Cleveland, Ohio – The grief factory turned into the happiness factory.
Long-suffering Brown fans return to the qualifiers for the first time since 2002. The Browns, who finished the season 11-5, ended their 17-season dry spell in the league with a 24-22 win over the Steelers.
It was the longest active streak in the NFL.
Fans banged on the seats inside First Energy Stadium and chanted “Pittsburgh Sachs”.
Baker Mayfield, who had vowed he could turn this team over if anyone could, cheered with fans as he walked off the field.
Runs over Miles Jarrett, who was captain for this match, and patted Mason Rudolph after the match after a tortuous helmet accident from last year.
Brown will now have a chance to do everything against the Steelers (12-4) in the first round of qualifiers next weekend at Heinz Field. In that game, Steelers Ben Rothlesberger, TJ Watt and other superstar players will return.
“I’m proud of this soccer team, and I’m really proud of these players,” Brown’s coach Kevin Stefansky said after the match. “… and I’m happy for our fans. They deserve it. They have been waiting for this.”
“I also want to take note, I gave a game ball to Jimmy Haslam, Dee and the whole group … they were there for us.
“I am really proud of this for all the people who have worked with the organization for a long time.”
By 24-16 late in the fourth quarter, Brown had a chance for some time at the end, but failed to reach the goal range. A fourth lane down designated for Richard Higgins fell unfinished, and the Steelers took over at 35 with 3:37 remaining.
Mason Rudolph, who had already hit two passes from 41 yards in the game, found Diontae Johnson 47 yards to Browns 10. After a few plays, Rudolph threw a TD pass from 2 yards into JuJu Smith-Smith Schuster to pull it inward 24-22. But Rudolph’s two-point pass to Chase Claypool was incomplete, and the 12,000 fans inside the First Energy Stadium roared as much as 68,000.
Browns’ end Stephen Carlson recovered a kick to the side as Brown put the match away when Mayfield turned the third goal and 2 on the goalkeeper.
The Steelers pull into 1, but Brown wakes
Rudolph fired a second pass from 41 yards of the match, this time to Claypool, to Browne’s 36. He led to a field goal from 46 yards that nudged the Steelers in 10-9 with 8:29 left in the third quarter.
But then, the tide turned to Brown, and they remember the playoffs were at stake.
Mayfield shot Austin Hopper wide open with a 2-yard TD pass to the left side of the end zone boosting their lead to 17-9 while leaving 3:48 in the half. Mayfield hit David Njoku with a massive 14-yard pass in the third and fifth places to continue driving, then lunge 28 yards up the left side to 16.
Khudryll Hodge hunted 10 yards near the left pylon to create a TD, then left the Steelers Hopper wide open in the end zone.
MG Stewart’s great intelligence
On leading the Steelers next, corner player MJ Stewart picked Rudolph at 3 and 9 of 41 on a custom Smith Shuster pass. Browns rookie midfielder Jacob Phillips made the choice possible, bumping into Brodolph to force the stray throw. It cut a series of three consecutive matches without takeaway for Browns. INT returned 30 yards to 20 for the Steelers, and Jarvis Landry turned it 3 in first play in the fourth quarter to make it 24-9. Hodge set up a TD with a 15-yard receiver.
Olivier Vernon suffered a left ankle injury
End of Brown’s defensive line Olivier Vernon suffered what appeared to be a serious ankle injury as he left 10:18 in the third quarter and was taken to the locker room. He suffered from it while driving the Steelers in the fourth quarter, and was unable to put any weight on his left leg when he was helped off the field. He was the second player Brown lost in the match, including Donovan People’s Jones, who was examined for concussion in the first half and did not return.
Steelers pulled to 24-16
After Vernon left the field, the Steelers withdrew to 24–16 in a 28-yard TD pass from Rudolph to Claypool, which was covered tightly by Terence Mitchell.
Highlights of the first half
Brown led 10-6 after Nick Chubb’s 47 yards touchdown and Cody Parkey’s stadium goal 23 yards. The Steelers got a 29-yard field goal and a 46-yard field goal from reserve kicking Matthew Wright.
Mayfield completed 7 of 15 attempts at 104 yards in the first half without any touchdowns or interceptions, for a rating of 69.9. He was sacked twice.
Rudolph competed 11 out of 18 in the first half of 134 yards, with neither TDs nor INTs for a rating of 84.0.
