Third times the charm for the Cleveland Browns? By beating the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 24-22 Sunday, they’ll face their AFC North foe for a third time next weekend.
The Cleveland Browns would strike first in the game, led by their star running back Nick Chubb, after the Pittsburgh Steelers punted to begin the game. After two Baker Mayfield completions of over 10 yards, Chubb would break off a 47 yard touchdown run to put the Browns up 7-0 early in the first quarter.
Both teams would trade punts, and on the Steelers third drive of the game, quarterback Mason Rudolph and the offense picked up two first downs, but the drive would stall near midfield, forcing them to punt.
The Browns would move the ball down the field quickly on their ensuing drive. Mayfield would connect with Rashad Higgins for a 42 yard gain, putting the Browns in Steelers territory mid-way through the second quarter. A few plays later, the Browns would have first and goal from the four yard line. However, the Steelers defense stood strong, and didn’t give up a touchdown. The Browns would connect on a 23 yard Cody Parkey field goal to put the Browns ahead 10-0 with 9:47 left in the second quarter.
The Steelers offense finally got some significant movement on their next drive. Mason Rudolph would find Diontae Johnson for a 41 yard catch and run, putting the Steelers past the 50 yard line for the first time all game. A play later, a Joshua Dobbs 13 yard run would put the Steelers just outside the 10 yard line, but like the Browns, their drive would stall. They would settle for a Matthew Wright 29 yard field goal, cutting the Browns lead to 10-3 with 4:24 left in the second quarter.
The Steelers defense would force a three and out on the Browns next drive, giving the offense the ball with 2:25 left before halftime.
Rudolph would move the ball effectively again on the ensuing drive, connecting with JuJu Smith-Schuster for gains of 12 and 26 to put them in field goal range before the half. However, the drive would be stopped right outside of the redzone, and the Steelers offense again had to settle for a Matthew Wright field goal, this time from 46 yards to cut the Browns lead to 10-6 at the half.
The Browns would begin the second half with a short drive, where they gained one first down, but the drive would result in a punt.
The Steelers offense would pick up where they left off late in the second half, moving the ball down the field once again led by Rudolph. He would find rookie Chase Claypool for a 41 yard gain to move them past midfield. The drive would fizzle out and Matthew Wright would connect on another 46 yard field goal, to pull the Steelers within one early in the third quarter.
The Browns offense would come alive in the third quarter, led by Baker Mayfield, as he connected with his wideouts for gains of 13 and 14 through the air. The big play on the drive was a Mayfield 28 yard scramble that put them into the redzone. A few plays later, Mayfield found Austin Hooper for a two yard score, giving the Browns a 17-9 lead with 3:51 left in the third, capping off an eight play, 76 yard drive.
A Mason Rudolph mistake on their next drive would give the Browns the ball in the Steelers territory on their next drive. Rudolph was intercepted by Browns defensive back M.J. Stewart Jr., and he returned it to the Steelers 20 yard line.
The Browns found the endzone four plays later, as Jarvis Landry would punch it in from three yards out. The Browns led 24-9 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The Steelers offense would respond, however, as James Conner started heating up, moving the Steelers near midfield. The Steelers would take a gamble on a fourth and eight midway through the drive, and convert with a Rudolph-Johnson connection. A few plays later, Rudolph would find Claypool in the corner of the endzone on another fourth down attempt, for a 28 yard touchdown. The score would cap a 13 play, 75 yard drive, and cut the Browns lead to 24-16 with 10 minutes left in the game.
The Browns would eat up almost seven minutes of clock on their next drive to try and seal the game. They would move the ball down all the way to the Pittsburgh 35 yard line, and take a gamble by trying to convert on a fourth down play. The Steelers defense would get a stop, as Mayfield’s pass to Higgins fell incomplete, giving the Steelers the ball back with 3:37 left.
The Steelers offense would again move the ball down the field, with ease. Rudolph would find Smith-Schuster for 13 yards, then Diontae Johnson for 43 yards to give them a first and goal. Three plays later, Rudolph connected with Smith-Schuster for a two yard touchdown, making the score 24-22 with 1:23 left. On the ensuing two point conversion, Rudolph’s pass would sail.
The Browns would run out the clock to clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2002.
Mason Rudolph completed 22 of 39 passes, 315 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Baker Mayfield finished the game 17 of 27 passes, 196 yards and one touchdown. Nick Chubb finished the day with 108 yards rushing.
These two teams will play again for a third time in the wild card round sometime next week. The schedule will be released either later today or tomorrow.