AFC Roundup: You again? Browns make playoffs, face Steelers in rematch

Article content

AFC-PLAY-OFFS

Advertisement

Article content

1. Kansas City Chiefs (Goodbye)

2. Buffalo Bills host 7. Indianapolis Colts

3. Pittsburgh Steelers host 6. Cleveland Browns

4. Tennessee Titans Host No. 5. Baltimore Ravens

After 17 seasons without an invite, the Cleveland Browns return to the NFL playoff party.

Don’t blink or you might miss them. At least it doesn’t feel like they’re going to last long.

Needing a win to get in on Sunday, the Browns nearly coughed up a 24-9 lead in the fourth quarter before beating a Pittsburgh Steelers team resting Ben Roethlisberger, NFL bag leader TJ Watt and six other starters.

Overtime would have been necessary if Mason Rudolph hadn’t run a two-point conversion attempt over Chase Claypool’s head.

“We’re not happy,” said Browns QB Baker Mayfield, who completed 17 of 27 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown, when in fact he added 44 rushing yards on six carries. “We expected to be here. We’ve worked really hard to get here and we’re excited to have the chance to be in the play-offs.”

Advertisement

Article content

As the number 6 seed, guess who will draw the Browns over the wildcard weekend? That’s right, the No. 3 seeded Steelers, in Pittsburgh, with their full roster.

It’s a well-known match-up for long-suffering Cleveland fans.

In 2002, when they were last in the playoffs, the Browns lost 36-33 to the Steelers in a wildcard encounter at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

Their last playoff game before that was in 1994, when they lost the division final 29-9 to the Steelers at Heinz Field.

By trying not to go 0-for-3 in the post-season clashes with Pittsburgh, the Browns hope to match Sunday’s success on the field. Led by Nick Chubb, they rushed the ball 31 times over 192 yards.

Of course, the Steelers were also without Cam Heyward and Watt.

Advertisement

Article content

Pittsburgh has the lead in every other category, including the wide receiver position, where Claypool, their fine Canadian rookie, hit triple digits for the second time this season with five catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.

“I love this football team,” said freshman head coach Kevin Stefanski, who turned the Browns from a 6-10 team to an 11-5 team. “I like how this football team works. I like how they react when they have their backs against the wall.

“We are in the dance, but we have a lot of work to do this week, and we want to continue this.”

Don’t blink or you might miss them.

KING HENRY REACH 2,000

No one wants to take on the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs, or so the rhetoric goes.

Well, the Tennessee Titans are going to be — in a No. 4 vs. No. 5 seed matchup and a rematch from last year’s division playoffs — and they should feel pretty good about their odds with Derrick Henry in full swing.

Advertisement

Article content

In a 41-38 win over the Houston Texans, Henry became the eighth player in NFL history to put together a 2,000-yard rushing season when he carried the ball 34 times for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

He finishes with 2,037 yards, behind only Eric Dickerson (2,105 in 1984), Adrian Peterson (2,097 in 2012), Jamal Lewis (2,066 in 2003) and Barry Sanders (2,053 in 1997).

Henry is also the second Titan to surpass the magical plateau. Chris Johnson had 2,006 yards in 2009.

Terrell Davis (2008 in 1998) and OJ Simpson (2003 in 1973) are the league’s other 2,000-yard men.

The Titans, who won last year’s post-season meeting in Baltimore with a score of 28-12, are not one-dimensional. AJ Brown had 10 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown on Sunday and emerged as one of the league’s strongest and best receivers.

Advertisement

Article content

But the Tennessee defense has a few holes.

JACKSON MAKES HISTORY IF RAVENS STAY HOT

The Ravens (11-5) won their fifth straight game to secure a wildcard spot as their quarterback made history.

In a 38-3 thump by the Cincinnati Bengals, Lamar Jackson rushed 11 times for 97 yards to become the first quarterback in NFL history to record multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

Jackson also completed 10 of 18 passes for 113 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

Securing the number 5 seed with their fifth straight win, the Ravens ran over the Bengals with 404 rushing yards. JK Dobbins led the way with 160.

“We still have things we want to finish,” Jackson said. “It’s just the beginning for us, to be honest.”

Advertisement

Article content

Dobbins added: “It’s a bunch of guys who are happy but we’re still hungry. We know what the ultimate goal is. That’s what concerns us now.”

The Bengals never missed Joe Burrow again. Brandon Allen completed only six of 21 passes for 48 yards while throwing two interceptions.

OFFENSIVE EXPLOSION LOOKS FOR FISH

The Buffalo Bills rested some of their starters, but that didn’t help the Miami Dolphins. By being crushed by Buffalo 56-26, Miami missed its chance to sneak into the number 7 seed.

Josh Allen hung out long enough to complete 18 of 25 passes for 224 yards and three TDs plus a pick, and to stay in the conversation for MVP, as Buffalo had done most offensively productive day of the season.

It was Buffalo’s sixth straight win, making the Bills the best team in the AFC to enter the playoffs.

Advertisement

Article content

With veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick on the COVID-19 reserve list, the Dolphins had to rely on rookie Tua Tagovailoa, and he turned out to be in over his head.

While completing 35 of 58 passes for 361 yards and a touchdown, Tagovailoa was also intercepted three times.

COLTS USE JAGS AS A STEP TO PLAYOFFS

The Indianapolis Colts took the number 7 seed with a 28-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor carried the ball 30 times for 253 yards and two touchdowns in a record performance for the Colts. The franchise standard for most yards in a season was 219, held by Edgerrin James.

Meanwhile, Philip Rivers threw his 421st TD pass of his career, a six-yarder to TY Hilton on the Colts opening run, to get past Dan Marino and finish fifth on the NFL’s all-time list.

Advertisement

Article content

BIG DAY FOR CHARGERS HERBERT

Justin Herbert put the exclamation mark on a season that should earn him the NFL’s rookie of the year award by throwing three touchdowns in a 38-21 win at Arrowhead Stadium against a Kansas City Chiefs team that rested many of its stars and starters .

Herbert completed 22 of 31 passes for 302 yards and also ran for another touchdown when the Chargers finished at 7-9.

The Chiefs have a bye next week by virtue of their leading 14-2 record.

RAIDERS CLOSES FIRST SEASON IN VEGAS WITH .500 RECORD

Josh Jacobs scored on a one-yard run with 34 seconds left and Derek Carr hit Darren Waller for the two-point conversion as the Raiders defeated the Denver Broncos 32-31 at Mile High Stadium.

The Raiders finished with an 8-8 record while the Broncos finished 5-11.

dbrennan@postmedia.com

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively yet civilized discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their thoughts on our articles. It can take up to an hour for comments to be moderated before appearing on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We’ve enabled email notifications – you’ll now receive an email when you get a reply to your comment, there’s an update in a comment thread you’re following, or a user follows comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details about customizing your email settings.

Give a Comment