On Thursday night in front of their fans, the Cleveland Browns won their fourth consecutive game and secured a playoff spot for the first time since 2020 with a 37-20 victory over the Jets. Kevin Stefanski’s club owned a 27-7 lead with 6:15 remaining in the first half. Jim Shwartz’s defensive unit bent but rarely broke, giving up one offensive touchdown and that came midway through the first quarter.
The party continues for veteran quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns (1 interception) in the first half. Cleveland outgained the Jets, 367-163, after two quarters of play.
Keep in mind that in last night’s 17-point win, Flacco finished the evening with 309 yards through the air, to go along with the aforementioned three touchdowns and one pick, which was returned for a score. Also, tight end David Njoku caught six passes for 134 yards, but also lost a fumble. Running back Pierre Strong carried four times for 49 yards, and also lost a fumble.
When it was all said and done, Stefanski’s club finished with 428 total yards on 58 plays, an impressive 7.4 yards per play, outgained the Jets (360 yards), and limited New York’s offensive unit to a Trevor Siemian-to-Breece Hall 21-yard touchdown toss. They also finished with one more turnover (3) than the Jets (2). That means the Browns have given up the ball 35 times in 16 games.
A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts committed a league-high 34 turnovers and finished 4-12-1. If Cleveland winds up leading the NFL in giveaways (we will know after Week 18), they would be the first team since the 2003 St. Louis Rams to lead the league in turnovers and reach the playoffs. Stay tuned.
There’s a devil-may-care feeling about Flacco and the Browns these days. Being loose and perhaps playing without high expectations (Cleveland finished 7-10 in 2022) is benefitting the club at the moment. Then again, when you have a defense that has spent basically the whole season giving up the fewest total yards per game in the league.
It’s also worth noting that the Browns have totaled 44 sacks and 27 takeaways in their 11-5 campaign. That’s been enough to offset a team that has turned over the football in 15 of its 16 outings in 2023. Consider that Stefanski’s squad has given up the football 11 times during its current four-game winning streak. These Browns are quite the story.