Flacco guides Browns to unlikely playoff place

Cleveland Browns defeat visiting New York Jets 37-20; Browns secure their first playoff spot in 22 years; Joe Flacco was called in and saved their season as injuries ruled out a host of their players

Last Updated: 29/12/23 8:11am

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Highlights of the New York Jets against the Cleveland Browns from Week 16 of the NFL season
Highlights of the New York Jets against the Cleveland Browns from Week 16 of the NFL season

The Cleveland Browns clinched an unlikely playoff berth – just their second since 2002 – despite numerous injuries this season, with a 37-20 win over the New York Jets on Thursday night.

Veteran quarterback Joe Flacco, a recent addition to the team, passed for 309 yards and three touchdowns in Cleveland.

The Browns (11-5) are assured of a wildcard spot and still have a chance to win the AFC North and maybe the conference’s No 1 overall seed, something that seemed unfathomable just weeks ago as major injuries piled up.

But things have changed with the arrival of Flacco. The 38-year-old quarterback improved to 4-1 as a starter with the Browns, who plucked the Super Bowl 47 MVP off his couch in New Jersey last month to hopefully rescue their season. He’s done that and more.

Joe Flacco has come in to save the Cleveland Browns' season
Joe Flacco has come in to save the Cleveland Browns’ season

Flacco threw two touchdown passes to Jerome Ford in the first half as the Browns built a 20-point lead over the Jets (6-10), who chose not to re-sign the 15-year veteran after he spent three seasons with them, and after Aaron Rodgers had torn his Achilles tendon in Week 1.

Flacco torched New York for 296 yards in the first half and became the first quarterback in 34 games to go over 300 yards against the Jets. He’s also the first Cleveland quarterback to pass for more than 300 in four straight games.

The Jets were forced to start Trevor Siemian for the second week in a row with Zach Wilson sidelined by a concussion.

Siemian had some nice moments, but an overthrow late in first quarter was returned 30 yards for a touchdown by safety Ronnie Hickman to put the Browns up 20-7.

New York’s Jermaine Johnson had a pick-6 in the second quarter when he beautifully deflected Flacco’s pass to himself and returned it 37 yards.

Nothing has been easy this season for the Browns, who have continued to win despite being overrun by injuries since the opener.

Trevor Siemian could not make the difference for the New York Jets
Trevor Siemian could not make the difference for the New York Jets

Flacco is their fourth starting quarterback, they’re missing both first-team offensive tackles and 12 players – including quarterback Deshaun Watson and running back Nick Chubb – are on injured reserve.

So, it was fitting they went into their biggest game this season missing their starting kicker, punter and wide receiver Amari Cooper, who was coming off a franchise record-setting 265-yard performance on Sunday in Houston.

Browns wide receiver Elijah Moore did suffer a head injury in the second quarter.

After catching a 22-yard pass from Flacco, Moore’s helmet was driven into the turf as he went down. He rolled onto his back and appeared to twitch as teammates quickly called for medical personnel.

Moore, who spent the past two seasons with the Jets, was helped off the field and escorted to Cleveland’s locker room.

What did they say?

Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco: “You don’t know how many of these moments you’re going to get. I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life.

“It was special. This is obviously a unique situation for me, so I’ve got a lot of different emotions running through my head.”

New York Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian: “That’s my job, I’m running the show out there. I’m the quarterback, so I have to know how many guys are on the field and make sure we are legal. I have to run the show and obviously didn’t do a good enough job.”

What’s next?

The Ravens host Miami Dolphins while the 49ers visit Washington on Sunday December 31.

Make sure you tune in to Sky Sports NFL every Sunday at 6pm for the first game of our triple-header of live action. The evening’s entertainment also includes NFL Redzone action as hosted by Scott Hanson, as well as Sunday Night Football to round off the night.

Sky Sports will broadcast two exclusive live games every Sunday throughout the regular season in the 6pm and 9pm slots, while also showing every Thursday Night, Sunday Night and Monday Night match-up.

Source : Sky Sports