Browns keep playoff hopes alive with win over Panthers

Cleveland needs to win out, get lots of help, but they're still in the hunt

Daryl Ruiter
December 09, 2018 - 5:59 pm

Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Categories: 

Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Browns will enter mid-December alive and well for the playoffs.

That is not a misprint or typo.

No need to have your eyes checked.

The Browns are stayin’ alive in the AFC wild card hunt following a 26-20 win over the Carolina Panthers Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium.

“Everybody loves winning,” defensive end Myles Garrett, who upped his sack total to 12.5 on the season, said. “It’s a little different for us because things have been a little negative the last couple of years, but that’s in the past and we’re on a different path now.  We’re just trying to carve a name for ourselves.”

Cleveland finally escaped the AFC North basement with the win – their fourth at home this season to clinch a winning record for the first time since 2007 at FirstEnergy Stadium – combined with the Chargers’ 26-21 win over the Bengals, who fell to 5-8, Sunday evening.

“We still are in that hunt, but if we do not take it one game at a time, none of that matters,” rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, who completed 18 of 22 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown, said. “We have to take care of business one week at a time, and we did that today against a veteran defense and a good team.

“We are at a point right now that we have been building for this moment and we need to continue to build. We do not need to be satisfied whatsoever.”

The road to January is complex and the Browns need a lot of help, including having no margin for error the rest of the way, to have a shot.

They’ll have to run the table at Denver, then Dec. 23 at home against the Bengals before finishing up in Baltimore Dec. 30.

Then it’s scoreboard watching time.

Baltimore is 7-6 and holds 1 of the 2 Wild Card slots. Miami, Indianapolis and Tennessee are all also 7-6 and in front of the Browns.

Those 4 teams must lose 2 of their final 3 to finish 8-8, which means at 8-7-1 the Browns would be the second AFC Wild Card team.

“I am focused on Denver,” receiver Jarvis Landry, who scored a pair of touchdowns and had a run and catch for at least 50 yards, said. “One game at a time because we understand that we can’t get there unless we do what we have to do. We just try to control what we can control and see how everything else plays out.”

Here are the remaining schedules for those 4 teams:

Ravens: home for the Buccaneers, at the LA Chargers and then host the Browns.

Dolphins: at Minnesota, host the Jaguars and finish at Buffalo

Titans: at NY Giants, home to host Washington and the Colts

Colts: home for Dallas and the NY Giants and then finish at Tennessee.

Sure the odds remain slim with Cleveland currently 11th in the conference, but having a legitimate path to January this late in the season is a monumental step forward for a franchise that struggled to win a game for nearly 4 years.  

“Our goal is to finish with a winning record for the first time in a long time,” safety Damarious Randall, who sealed the victory with fourth interception of the season, said. “Every game is important, even if we aren’t going to playoffs, and we still want to finish 8-2-1 regardless.

“Even if we have to ruin somebody else’s playoff hopes, we really do not care. We are going into winning every game.”

Randall believes the Browns could be a problem if they’re lucky to get to January and Landry didn’t argue.

“You are looking at a hungry team, you are looking at a hungry town that loves their team and honestly who does not want to play in a playoff game?,” Landry said. “With the opportunity to go and play in February, it is something that, golly, you can’t miss.”

That said, the Browns still haven’t arrived, but they’re close.

“Not yet. We still have a losing record, but we are moving forward,” Mayfield said. “There has been a lot of change, but this is a process. For a culture to change and for a franchise to change, it is a process and it is a lot of work. That is why I say we have to come to work every day. You have to get better every day and each week.

“It is starting to come, but that is the thing, you can’t be satisfied and say, ‘Oh, we have changed it.’ No, we are not there yet.”

But they’re getting closer.