportunities to score will end your playoff dreams. They are the clear underdog heading into that game but that’s just the way they like it. If 2020 has taught us anything, nothing is guaranteed week to week. Any team can win on any given Sunday.
Congrats to the Browns on a rare playoff berth! How far do you think the Browns will go in the postseason? Leave your thoughts below or on the CruelFan Facebook page.
By: Whitney Dowds CruelFan.com