Baker Mayfield, COVID-19-ravaged Browns fumble securing a playoff spot with 23-16 loss to Jets, but can clinch next week

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Baker Mayfield stood on the sphere and hung his head after fumbling for the third time in a 23-16 loss to the Jets, one which value the Browns an opportunity to clinch their first playoff berth in 18 years.

It had been a gut-wrenching 24 hours through which Mayfield, who fumbled on a fourth and 1 sneak on the finish, misplaced his prime 4 receivers to the COVID-19 reserve listing, and in addition his beginning left sort out in Jedrick Wills Jr. to an sickness. The Browns had been already down proper guard Wyatt Teller.

“There’s no excuse. Plain and easy, I failed this staff,’’ stated Mayfield, who answered one query after which walked away out of the Zoom room. “I put three balls on the bottom, two of them that they recovered after which the opposite on the fourth down. Clearly I want to only maintain onto the rattling ball. So plain and easy, I’ve to carry onto the rattling ball. We had precisely what we would have liked to win this recreation, and I didn’t do adequate. That’s it.’’

Now, the Browns, who dropped to 10-5, are in a do-or-almost die scenario subsequent week towards the 12-Three Steelers — who clinched the AFC North Sunday — at First-Vitality Stadium.

With the Colts (10-5) shedding to the Steelers (12-Three) on Sunday, all of the Browns needed to do was beat the Jets to clinch their first playoff berth since 2002. As an alternative, they misplaced to a staff that had received one recreation all season. Granted, it was a victory over the Rams final week, however nonetheless.

Now, they need to both beat the Steelers or hope the Colts lose to the 1-14 Jaguars to get in. They will additionally clinch if the Titans lose their final recreation Sunday, coupled with victories subsequent week by the Dolphins and Ravens.

“I received outcoached. We received outplayed. We did the issues you’ll be able to’t do,’’ Browns coach Kevin Stefanski stated. “We had been minus-two within the turnover battle – you’ll be able to’t do this. Penalties. Drops. Not good. That’s going to get you beat, and it did so credit score to the Jets. As I perceive it, subsequent week, you win and also you’re in so the entire work that the blokes have put within the season, we nonetheless management our personal future.’’

The Browns performed the sport underneath excessive adversity, and didn’t reply properly. On Saturday, linebacker B.J. Goodson examined constructive for COVID-19, and by the tip of the day, 5 of his teammates landed on the COVID-19 reserve listing as high-risk shut contacts: receivers Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge, and beginning linebacker Jacob Phillips.

If that wasn’t unhealthy sufficient, Wills was dominated out Sunday morning with an sickness per COVID-19 protocols, regardless that he examined unfavourable. Wills had simply been activated off the COVID listing on Saturday after coming involved with an individual exterior the group who examined constructive.

The Browns canceled their walk-through on Saturday and flew to New Jersey at 7 p.m., greater than 4 hours later than scheduled. They carried out their walk-through at eight:15 Sunday morning so gamers equivalent to receivers Ja’Marcus Bradley and Derrick Willies, known as up from the apply squad Saturday, might stand up to hurry. However Stefanski refused to make use of the COVID disaster as an excuse.

“We had loads of energetic [players],’’ Stefanski stated. “We belief the blokes who had been taking part in in the present day. That’s why they’re Cleveland Browns. That’s actually not the story right here. We simply didn’t do sufficient. We did too many issues that a shedding staff does, and that’s what you get while you do this.”

Mayfield agreed.

“I’m happy with these for with the ability to step up,’’ he stated. “I imply, these guys didn’t even suppose they had been going to play. So for anyone to criticize them, disgrace on you. Put it on me for not doing my job, for not taking part in at a excessive stage like I ought to have, for not getting these guys going and ending out this recreation.

Mayfield (28-of-53, 285 yards, four sacks, 68.5 ranking) was strip-sacked twice and the Jets transformed these into 10 factors. One rating was a landing go from Sam Darnold (16-of-32, 175 yards, 2 TDs, zero INTs, 87.four ranking) to Chris Herndon on considered one of three blown coverages; and one was within the fourth quarter that led to a discipline aim for the 23-16 edge with 2:52 left.

