Browns, Ravens and Titans secure NFL playoff berths

Washington (AFP) –


The Cleveland Browns reached the NFL playoffs for the first time since 2002 by edging the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-22 Sunday as the regular season moved to a dramatic conclusion.

Nick Chubb and Jarvis Landry each ran for a touchdown and Baker Mayfield threw for another as the Browns snapped the NFL's longest active post-season drought while the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans also qualified for the playoffs, which start on Saturday.

"We wanted this. I could see that determination," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "It's not over. We've got work left to do. I like how this team responds when their back is up against the wall."

Lamar Jackson threw for 113 yards and three touchdowns and ran 11 times for 97 yards to spark Baltimore over Cincinnati 38-3 to clinch an AFC (American Conference) wildcard berth.

Jackson became the first quarterback in NFL history with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons while J.K. Dobbins ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns in the Ravens' romp.

The Titans, who played later at Houston, secured a playoff spot when the Miami Dolphins were routed 56-26 at Buffalo. Tennessee can claim an AFC South division crown with a win.

Indianapolis will take the final AFC playoff berth by winning later at home over league-worst Jacksonville (1-14) but a loss by the Colts -- the only team beaten by the Jaguars all season -- would send Miami to the playoffs instead.

Also sustaining their playoff hopes were the New York Giants, who beat visiting Dallas 23-19 and could become the NFL's first 10-loss playoff team.

Washington (6-9) needs a victory at Philadelphia, where the host Eagles are missing nine players, to clinch the NFC East crown and a first-round home playoff game.

A Washington loss would hand the Giants, who started 1-7, a playoff spot and their first division title since 2011.

Pittsburgh's Mason Rudolph threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes but overthrew a tying 2-point conversion attempt while Cleveland recovered a Steelers onside-kick attempt and Mayfield ran for a first down to secure the Browns victory and grab the long-sought playoff spot.

"He works very hard at his craft," Stefanski said of Mayfield. "He made plays happen with his feet. For him to go get it I think was great."

The Browns, three years after an 0-16 campaign, withstood a disrupted week of preparation with a training facility closed three of the past four days due to Covid-19 issues.

Miami was forced to start reserve quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with Ryan Fitzpatrick on the Covid-19 reserve list and struggled offensively against the playoff-bound Bills.

- Playoff berths at stake -

Half of the NFL's 14 playoff berths were at stake on the final day of the campaign.

In later games, the Los Angeles Rams-Arizona Cardinals winner will advance and Chicago could join them by beating Green Bay, which needs a victory to clinch the top seed in the NFC (National Conference) and a bye in the first round.

Defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City (14-1) had already clinched the AFC top seed with Pittsburgh and Buffalo also owning division titles entering the final week.

In the NFC, Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle and Tampa Bay had already secured playoff berths.

Tampa Bay's Mike Evans became the first player with more than 1,000 reception yards in each of his first seven NFL seasons with a 20-yard catch in the first quarter but departed on the next play with a left knee injury in the Buccaneers' 44-27 home triumph over Atlanta.