Browns clinch NFL playoff berth with win over Jets | Inquirer Sports

Browns clinch NFL playoff berth with win over Jets

/ 04:32 PM December 29, 2023

Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco (15) celebrates with guard Joel Bitonio (75) after throwing a pass for a touchdown during an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2023, in Cleveland.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco (15) celebrates with guard Joel Bitonio (75) after throwing a pass for a touchdown during an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Kirk Irwin)

Resurgent Cleveland quarterback Joe Flacco threw for three touchdowns in a 37-20 NFL victory over the New York Jets on Thursday that saw the Browns punch their ticket to the playoffs.

The post-season was looking unlikely for the Browns after star quarterback Deshaun Watson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in November.

Flacco, a former Super Bowl MVP with the Baltimore Ravens who was without a team at the start of the season, is the fourth quarterback to start for the injury-plagued Browns this season.

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The Browns are now 4-1 with the 38-year-old Flacco starting and 11-5 for the season. Assured of at least a wild card, they still have a chance to win the AFC North division currently led by Baltimore.

READ: Ravens QB Flacco signs NFL’s richest contract

“He’s got something left in the tank,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said of Flacco, who passed for 309 yards, three TDs and an interception

He connected with Jerome Ford on two touchdown passes in the first half as the Browns built a 34-14 lead.

Flacco spent three seasons with the Jets before they opted not to re-sign him. Nor did they turn to him when superstar Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon in the first game of the season.

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Flacco insisted this week there were no hard feelings, but he schooled his former team with 296 yards in the first half.

“He’s battling like crazy,” Stefanski said of Flacco. “I think he’s doing a nice job of playing within himself and playing within the scheme. But he’s also making plays. There were a bunch of plays he made tonight that were key.”

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Elijah Moore, another former Jet, caught an eight-yard TD before departing with a concussion in the second quarter.

READ: NFL: Browns’ Deshaun Watson to serve 11-game suspension

Kareem Hunt had a seven-yard touchdown run for the Browns, who were without star receiver Amari Cooper because of a heel injury.

Browns tight end David Njoku had four catches for 114 yards in just the first quarter. He finished with six receptions for 134 yards.

A Flacco interception in the second quarter yielded a Jets touchdown as New York’s Jermaine Johnson grabbed it and returned it 37 yards.

Cleveland’s defense also scored, with safety Ronnie Hickman intercepting Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian and racing 30 yards for a TD.

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Siemian, starting for the second week in a row in place of Zach Wilson, who was sidelined by a concussion, completed 32 of 45 passes for 261 yards and one touchdown.

TAGS: NFL

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