However the killer was the fumble on the fourth and 1 sneak with 1:18 remaining. The Browns began at their 40 with an opportunity to win or tie, and marched to the 16. Mayfield had the ball knocked unfastened, and Kareem Hunt fell on the ball, however by rule solely the fumbler can advance it within the closing two minutes of the sport. The decision stood on overview.

“It was inches. Be ok with that [call],’’ Stefanski stated. “We simply can’t lose the ball on a sneak. It simply can’t occur. It has occurred twice.”

It was harking back to the Titans recreation, when Mayfield fumbled on a fourth and 1 sneak, and the Titans recovered to shut inside 41-35 with 28 seconds left. Andy Janovich sealed the victory by recovering the onside kick. This time, Mayfield couldn’t be saved.

“I’ve received to carry onto the ball for a QB sneak,’’ Mayfield stated. “Clearly, Kareem was in the suitable spot on the proper time, grabbed the ball and tried to advance, however you’ll be able to’t advance a fumble underneath two minutes within the fourth quarter. It’s what it’s. This one’s on me.’’

Defensive finish Myles Garrett, who sacked Darnold as soon as, didn’t suppose Mayfield, sacked thrice within the first half, was rattled by the absence of his trusted ability gamers.

“I didn’t see something change in his eyes or his demeanor,’’ Garrett stated. “He went on the market the identical gunslinger you understand him as. He comes ready. It was on all of us. All of us got here up a little bit bit quick. They had been ready. That they had a superb gameplan. They discovered a option to win. That’s the secret.”

The Jets, who led 13-Three on the half and 20-Three within the third quarter earlier than the Browns scored 13 straight factors, bottled up Nick Chubb, and rendered the play-action recreation just about ineffective. They held the Browns — third within the NFL with 152.6 dashing yards per recreation — to four internet yards within the first half, their lowest output since 2015, and 45 general.

Chubb rushed for under 28 yards, and Kareem Hunt 11. They each rushed for second-half touchdowns, but it surely wasn’t sufficient.

“They known as a jam entrance,’’ guard Joel Bitonio stated. “They lined up the middle and the 2 guards. They dared us to run the ball, and we didn’t execute properly sufficient. They beat us up and stopped the run. We went to the go, and it type of received us going a little bit bit within the second half. It’s unlucky.’’

With Landry live-tweeting the sport from house, the Jets borrowed a web page from the Landry package deal and had Jamison Crowder throw a 43-yard TD go to receiver Braxton Berrios. Crowder additionally caught a 30-yarder from Darnold on a blown protection down the suitable facet that made it 20-Three within the third.

“The Jets got here out they usually attacked us early,’’ stated Garrett. “They attacked us on protection and offense. They made the performs they wanted to make, and we didn’t get any takeaways.’’

Like Mayfield, cornerback Denzel Ward didn’t be ok with his efficiency.

“Personally, I do know I didn’t play my finest recreation, and I’m one of many causes that we did lose this recreation,’’ he stated. “I must play higher, and this was not considered one of my finest video games.”

The Browns, who received a blocked further level and blocked discipline aim by Sheldon Richardson, should now regroup and attempt to beat the Steelers, who crushed them 38-7 on Oct. 18. The Steelers, who can nonetheless earn the No. 2 seed, haven’t but determined in the event that they’ll relaxation some gamers or go full energy towards the Browns. One college of thought is that if they knock them out of the playoffs, they received’t need to see them once more.

“We’ve got to win a recreation to get within the playoffs,’’ Bitonio stated. “We’re nonetheless alive on this factor. Pittsburgh is an efficient check, they usually kicked our butts the final time we performed them. It’s an enormous problem, however the whole lot we would like remains to be in entrance of us.’’

The Browns hope to get the 5 shut contacts and Wills again for the Steelers recreation. They received’t have Goodson again for that recreation.

“I’d somewhat or not it’s in my fingers than anyone else’s,’’ stated Garrett. “I don’t have to fret about anyone else shedding or successful. All we now have to do is we now have to go win. It’s all on us.”


The Browns host the Steelers Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

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