The Browns’ attempt to win the AFC North did not go as planned with the loss to the New York Jets last weekend and the Steelers coming back to beat the Colts. However, the Browns hopes for the playoffs are still high. All they needed was a win against the Steelers and they will be in.
The Steelers made the decision to bench many of their starters, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the game this week. Last week the Browns placed many of their top wide receivers on the COVID-19/reserve list including Rashard Higgins and Jarvis Landry. However, they were able to come off the list in time for Sunday afternoon’s game against the Steelers.
The Browns got on the board first with running back Nick Chubb’s long 47-yard run into the end zone to give the Browns an early 7-0 lead. Since Chubb’s touchdown, there has not been another touchdown until the end of the third. Both team’s defenses did a great job limiting both teams from getting into the endzone.
The Browns broke the drought when Baker Mayfield found tight end Austin Hooper for a two-yard pass to give the Browns a 17-9 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Browns then extended their lead with a three-yard run by Jarvis Landry.
The Browns, however, saw their lead slipping late in the fourth quarter. Wide receiver Chase Claypool made a stellar 28-yard catch to cut the Browns lead by 10 points. The Steelers had the opportunity to tie the game up after Juju’s two-yard touchdown catch.
Oh my @ChaseClaypool 😯
— NFL (@NFL) January 3, 2021
A successful two-point conversion would have tied the game, but they failed to convert as the Browns take the victory 24-22. With this win, the Browns clinch the sixth seed in the AFC and make their first playoff appearance since 2002.
This game was especially special to quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has been starting quarterback for the Browns for three seasons and will make his first playoff appearance in the NFL.
“It’s a moment I’ll definitely never forget,” said Mayfield to ESPN. “We expected to be here, we worked extremely hard to get here and we are excited to have the chance to be in the playoffs…It was a special moment for us.”
The Browns still have a lot of work to do. They will host the Steelers again in the first round of the wild card game. Head coach Kevin Stefanski speaks about how the Browns still need to get work done again with a Steelers team that will have all their starters playing.
“It’s not over. The goal was never just to make the playoffs. That is the message to the guys,” said Stefanski to the Cleveland Browns. “We have work left to do. I like this football team. I like how this football team responds when their back is up against the wall. We will just keep grinding on this thing, and we will wait for the reflection much later.”
Because the Steelers are the third seed, they will host the playoff game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The game will look a lot different as Ben Roethlisberger and many of the Steelers other starters will be expected to play. The Browns will be ready to continue their fairy tale season as they look to come out stronger than ever next weekend.