The Cleveland Browns ended an 18-year playoff drought by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, 24-22.
And in typical Browns fashion, they made their fans sweat.
Needing a win over their big-brother rivals, the Browns came out strong and led 24-9 early in the fourth quarter as the Steelers — led by backup quarterback Mason Rudolph — struggled offensively.
They rallied for two touchdowns in the final 10-plus minutes and had a chance to tie, but Rudolph’s two-point pass was incomplete.
The 11-5 Browns will be the sixth seed. They will face the Steelers (No. 3 seed) again next week, with Ben Roethlisberger likely back.
And with Baker Mayfield’s late third-down conversion, time ran out on the Steelers and launched the Browns into the postseason for the first time in nearly two decades.
Mayfield had a good day throwing, completing 17 of 27 passes for 196 yards and one TD. But it was his running that added a big dimension to this game. Mayfield rushed six times for 44 yards, including the game-clinching first down as time was dwindling. He also had a 28-yard scamper that set up his own TD pass to Austin Hooper to take a 17-9 lead in the third quarter.
Nick Chubb also got in on the ground-game assault, rushing 14 times for 108 yards, including a 47-yard TD run to kick off the game’s scoring.
Jarvis Landry also scored on a razzle-dazzle 3-yard run in the fourth quarter, and Kareem Hunt added 37 yards on the ground.
Rudolph completed 22 of 39 passes for 315 yards and two TDs and one pick, with most of his production coming with the Steelers trailing in the second half. Pittsburgh went with a two-QB approach, bringing in Joshua Dobbs situationally, but it wasn’t all that effective. Dobbs completed 4 of 5 passes but for a mere 2 yards, also rushing for 20 yards on two rushes.
Roethlisberger rested this weekend with Pittsburgh having little to gain from this game as the Bills secured the No. 2 AFC seed with a blowout of the Dolphins. Still, the Steelers fought until the end before coming up short.
The Baltimore Ravens also won Sunday, landing three AFC North teams in the postseason.
Browns wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones was 2 years old the last time Cleveland was in the postseason. Mayfield was 6. First-year Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski was a 19-year-old sophomore defensive back at the University of Pennsylvania. No Browns player was in the NFL back in the 2002 season.
Even though it took a few stressful moments to endure, the Browns’ ending their postseason drought was well worth it.
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