March 4, 2024

Browns Defeat Jags in Potential AFC Playoff Matchup, 31-27

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31-27

​Last Sunday afternoon the Cleveland Browns hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars in a potential AFC Playoff matchup. It was a cold and windy afternoon for AFC North-style football. And both teams had injury issues going into this game. The AFC playoff stakes were high.

​Jacksonville’s previous game was a Monday Night Football overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. And they had their starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence suffer a high ankle sprain. Their backup quarterback C. J. Beathard also had a shoulder issue. The Browns seemed to have gotten healthier. Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward came back to practice that week from a shoulder injury. Number one wide receiver Amari Cooper came off concussion protocol.

Both teams have control of their own AFC Playoff destiny, Jacksonville went into the game 8-4 and led the AFC South Division. The Browns were 7-5 and had the AFC Playoff 5th seed after the Thursday Night Steelers loss to the Patriots. Winning this game by the score of 31-27 gave the Browns excellent playoff positioning. This game was pivotal for both teams.

The Cleveland Browns had the top-ranked defense in the NFL. And the team plays their best football at home with a now 6-1 2023 home record. The Browns offense has been plagued with injuries and had to start four different quarterbacks this season. The Browns had to play the same way they played in the win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Don’t turnover the ball, play tough defense and create turnovers into points. Also, the Browns only had one penalty in the Steelers game. Lesser penalties equal better production for this team’s offense.

Despite the high ankle sprain Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence played in this game and it was a losing effort. The Browns defense held him to 257 yards passing, three touchdowns, and three interceptions for a 65.2 quarterback rating. For the Browns, 38-year-old Joe Flacco threw the ball for 311 yards, three touchdowns and one interception for a 92.0 quarterback rating. The Browns were able to generate 82 rushing yards. The negative in this game for the offense was three turnovers, one interception and two fumbles lost. However, the story of the game was the Browns defense showing up at home.

The Browns defense gave up only 293 yards of offense and 27 points. At least 14 of those pints were on short fields after Browns turnovers. They created four turnovers, three interceptions and one fumble recovery. With every turnover, the Browns made them pay by scoring points off the turnovers. Browns defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz challenged his defense last week to get to the quarterback. And they answered the challenge with four sacks. The biggest sack was by DE Myles Garrett on a Jacksonville two-point conversion attempt, keeping the Browns lead of four points with less than two minutes to go in the game. The Browns are now the 5th AFC playoff seed with an 8-5 record going into next weekend.

Next Sunday the Browns host the 5-8 Chicago Bears. The Browns have not lost at home since October 1st to the Baltimore Ravens. For the Browns to keep their AFC Wildcard Playoff standing, that home win streak needs to continue. A cold mid-December Sunday with two classic NFL teams, I’m up for it. And pass the hot chocolate. We are going to need it come January for the playoffs.

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