The Cleveland Browns beat the Denver Broncos, 17-16, in a prime-time matchup that held some playoff implications. The Browns needed to win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. The game was a must win. However, Cleveland did not play their best football of the season. The scratched and clawed throughout the game, eking out the victory. The win wasn’t pretty, but it was a victory that is yet another big step in the development of the franchise.
The Browns have had six wins this season, but the win on Saturday over the Broncos was a unique victory for the team. The Browns did not play well overall, especially on offense. Quarterback Baker Mayfield had a first half to forget, struggling to do much of anything after his early touchdown pass. On defense, the Browns made mistakes on assignments and were hurt by poor tackling throughout the game. But through all this poor play, the Browns were able to push through and still get the victory.
Cleveland was in a must-win situation, trailing as they entered the fourth quarter. The offense was sputtering ever since the first quarter touchdown drive. Mayfield was definitely not playing to his usual level of play. Nevertheless, the Browns did whatever it took. The defense stepped up and was really stout against the run game, causing Denver to have to win the game through the air. The defense led the comeback by getting the Broncos to turn it over early in the fourth, leading to the Browns game-winning touchdown drive. Rather than having an offensive showcase, the Browns won the game in a new way, with their defense.
The development also came in Mayfield’s play. He really struggled for most of the game, but in the fourth quarter, he turned it on to lead the game-winning touchdown drive. He did just enough to help the team get out from under the deficit. It wasn’t easy or even pretty for most of the game, but Mayfield did what he had to do in the clutch to help give the Browns the victory.
In the past several years, the Browns would have lost this game. With the offense struggling in the first half, it would have been tough to see the Browns sticking close in a game. The turnovers the Browns had in the game would have stalled or collapsed the prospects of winning for the team in past seasons. This season, the Browns did not curl up into a ball and wait for the inevitable collapse. Cleveland kept fighting. With the failed fourth down conversion late in the fourth, many Browns fans probably had flashbacks to past teams falling apart and losing the game. But, this team battled and was able to get the big stop to win the game.
The Browns are not likely to make the playoffs after the tough outcomes of Sunday’s games across the AFC. But, the victory over Denver was still very important to this franchise. The Browns were not good in many aspects of the game. However, the team still won. Over the past several games, the Browns had won with an offense that was hitting on all cylinders. This week the unit was not even close to that level. The Browns, though, found a new way to win, with their defense. The step the Browns took on Saturday should not be overlooked. It is a new day in Cleveland. The Browns are not your fall-apart, close-loss team of the past. This team is fighting and never giving in till the final whistle. Whether the team plays perfect football or shaky football, the Browns are still able to win the game.