Cleveland Browns followers like to revel of their distress. The lengthy checklist of dud coaches. The never-ending line of quarterback busts. The workforce abandoning town solely to return just a few years later. And all that shedding, together with a winless season in 2017.
However Browns Nation acquired some measure of payback on Sunday when the Browns beat their rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-22, within the regular-season finale, and certified for the N.F.L. playoffs for the primary time for the reason that 2002 season, an absence of 18 years.
The 2 groups — the Steelers (12-4), because the third seed within the A.F.C., and the Browns (11-5), because the sixth — will meet once more subsequent week in Pittsburgh within the wild-card spherical.
The Browns’ victory ended the longest playoff drought within the N.F.L. (the Jets now take excessive spot with a ten-year absence) and accomplished a makeover that started three years in the past when Cleveland selected quarterback Baker Mayfield as the primary general decide within the draft.
When requested about what the victory meant to the workforce’s followers, Mayfield mentioned, “It means a lot to this metropolis.”
The win, in entrance of a pandemic-limited crowd of about 12,000 followers at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, supplied an additional dose of satisfaction as a result of it got here towards the Steelers, who’ve dominated the Browns for many years. For the reason that Steelers beat the Browns within the wild-card spherical in January 2003 — Cleveland’s final postseason look — Pittsburgh has won 29 of their 36 matchups.
Throughout that fallow interval, the Browns have burned via 25 quarterbacks, 10 head coaches and an entire lot of hope. The workforce has gone 91-196 since its last playoff appearance (a .317 successful proportion), a stretch that has included 14 seasons with double-digit losses. Their solely successful season throughout that stretch had been in 2007, when the Browns had been 10-6.
The Steelers had clinched the A.F.C. North and had no strategy to declare the highest seed within the A.F.C. and its first-round bye, so that they sat a number of of their finest gamers on Sunday, together with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The Browns had been short-handed as properly. Six gamers had been on the Covid-19 checklist and a number of other offensive linemen had been injured. Cleveland went with none beginning large receivers final week in a loss to the Jets due to an outbreak on the workforce. A number of extra gamers and coaches had been added to the Covid checklist since then.
This made the problem greater for the Browns, regardless that they had been enjoying at residence and towards the Steelers’ backup quarterback, Mason Rudolph.
The Browns opened with a bang, scoring a landing and area objective on their first three possessions, sparked partly by operating again Nick Chubb, who handed 1,000 yards speeding for the season.
However the Steelers saved the sport shut with three area targets via three quarters. The Browns, although, discovered a strategy to keep one step forward.
After Pittsburgh narrowed the rating to 10-9, Mayfield scrambled for 28 yards to maintain the following drive alive. He then hit tight finish Austin Hooper with a 2-yard landing cross to place the Browns up, 17-9.
On the following drive, M.J. Stewart of the Browns intercepted Rudolph and returned the ball to the Pittsburgh 20-yard line. Vast receiver Jarvis Landry ran for a landing 4 performs later to push the result in 24-9.
No Browns win over the Steelers comes simply. Rudolph hit large receiver Chase Claypool for a 28-yard rating. On the following drive, the Steelers sacked Mayfield to push the Browns out of field-goal vary. They then didn’t convert a fourth-down play, which gave the Steelers the ball again with three minutes 35 seconds to play.
Rudolph hit large receiver Diontae Johnson for a 47-yard completion, then threw a landing to JuJu Smith-Schuster to slim the rating to 24-22.
The Browns broke up the 2-point conversion to take care of the lead, however almost fumbled the restoration on an onside kick. It wasn’t till Mayfield ran three yards for a primary down that the Browns had been capable of run out the clock, safe the win and punch their ticket to the postseason.