The Cleveland Browns brought 27 years of hurt to an end on the weekend, when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 48-37 to record the franchise’s first play-off victory since 1994. Their first play-off campaign since 2002 will now continue with a challenging game at Kansas City Chiefs this weekend.
The shock victory over the Steelers came on the back of a stunning first quarter display from the Browns. Cleveland’s Karl Joseph set the tone, recovering a fumbled Steelers snap to score a touchdown as the Browns roared into a 28-0 lead. They were 35-10 up at half-time with Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing three interceptions in the first half.
Roethlisberger recovered his form after the interval, though, almost triggering a full comeback with touchdown passes to Eric Ebron and JuJu Smith-Schuster. A 40-yard touchdown run from the Browns’ Nick Chubb helped to restore matters in Cleveland’s favor, though.
Browns resisted Steelers fightback
The Steelers carried on fighting until the very last, however, with Roethlisberger striving manfully to make things work. It was his fourth interception of the day that sealed the win for the Browns, though, when Sione Takitaki caught his pass instead of a Steelers man.
The Steelers QB still managed to produce some remarkable stats in defeat, passing for 501 yards and four touchdowns, and completing 47 of 68 passes. The four interceptions he threw turned out to be more significant, however, sadly for him.
The victory was also a landmark as it was the Browns’ first win at Pittsburgh since October 2003. Remarkably, it was achieved in the absence of head coach Kevin Stefanski and a number of his colleagues, as they had tested positive for coronavirus earlier in the week and were compelled to self-isolate.
Mayfield and Chubb were outstanding for the Browns on Sunday and their hopes of progressing further in the post-season surely rest mainly on the shoulders of this duo. Last Sunday, Mayfield completed 21 of 34 passes, throwing for 263 yards and three touchdowns. In contrast to Roethlisberger, he was not intercepted.
Chubb also stepped up to the mark, running for 76 yards from 18 carries. He also caught four receptions for 69 yards and one touchdown. That touchdown came from a Mayfield screen pass on a 40-yard play that put the Browns into a 42-23 lead.
Cleveland resilient at the right time
Cleveland showed some resilience and steel at just the right time of the season, having seen big leads evaporate on two previous occasions this season. On October 4 against Dallas they took a 41-14 lead into the final quarter but ended up leading 41-38 after the Cowboys scored with just three minutes remaining. The Browns hung on to win 49-38 that day. On December 6, the Browns beat Tennessee Titans 41-35, but had led by 31 points at half-time.
On Sunday evening, the Steelers closed within 12 points late in the third quarter but the Browns held on. Sentimental NFL fans are sure to be keeping a close eye on how the rest of their play-off campaign turns out.