Denver, CO — The Cleveland Browns playing a meaningful game in December is not something football fans are used to. However, that was the storyline coming into Saturday’s game as they hit the road to face the Denver Broncos.
It wasn’t the prettiest football game, but the Browns were able to will themselves to a victory thanks to a stout performance by their defense. The Broncos offense was one dimensional and only managed 32 rushing yards on 20 attempts. Emerging star running back Phillip Lindsay was held to just 44 total yards.
Linebackers Joe Schobert, Jamie Collins, and safety Jabrill Peppers led the defensive charge recording a combined 19 tackles, five tackles for loss and two sacks. Peppers’ sack happened to be the most important coming in the closing seconds of the game as he was able to get to Case Keenum on a fourth down attempt.
The Browns now move to6-7-1 and are only one game back for the second wild card spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Broncos, on the other hand, fall to 6-8 and will need a lot to happen in order for them to sneak into the playoffs.
Rookie quarterback sensation Baker Mayfield continued his spectacular campaign by throwing for 188yards and two touchdowns in the victory. While his stats may not jump out at you, Mayfield did an exceptional job moving around in the pocket, extending plays and doing just enough to put his team in position to win. After T.J. Carrie’s interception, Mayfield led a critical touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter to retake the lead.
The Browns got off to a hot start as they drove down and scored a touchdown in just four plays on their first possession of the game. Mayfied connected with receiver Breshad Perriman who made an impressive catch over Tramaine Brock in the end zone.
Denver was able tore respond two possessions later with a methodical, 13-play drive that was capped off by Keenum’s one-yard touchdown run to tie things up at 7-7.
The two teams exchanged field goals to start the second quarter but things got sloppy the rest of the way. Keenum threw an interception to Peppers in the end zone, but the Browns were unable to convert and turn it into points. Mayfield then threw an interception in Denver territory with 30 seconds to go, leaving the scored tied at 10-10 at the half.
The Browns fumbled on their first possession of the second half and the Broncos were able to turn that into a field goal, giving themselves a 13-10 advantage. However, after Carrie’s interception, Cleveland retook the lead as Mayfield connected with Antonio Calloway in the end zone.
Denver drove down 68yards the ensuing possession and was threatening inside the red zone, but a costly delay of game penalty took away their chance of going for it on fourth down and one from the Cleveland six-yard line. Instead,head coach Vance Joseph settled for a field goal to put the score at 17-16.
Cleveland attempted to run out the clock and went for it on fourth down on their next drive, but failed to convert, giving the Broncos one last attempt to retake the lead with1:49 to go. Denver was able to get the ball to the 50-yard line but faced a fourth and 10 when Peppers came through the line on an all-out blitz and sacked Keenum to secure the victory.
The Browns will take on the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens in their final two games of the year. Both are must-win games if they expect to reach the playoffs.
Denver wraps up their season with the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers as they have their work cut out for them if they want to make a playoff push.