The second would not require a flowery phrase. There are sufficient of these in Browns folklore that conjure up recollections of heartbreak.
Baker Mayfield put the Browns’ playoff destiny in his arms, and he made the play. On a third-and-2 with 1:10 remaining within the recreation, he took a quarterback sweep Three yards for a primary down. The conversion clinched a 24-22 victory over the Steelers and ended Cleveland’s limitless 18-year postseason drought.
NFL PLAYOFF PICTURE: Up to date standings for Week 17
It’s a second Browns followers gained’t overlook, however now it’s truthful to ask extra from Mayfield, the franchise quarterback who ended the Browns’ quarterback carousel — and took the fan base on an emotional roller-coaster experience Sunday.
Stress. Aid. Celebration. Reflection.
Now add one other phrase: anticipation. If Mayfield performs the best way he did within the second half of Week 17, then Cleveland is usually a robust out within the AFC playoffs. Mayfield will get an opportunity to show it when Cleveland (11-5) faces Pittsburgh (12-4) within the wild-card spherical subsequent weekend.
After all, with the stakes raised, the Steelers will not be resting key gamers resembling Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt once more. Roethlisberger is 24-2-1 towards the Browns as a starter and Mayfield is 0-Three at Heinz Discipline. Pittsburgh, which gained the AFC North however misplaced 4 of its final 5 video games to shut the 2020 common season, will likely be closely favored.
Success, then, will hinge much more on Mayfield, who’s tasked with main Cleveland to its first playoff victory since 1994.
Mayfield was shaky early Sunday. He hit simply 7 of 15 passes for 104 yards within the first half, and Cleveland led simply 10-9 after the Steelers kicked a subject purpose with 8:34 remaining within the third quarter.
That is when Mayfield led a businesslike drive that turned the momentum in Cleveland’s favor. He stepped via a blitz for a 28-yard scramble. He accomplished Four of Four passes for 49 yards, together with a 2-yard landing to Austin Hooper. Cleveland expanded its lead, and Pittsburgh backup quarterback Mason Rudolph threw an interception on the subsequent possession, which the Browns become one other TD.
Rudolph finally put the Steelers in place to tie the sport late within the fourth quarter, however he missed on a 2-point conversion cross to Chase Claypool. Stephen Carlson pulled an onside kick from between his legs, and Mayfield ended the anxiousness three performs later along with his keeper.
Now comes the enjoyable half. The Browns and Steelers will match up for the primary time within the postseason since Kelly Holcomb and Tommy Maddox placed on a present in Pittsburgh’s 36-33 wild-card victory on Jan. 5, 2003. Mayfield-Roethlisberger might be each bit as dramatic.
For the primary time since 1999, the Browns can steal the highlight from their longtime rivals. First-year coach Kevin Stefanski is a wonderful candidate for Coach of the 12 months. The 2-headed dashing assault of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt is right for playoff soccer, and the protection, led by Myles Garrett, has improved.
The postseason nonetheless hinges on quarterback play, nevertheless, and this will likely be Mayfield’s first time on that stage. The Payments’ Josh Allen and the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson are nonetheless on the lookout for their first postseason victories.
Within the his three earlier visits to Heinz Discipline, Mayfield is 50 of 86 (58.1 p.c) with 4 TDs and 4 interceptions. He has averaged 165 yards passing. Roethlisberger is 13-Eight within the postseason with three Tremendous Bowl appearances.
Nonetheless, this matchup is attention-grabbing, and to dismiss the Browns could be a mistake.
We are going to discover out Mayfield’s feeling subsequent weekend.
There is a fancy phrase for that. It will likely be required.