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Baker Mayfield tosses two touchdowns, defense stops Broncos on fourth down to give Browns 17-16 win

Browns Broncos Football

Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (30) is hit by Cleveland Browns free safety Jabrill Peppers (22) during the second half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)


Baker Mayfield’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Callaway against a depleted Broncos secondary helped lift the Cleveland Browns to a 17-16 victory in Denver on Saturday night.

Mayfield started strong and finished well around a rough stretch in the middle of the contest to get a victory that keeps the Browns on the fringes of the playoff hunt. Mayfield completed 18 of 31 passes for 188 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also lost a fumble on a strip-sack by Broncos defensive end Adam Gotsis.

The Browns were helped out by a poor strategic decision by the Broncos in the closing minutes.

Denver was down to just one truly healthy cornerback in Tramaine Brock after injuries to Brendan Langley and Bradley Roby, and an ejection for Jamar Taylor. Chris Harris Jr. (fractured fibula) and Isaac Yiadom (shoulder) were inactive due to injuries. Langley was forced out with a concussion while Roby sustained a facial laceration that sidelined him for a stretch of the second half.

Trailing 17-13 with five minutes remaining, Denver elected to kick a 29-yard field goal on fourth-and-1 at the Cleveland 6-yard line instead of trying to get the first down and/or a touchdown to take the lead. The Broncos elected that relying on their heavily depleted defense to get a stop was the chance they wanted to take.

Nick Chubb immediately broke off a 40-yard run to move into Broncos territory before making their own poor strategic call. Chubb finished with 100 yards on 20 carries for the Browns.

Cleveland elected to go for a fourth-and-1 at the Denver 10-yard line with 1:53 remaining instead of trying a field goal that would have pushed the lead to four. Chubb was stopped for a 2-yard loss, giving the ball back to the Broncos with only a field goal needed to rather than a touchdown.

The Broncos converted a fourth-and-2 to move out to midfield before spiking it to stop the clock. The three remaining downs went by without gaining another yard as Jabrill Peppers sacked Case Keenum on fourth down to seal the win for the Browns.

Cleveland grabbed the early lead on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to Breshad Perriman on the Browns’ opening possession.

After a pair of three-and-out drives to begin the game, the Broncos put together successive scoring drives to take the lead early in the second quarter.

Denver got on the board with 13-play, 88-yard drive bolstered by two key penalties against the Browns. A lowering the helmet penalty on Jamie Collins and a defensive pass interference call against Terrance Mitchell accounted for 34 of the yards gained on the drive. Case Keenum escaped a tackle in the backfield and scrambled for a 1-yard touchdown to even the game at 7-7 late in the first quarter.

Keenum completed 31 of 48 passes for 257 yards with two interceptions for the Broncos.

The Broncos followed it up by marching 61 yards on 12 plays on their next possession before stalling out at the Browns’ 26-yard line. A 44-yard Brandon McManus field goal gave Denver their first lead of the night at 10-7.

After completing two of his first four passes of the game, Mayfield was far less successful the rest of the half. He completed just 7 of 18 passes for the half for 106 yards with a touchdown and interception.

Greg Joseph’s 40-yard field goal tied the game at 10-10 with 4:53 left in the half. Each team would get another scoring opportunity only for interceptions to thwart the chances.

After reaching the Browns’ 29-yard line, Keenum was picked by Jabrill Peppers on a throw into the end zone. Cleveland would get a chance to score as well only for Mayfield to be picked by Dymonte Thomas after reaching Denver’s 30-yard line.

Gostis’ strip-sack of Mayfield set up a go-ahead score for the Broncos. A 24-yard completion from Case Keenum to Tim Patrick moved Denver into Browns’ territory and set up a 42-yard field goal by Brandon McManus to five the Broncos a 13-10 lead late in the third quarter.

Three plays after Taylor was ejected, Keenum was then intercepted by T.J. Carrie near midfield on a pass intended for DaeSean Hamilton. Six plays later, the Browns would re-take the lead against a Broncos defense playing four safeties in their secondary as Mayfield and Callaway hooked up for a 2-yard touchdown.