Decimated Browns lose 23-16 to surging Jets

It turns out that being without four wide receivers isn’t a recipe for success, something the Cleveland Browns learned the hard way on Sunday.

The Browns lost 23-16 to the New York Jets on Sunday, stopping the Browns from clinching their first playoff berth since 2002 and giving the Pittsburgh Steelers the AFC North title. The Jets now have a wholly unbelievable two-game winning streak. Even more unbelievable: both of their victories happened against winning teams.

The Browns, down several key offensive players, lost to the still-terrible Jets. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
The Browns, down several key offensive players, lost to the still-terrible Jets. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Browns down key players

When a team loses to the 2020 Jets, it’s more about what the losing team did than what the Jets did to win. In this case, the Browns were down wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins, as well as Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge, two key backup receivers. Mayfield had no one to throw to, and the Jets took advantage.

It was also bad fortune that guard Wyatt Teller and left tackle Jedrick Wills were out, because without his best receivers Mayfield could have used their protection on the line. Instead, he took several sacks in the first half that doomed multiple drives. The defense didn’t seem to have an answer for the Jets, because New York scored two touchdowns before halftime.

Of the Browns’ seven first half possessions, they punted four times, fumbled once, made a field goal, and missed a field goal. They scored just three points to the Jets’ 13 when they headed back to the locker room.

Second-half surge not enough

It seemed like the Jets would continue to dominate the Browns when they started the third quarter with a touchdown, but the Browns mounted a comeback. They scored a touchdown of their own late in the third quarter to narrow the deficit to 10 points. Another touchdown with 12:42 left in the game brought them even closer, but a missed extra point kept them behind by four points instead of three.

That doinked extra point didn’t end up mattering. With just over three minutes left in the game, the Jets forced Mayfield to fumble deep in Browns territory. They managed to kick a field goal off the turnover, giving the Browns seven points to make up.

It looked like they were on their way to doing just that, but the holy roller rule ended it all for the Browns. On fourth-and-inches with under two minutes left, Mayfield fumbled. It was recovered by Kareem Hunt, but the ball can’t be advanced by anyone other than the fumbling player when there are less than two minutes left. The Browns turned it over on downs, and the Jets claimed victory.

The Browns aren’t eliminated from the postseason, but they need a win in Week 17 to end that 17-year playoff drought.

Meanwhile, the Jets kept distancing themselves from that first overall pick. Their Week 15 win put it in jeopardy, and this win against the Browns plus the Jacksonville Jaguars’ loss to the Chicago Bears means they’ve 100 percent lost it. Two wins is better than drafting a franchise quarterback, right?

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