People’s Jones injury occurred in the final round of the first half when he jumped for a high pass over the middle and was drilled in the back by Shawn Davis. He stayed on the field for a few minutes, then was taken to the sidelines and to the dressing room, where he was diagnosed with a concussion.
Nick Chubb lands 47 yards
Chubb got the party started early by dropping off the right side 47 yards on a Browns open drive. Chubb caused Tyson to miss Aloaloo early, then Minka Fitzpatrick left Safety in the Dust at about 25 to find daylight.
Chubb went over 1,000 yards on the run – he needed 41 – and became the first Brown to return to dash 1,000 yards in successive seasons since Jamal Lewis did it in 2007-08. He accomplished the feat despite losing four matches earlier in the season due to an MCL sprain.
Chubb started driving with an 11-yard blast in the first play.
Last season, Chubb finished second in the NFL to Derek Henry of Tennessee with a distance of 1494 yards.
Mayfield to Higgins for 42
In the second quarter, Mayfield hit Higgins with a 42-yard pass down the right sideline, defeating Cleveland native Justin Lane, who started the match in place of Haden. Unfortunately for the Browns, they only got a 23-yard field goal from big play. Minka Fitzpatrick broke a pass to David Njoku on 1 and a goal of 4 and then Mayfield imperfectly threw in third.
Rudolph responded with a massive blow from 41 yards to Deontay Johnson down the right sideline, aiming for Jackson, but the Steelers had to level a field goal from 29 yards to pull in within 10-3 with a 4:10 left in the half. After Adrian Clayborn pressed Rudolph in the third installment. They made it 10-6 in a field goal from 46 yards with 1:07 remaining in the half.
The Steelers added to the pressure on their last two leads from the first half to possessing kill bags in each of those discs. Brown has 35 with 1:07 remaining in the half and a chance to increase their lead 10-6, but they messed that up.
The first play was a high pass by Peoples-Jones over the middle causing him to concussion, and the second was a 10-yard pass by Alex Highsmith. They chased two plays later.
Victory came after a tumultuous and exhausting week for Browns.
Jarrett was appointed captain of the match by coach Kevin Stefansky, but not because he was facing Rudolph again. Garrett had hoped to be the captain to beat the Cowboys on October 4 because he was born and raised there, but Stefansky chose Andrew Sindigo for that match instead.
When Stefansky made the announcement the Friday before the Cowboys game, Garrett asked him about it, and Stefansky gave him his choice for the rest of the games. He chose this game, long before he knew it would be a must-have match for Browns, and long before he knew it would represent a second match between him and Rudolph, who participated in the helmet accident at First Energy last season.
In the final moments of Brown’s 7-21 victory on November 14, Jarrett tore off Rudolph’s helmet and struck him on the head. Garrett later told ESPN that Rudolph called him “my stupid in,” a charge that Rudolph vehemently denied.
Browns recovered five players in this game who missed an opportunity to help Brown beat the Jets last week and grab a tipping point: recipients Jarvis Landry, Richard Higgins, Donovan People Jones, Daryl Hodge and full-back Jacob Phillips.
But they also had six players on the COVID-19 reserve list for this match namely Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson, midfielders B. Judson and Malcolm Smith, free safety Andrew Sindigo and Harrison Bryant court finishers. Test results came back positive for Ward, Smith and Bryant on Thursday, and Johnson was placed on the list on Saturday.
Cornback Robert Jackson, who only played in special teams this season, started his first career in place of Ward.
But the Steelers were also a shotgun for the team that beat Brown 38-7 on October 18 in Pittsburgh. Pro Bowlers Ben Roethlisberger, TJ Watt, Cam Heyward, and Maurkice Pouncey all rested so Mike Tomlin could “mail them to the playoffs”. They didn’t even make the trip to Cleveland.
The Steelers were also without starting corner back Joe Haden, Erik Ebron and midfielder Cassius Marsh, who were put on the COVID-19 reserve list on Saturday. Haden has tested positive for the virus and is also likely to be out of the first round of qualifiers next week.
* next one
New Browns face masks for sale: Here you can buy Cleveland Browns-inspired face covers for corona virus protection for adults and teens, including 1 mask ($ 14.99) and 3-pack ($ 24.99). All proceeds from NFL were donated to the CDC Foundation.
More brown coverage