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3 Big Takeaways: Jacoby Brissett plays hero for Browns in final expected start

In what could be his last start this season, Brissett propelled the Browns to a thrilling overtime finish over the Buccaneers in overtime


Jacoby Brissett is going out a winner.

In what might be his final start at QB with the Browns this season, Brissett commanded the Browns to one of their most thrilling finishes of the season, a 23-17 overtime win over the Buccaneers at FirstEnergy Stadium. It wasn't always pretty, but the Browns needed Brissett to step up late to give them a chance, and he did with two massive touchdowns that allowed the Browns to take the game to overtime and ultimately find a win.

Here's three takeaways from an epic finish in Cleveland:

1. Brissett plays hero for Browns in final expected start

As soon as Nick Chubb ran the ball into the end zone to seal the Browns win in overtime, the spotlight rightly was directed to Brissett, who opened his press conference with the one-liner of the season:

"I mean no disrespect, but in the words of Tom Brady, that was awesome," he said, only he used an expletive that starts with the letter "f" before he said the word "awesome."

The finish was awesome, though, and it all started the moment he fired a pass to TE David Njoku in the end zone on a fourth down with 37 seconds left in regulation. The Browns trailed 17-10 and were down to their last play from the Buccaneers' 12-yard line, but Brissett saw the look he wanted — Njoku matched one-on-one against Buccaneers linebacker Devin White — and fired away.

In what should stand as one of the best catches in the NFL this season, Njoku threw his left hand in the air and made a one-handed snag on the ball as he fell to the ground.

"I threw it, and I thought I threw it too high and I was about to start crying," Brissett said with a laugh. "I saw him pull it down, and I was like, 'I could have ran up and kissed him.'"

The Browns weren't done yet, and neither was Brissett's opportunity to close the game with a bang. Credit belongs to the defense for keeping that opportunity alive — the Buccaneers got the ball first to start overtime and were halted by the Browns, and when the offense couldn't generate points on its first overtime possession, the defense stepped up again and stopped Brady.

With 2:45 left, Brissett went back to work and saw exactly what he could've hoped for again on the first play of the drive: Amari Cooper running alone down the right sideline.

Copper managed to create his space with a juke move that sent Buccaneers' CB Carlton Davis to the ground, and Brissett saw him immediately and lofted a pass into his hands. Cooper then broke free on a 45-yard sprint before he was tackled out of bounds 3 yards short of the end zone, and Chubb punched the ball in two plays later.

Cooper, who dropped a fourth-down pass in the fourth quarter, was thankful Brissett looked back his way in another key moment.

"Faith produced perseverance," Cooper said. "It felt amazing. Caught the slant. Had a double-move we drew up and knew if I ran it the right way that it would be a big play."

What followed after the game was a well-deserved postgame celebration that centered around Brissett.

The Browns celebrate after a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 27, 2022 at FirstEnergy Stadium.

2. Browns give Brissett recognition he deserved

Head coach Kevin Stefanski kicked off the Browns' postgame celebration with a game ball to Brissett — a gift that was not only given because of his big-time throws Sunday, but also for what he's meant to the Browns this season.

"I'm really happy for Jacoby," Stefanski said. "He's a great leader. He's a great teammate. That's why he got a game ball. We're going to need him to continue to be a great teammate and a great leader. That's his role on this football team. He battled like crazy."

Brissett might've thrown his final passes for the Browns this season with QB Deshaun Watson set to return from his 11-game suspension next week. But in his 10 games as a starter, Brissett captured the trust and respect of his teammates and gave them a chance to win nearly every week.

A win Sunday gave the Browns a chance to celebrate Brissett's efforts properly.

"It's been huge having him as one of our leaders," Joel Bitonio said. "He always talks about us and the team. Obviously, he never talks about himself, but I was thinking that we have to get one more because he's played better than 3-7 or whatever our record was before tonight. He deserved a few more wins in there, so I'm glad we got him one more here."

Brissett, as he had leading up to the game, refused to take a full reflection on the season or speak about what the win meant to him from the scope of the full season.

"I haven't even thought about (what the win means)," he said. "I'm obviously grateful for this opportunity and grateful for those men in that room. Because it's the 'scheduled' one, this was a great game to kind of end it on, but we have to stack them."

Brissett still plans on serving as a leader for the Browns, even though his participation on the field will be limited the rest of the way. That's who he's been all season, though — because that's truly who he is as a teammate, and the Browns' respect for him is going nowhere even as he takes a backseat to a new quarterback.

"I love Jacoby," Jadeveon Clowney said. "He's a hell of a teammate, one of the best teammates I've ever had. He's all about the team and his players. You can't ask for a better teammate out of anyone in the league."

3. Belief for a strong finish grows

The Browns still have their work cut out for them to earn a shot at the playoffs, but Sunday's win at least puts them back in the hunt upon Watson's return.

A winning streak needs to built next week in Houston — and it might need to last the rest of the season for the Browns to have a crack at the playoffs. But a win will always provide hope that a stretch like that can happen, and there was plenty of hope throughout the locker room that the Browns can do just that as the calendar flips to December.

"We have to view it as that," Myles Garrett said. "We have to carry that energy that we did in that fourth quarter and overtime and that confidence into the next game and to the next game. It was all about being 1-0 and all about keep swinging and keep doing your job, and we're going to like it when we come out at the end of things. I think everybody fell into line with that."

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