The Cleveland Browns – yes, those Cleveland Browns – are playoff bound.
Joe Flacco turned back the clock on Thursday night, getting revenge against a former team of his in the New York Jets en route to a 37-20 victory.
The first half was a scoring bonanza – Jerome Ford scored on the Browns’ first drive, but the Jets answered right back with a Breece Hall score. On the Browns’ next drive, it was Kareem Hunt. Cleveland opted to go for it on 4th and 4 from inside the 10 after recovering a fumble, but didn’t convert. However, they returned an interception to the house, and it was 20-7 before the first quarter even ended.
In the second quarter, Elijah Moore, too, got revenge on his old team with a touchdown to put Cleveland up 27-7 (cashing out over bets early in the second quarter), but after forcing a punt, Flacco threw a pick-six, and their lead was cut to 13. There was no need to panic, though, as Flacco found Jerome Ford for a 50-yard score and got them back up 20. Flacco threw for 296 yards in just the first half against the team he spent 2020-2022 with.
The Browns kicked off the second half by blocking a field goal, pretty much ruining any hope the Jets had.
This game was a tale of two halves – the only scoring in the final 30 minutes were two field goals, one from each team. So, there were 51 points in the first half, and just six in the second half.
It was the fourth-straight game Flacco threw for over 300 yards (he threw for just 13 in the second half). David Njoku led all players with 134 receiving yards, while Ford and Hunt combined for 95 yards on 22 carries and three total scores.
It’s the Browns’ third playoff appearance since being reborn in Cleveland (2002 and 2020). This is also the first time they’ve made the playoffs twice in a four-season span since the late 80s, although that iteration of the Browns is now the Baltimore Ravens.
Cleveland went for it by trading for Deshaun Watson and signing him to a contract worth $240 million, with all of it guaranteed in an unprecedented move. But Watson was up-and-down earlier this year, and then he was ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury.
The Browns then split between PJ Walker and Dorian Thompson-Robinson before finding Flacco a few weeks ago. At the time of Watson’s injury, it was going to be the elite Browns defense to propel them to the playoffs, but Flacco has looked like his old self since landing in Ohio. He’s thrown for 13 touchdowns and 1,616 yards in his five games with them.
A Ravens win would clinch them the AFC North, and the Browns would be locked into either the fifth or sixth seed. But that will be finalized after they take on the Bengals in Cincinnati in the season finale – a game which could mean a lot for the home team.
Meanwhile, the Jets fell to 5-11 and will wrap up their season in Foxboro against the New England Patriots in a battle for draft position – and what could be Bill Belichick’s final game in Massachusetts.