The Cleveland Browns are not dead, yet. The Browns beat the Denver Broncos on the road, 17-16, in a wild and somewhat ugly victory. The offense was not great on Saturday, including quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield was 18 of 31 for 188 yards, two touchdowns, one fumble and one interception. The Browns defense won the game for the Browns, forcing multiple turnovers and big stops to win the game.
The first half was a weird one for both teams. The Browns came out on fire, going out on top early, 7-0. But, the Broncos responded with a 10-0 run to take the lead. The Browns were able to tie the game up, but the poor play of Mayfield was the theme of the half. Mayfield just did not have it in the first half. He was 7 of 18 for 106 yards, a touchdown and an interception. After an opening drive touchdown, Mayfield could not get a flow going for the rest of the half. The Browns defense had an up and down performance, but in all it came out of the half just giving up 10 points. So at halftime, the Browns were tied at 10 with the Broncos.
The third quarter was a mess for the Browns. It saw a drive of over nine minutes finish in a turnover and in the end, the Browns trailed going into the fourth quarter, 13-10. The fourth quarter was a hodgepodge of crazy events. The Browns took the lead early in the fourth with a Mayfield touchdown pass to wide receiver Antonio Callaway. On the ensuing drive, the Broncos drove down the field and had the ball on the six-yard line with a 4th-and-1 situation with just over four minutes to play. But, Denver decided to kick the field goal. The Browns got the ball and drained a lot of the clock off with a seven play, 63-yard drive. However, Browns Head Coach Gregg Williams decided to go for the kill and go for the fourth down inside the redzone to ice the game. The Browns did not get it. The Broncos had just under two minutes to go to drive down the field and get the game-winning field goal. The Cleveland defense bent, but did not break. The Browns were able to get Denver to turn it over on downs at midfield and give the Browns the 17-16 victory.
The Browns defense was the key to the victory. The defense caused two takeaways and a turnover on downs. They were able to hold the Broncos offense to 270 total yards. Against a great run game with running back Phillip Lindsay, the Browns held Denver to just 32 total yards rushing. It was an incredible performance by the defense. Here is the huge interception by cornerback T.J. Carrie that led to the Browns game-winning touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Baker Mayfield did not have a good first half to say the least. He was just 7 of 18 for 106 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He was just not clicking on all cylinders. But in the second half, Mayfield started to get it going. He went 11 of 13 for 82 yards, a fumble and a touchdown in the second half. He showed his makeup once again, turning his performance around in the second half and showing little fear from his early struggles. Here is his first touchdown of the game to wide receiver Breshad Perriman.
The player of the game was safety Jabrill Peppers. Peppers had six tackles, two tackles for loss, one quarterback hit, one sack and an interception. He was all over the field, making plays for the Browns in key moments. He made two of the biggest plays in the game. The first was the interception in the first half that helped stop the Broncos from getting points. The other big play was his sack that clinched the victory for Cleveland late in the fourth quarter. Here was the big sack by Peppers.
The Browns extended their playoff hopes for another week with an ugly win. It was ugly with mistakes on both sides of ball, but the Browns won. In the past, Cleveland would lose these ugly games. This is a big step for the Browns, as they did not play to their best level, but still were able to get the win. It was a beautiful, ugly win.
We are now New England, Tampa Bay, Dallas, Minnesota and New York Giants fans this weekend. The Browns have a big uphill battle to make the playoffs, but they are still alive.