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Browns vs. Steelers Final Score: Cleveland falls flat after solid start, loses 20-13

The Browns’ playoff hopes are all but over, not at 5-7, and suffering their first division loss of the season.

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The rivalry re-match did not go as Browns fans hoped, continuing Cleveland’s long losing streak in Heinz Field as they fell 20-13. At 5-7, the Browns’ playoff hopes are now all-but-over. Let’s get to how the action went down.

The Browns began the game with a drive that lasted 7:29, including a highlight-reel sideline catch by WR Jarvis Landry that, after replay review, was ruled a catch. The Steelers’ defense tightened up in the red zone, forcing the Browns to settle for a 31-yard field goal by K Austin Seibert to give Cleveland a 3-0 lead.

The Steelers returned the opening kickoff to the 41 yard line. After two short run plays, QB Devlin Hodges was sacked for a loss of 13 yards by DE Chad Thomas on his first dropback, leading to a punt. Cleveland only managed one first down on their next drive, but then a punt to the 15 yard line helped change field position near the end of the first quarter.

When Cleveland got the ball back at the beginning of the second quarter, they put together another efficient drive, taking up 5:42 of clock. The Browns were fortunate on one play in which OLB T.J. Watt drilled QB Baker Mayfield as he tried to throw a wheel route, but the ball happened to float to WR Jarvis Landry in the slot to set up a managable 3rd-and-5 in the red zone. Mayfield found RB Kareem Hunt on a creative formation, and the catch-and-run went 15 yards for the game’s first touchdown and putting the Browns up 10-0.

On Pittsburgh’s next offensive drive, Cleveland jumped offsides on a third down play, giving Hodges the presence of mind to chuck a pass deep. It paid off, as he connected with WR James Washington for a 31-yard gain. Then on the next play, some trickery on a couple of end arounds led to a 17-yard gain, putting Pittsburgh into field goal range. Compounding matters, Thomas and DL Sheldon Richardson went to the blue tent for injuries on that end around play — although Thomas returned a few plays later (and Richardson returned on the next series). The defense tightened up, holding the Steelers to a 39-yard field goal by K Chris Boswell to cut the lead to 10-3 with under three minutes to go in the first half.

The Browns went three-and-out on their next drive. On third down, Mayfield did a good job shaking defenders, but WR Rashard Higgins couldn’t come up with a diving catch downfield that was open. Pittsburgh capitalized in the two-minute situation, first slinging a 28-yard pass to WR Tevin Jones, and then finding Washington for a 30-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 10-10 with a minute to go in the first half.

The Browns were all the way back at the 4 yard line on their next drive, but still tried playing through it. They had a couple of nice runs by Hunt, but then Mayfield launched a deep ball about 65 yards — it fell incomplete, but on his follow through, his hand hit into the hand of LB Bud Dupree, and he raced off the field and into the locker room in pain.

Coming out of the second half, Hodges found Washington for another big play down the sideline, this time for 44 yards. A run of 9 yards made it 2nd-and-1 from the 6 yard line, but then Cleveland’s defense hit the running back for a loss of 6 yards to make it 3rd-and-7. Hodges threw a fade route, and CB Denzel Ward was flagged for pass interference. With the ball at the 1 yard line, RB Benny Snell punched it in to give Pittsburgh their first lead of the game at 17-10.

Mayfield was able to return for the second half, now with a glove on his hand. Cleveland had a good drive going past midfield, but then a holding penalty on RT Chris Hubbard pushed them back to a 2nd-and-20 near midfield. On the next play, Mayfield was pressured, tried scrambling to his left, and was strip-sacked by LB Bud Dupree for a turnover in their own territory.

Defensively, the Browns desperately needed a big play, but they couldn’t get one from anybody as Pittsburgh methodically moved the ball downfield. On 3rd-and-goal from the 3 yard line, the Browns forced a sack, but Boswell still came on to connect on the all-important 29-yard field goal to give Pittsburgh a two-possession lead at 20-10 with 13:48 left in the game. Cleveland couldn’t respond offensively, going three-and-out and punting back to Pittsburgh.

Cleveland forced a three-and-out of their own, but now they got the ball with only about 10 minutes left in the game. Mayfield got started quickly on the next series with completions of 19, 21, and 23 yards on three straight plays. The drive stalled in the red zone, with the back-breaker being a pass that TE Demetrius Harris couldn’t haul in that would’ve been a touchdown. Seibert came in for a 34-yard field goal and made it to cut the Steelers’ lead to 20-13 with 7:30 to go in the game.

The Browns got back in the game when Hodges, on the first play of the next series, threw an interception right to CB Terrance Mitchell, who returned the pick so Cleveland took over 30 yards away from the end zone.

Unfortunately, Landry couldn’t haul in a tremendous pass at the boundary of the goal line, and then the Steelers tackled Hunt for no gain on second down. On 3rd-and-10, Mayfield was sacked for a loss of 8 yards. The Browns lined up for a long field goal try, but it ended up being a pooch punt. Originally downed at the 1 yard line, replay showed that Cleveland touched the ball while in the end zone, which should have brought it back to the 20 yard line. However, the review kept the ruling on the field, putting Pittsburgh back at their own 1 yard line with 5:35 to go.

Sadly, Snell found a gap on first down, picking up 11 yards for a first down. With 2:44 left in the game, the Steelers faced a pivotal 3rd-and-6. Hodges found TE Vance McDonald, who caught the ball about 2 yards shy of the first down; however, Ward and CB T.J. Carrie couldn’t bring him down on first contact, and McDonald fell forward for a first down.

Having burned all three of their timeouts, the defense had one final chance to get a stop, with the Steelers again facing 3rd-and-6, now at the two-minute warning. Pittsburgh opted to throw, and the pass fell incomplete, leading to a punt for a touchback. Mayfield took over with 1:45 to go, no timeouts, and needing a touchdown. They didn’t get it. Mayfield’s pass for Landry deep up the seam was behind him, and CB Joe Haden made the interception, sealing the victory.

Quick Hitters

  • QB Baker Mayfield: 18-of-32 for 196 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.
  • RB Nick Chubb: 16 carries, 58 yards. 1 catch, 21 yards.
  • RB Kareem Hunt: 7 carries, 46 yards. 5 catches, 19 yards, 1 TD.
  • WR Odell Beckham: 3 catches, 29 yards (6 targets).
  • WR Jarvis Landry: 6 catches, 76 yards (11 targets).