The Washington Post Sunday

Cleveland keeps alive its faint playo≠ hopes



denver — Baker Mayfield capitalize­d on Denver’s depleted cornerback corps and dubious coaching decisions in leading the Cleveland Browns past the Broncos, 17-16, on Saturday night, keeping alive their slim hopes of ending the NFL’s longest playoff drought.

Mayfield’s two-yard touchdown toss to Antonio Calloway with just under 12 minutes left provided the winning margin for the Browns (6-7-1). They snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Broncos (6-8).

Improving to 3-28 on the road over the past four seasons, the Browns still have a shot at their first winning season since 2007 and even their first playoff berth since 2002 thanks to their first win over Denver since 1990.

Calloway’s touchdown made it 17-13 and came with safety Justin Simmons in coverage because the Broncos were down five cornerback­s.

The Broncos responded with a 13-play drive that ate up more than seven minutes, but after Phillip Lindsay was stuffed for no gain on third and 1 from the Cleveland 6yard line, Coach Vance Joseph sent in kicker Brandon McManus for a field goal instead of going for it.

“I wanted points there,” Joseph explained. “We had about 4:35 left. We had one timeout and the twominute warning. I trust our defense to get a stop there.”

It didn’t happen, at least not right away.

Chubb reeled off a 40-yard run on the first play, and on fourth and one from the Denver 10, Cleveland interim coach Gregg Williams went for it — and Chubb was dropped for a two-yard loss by Adam Gotsis.

The Broncos got the ball back at their 13 with 1:49 remaining and reached midfield with 52 seconds left. But a spike, two incompleti­ons and a sack by Jabrill Peppers all but ended Denver’s playoff hopes. They could officially be eliminated Sunday.

The Broncos began the night with cornerback­s Chris Harris Jr. and Isaac Yiadom sidelined and they lost Brendan Langley to a concussion in the first half and newly signed Jamar Taylor to an ejection in the second half on the same play Bradley Roby went out with a laceration in his mouth. Roby later returned.

With safety Dymonte Thomas, who had his first career intercepti­on in the first half, subbing at cornerback, Von Miller broke Simon Fletcher’s franchise record of 103 1/2 sacks, including playoffs.

Denver’s depleted defense, however, was forced right back out onto the field when Case Keenum’s firstdown heave was easily picked off by T.J. Carrie at the Broncos 48, after just eight seconds had ticked off the game clock.

Six plays later, Mayfield put the Browns ahead for good.

The teams were tied at 10 after a mistake-filled first half in which both quarterbac­ks were thwarted by intercepti­ons in or near the end zone.

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