3 Takeaways from Browns' Week 11 Win
The Cleveland Browns continued their push toward the playoffs with another hard-fought win on Sunday.
Taking on the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles, the Browns pulled out a 22-17 win on a rainy day at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. After their Week 9 bye, the Browns have won back-to-back games over the Houston Texans and Eagles to improve to 7-3, exceeding their win total from a year ago (when they went 6-10).
Cleveland had only a two-point lead early in the fourth quarter before Kareem Hunt's 5-yard touchdown run with 9 minutes, 13 seconds remaining and Cody Parkey's 28-yard field goal with 3:49 to go sealed the victory. The Browns' defense allowed only 315 total yards, and the Eagles scored only 10 points in the first 59:30 of the game.
Cleveland now sits alone in second in the AFC North behind only the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0), and it remains in the thick of the AFC wild-card race.
Here are three takeaways from the Browns' win on Sunday.
Without Garrett, Defense Steps Up
The Browns were without one of their top defensive players, as All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday, causing him to not be available. That didn't stop Cleveland's defense from making some huge plays that set the tone of the game.
The first points came on a 50-yard interception return touchdown by linebacker Sione Takitaki, giving the Browns a 7-0 lead, which they still held at halftime. It was one of three turnovers forced by Cleveland, which also had five sacks. And defensive end Olivier Vernon recorded a safety late in the third quarter that pushed the Browns' lead to 12-7.
"You lose a guy of Myles’ caliber, you are not going to replace him," Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski said, according to Tom Withers of the Associated Press. "You need guys to step up, and it is a committee approach."
It's unknown when Garrett will return, but he was impressed by his teammates' performance, tweeting after the game that he was "smiling and crying" and was "so proud of the DL."
Cleveland's defense proved that it's capable of these types of performances (even without Garrett). And with some favorable matchups down the stretch, there could be more big plays to come from the Browns on that side of the ball.
In More Bad Weather, Offense Seals It Late
This was the Browns' third and final home game in November, and all three were impacted by bad weather. On Sunday, the winds weren't as strong as in previous weeks, but there was steady rain that impacted the offense's momentum once again.
In the first 50:47, Cleveland's only points on offense came via a 46-yard field goal by Parkey in the second quarter. But much like in their Week 10 win over the Texans, the Browns got their running game going late to help them seal the victory.
Running back Nick Chubb's biggest play of the day came with 10:40 to go, as he broke off a 54-yard run, which helped him eclipse the 100-yard mark for the second straight week since returning from injury (he finished with 114 yards on 20 attempts). Two plays later, Hunt scored on a 5-yard run in which he hurdled over a defender and went airborne into the corner of the end zone.
Cleveland's next drive was also productive, as it went 43 yards in 10 plays with Parkey's second field goal of the game pushing its lead to 12 points. After a day in which the Browns couldn't get much going on offense, they made plays when they needed to late.
"We knew it was not going to be easy. They come off the ball so we kind of were poking around looking for the right run scheme for our guys," Stefanski said, per Andrew Gribble of ClevelandBrowns.com. "I think we kind of unlocked it a little bit there at the end and were able to get again some hard yards."
The Browns' Odds of Making Playoffs Are Increasing
Could the Browns' 18-year playoff drought finally be nearing the end? Things are looking promising right now, as Cleveland currently sits alone in second in the AFC North at 7-3 after the Baltimore Ravens fell to 6-4 with a loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
If the season ended today, the Browns would be one of the AFC's three wild cards, as they're currently the No. 6 seed. But there are three 6-4 teams behind them, including the Las Vegas Raiders, who would be the final team in the AFC playoffs as the No. 7 seed. So Cleveland needs to keep winning to potentially return to the postseason for the first time since 2002.
Half of the Browns' final six regular-season opponents have losing records—the 1-9 Jacksonville Jaguars (who they play in Week 12), the 3-7 New York Giants (Week 15) and the 0-10 New York Jets (Week 16). Cleveland also has tougher matchups against Tennessee, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, but it will at least be at home for the AFC North contests against the Ravens (Week 14) and the Steelers (Week 17).
According to FiveThirtyEight's playoff projections, the Browns have a 69 percent chance of reaching the postseason. If they win their three remaining games against weaker opponents and also win one of the other three matchups, it's hard to imagine Cleveland would miss out.
But for that to happen, the Browns will have to keep playing well and keep their momentum going down the stretch.