Skip to main content


3 Big Takeaways: TE David Njoku continues to succeed as a pass catcher against the Jets

S Ronnie Hickman had his first career interception in the first quarter against the Jets

Takeaways Week 17

Under the lights of Thursday Night Football, QB Joe Flacco once again led the Browns offense to a 37-20 victory over the Jets. The Browns improved to 11-5 on the season and clinched a playoff spot.

"Pretty special night for this organization. Pretty special night for the fans out there," HC Kevin Stefanski said. "This is a special city. They love their Brownies, as I'm reminded often. So, to be able for them to savor in this and enjoy this, I think it's a big deal."

So, let's take a look at three takeaways from Thursday's playoff-clinching win.

Browns are officially playoff bound

In front of electric home crowd on Thursday Night Football, the Browns punched their ticket to the postseason. With all that the Browns have been through this season on the injury front, there was something added for many of the players to officially clinch – and do so in front of their home fans.

"The world, man," TE David Njoku said. "The world. There was so much adversity this year. Obviously, you guys know. So many things internally, externally but we overcame them. I'm so proud of these guys. We aren't finished and we have a long way to go, but for now we are going to enjoy this."

The Browns embodied the "next man up" mentality from the jump. They've lost offensive lineman, star running backs, defensive lineman and secondary players to season-ending injuries or missed chunks of time. They've won games with four different quarterbacks at the helm of the offense and worked through the subtle changes of having a new quarterback running the offense. Even heading into Week 17, when the Browns brought in specialists due to injuries to K Dustin Hopkins and P Corey Bojorquez, they handled the changes to their special teams' unit.

And through it all, the Browns have not only held up their standard of being a top defense, but they have battled through the adversity and relied on one another to step in and fill the roles necessary. That belief in each other has paid off, as they will extend their season with the playoffs.

The Browns have one more regular-season game against the Bengals before the postseason. But there is more football to play for a Browns team that has overcome adversity at every turn this season. As Njoku reiterated in the locker room following the win over the Jets, the Browns are a resilient team.

"When everybody got hurt, everybody doubted us, and said we weren't going to do whatever," Njoku said. "We hold our own fate. We pushed through. We earned that. The guys in this locker room should be proud of that but understand that there is a lot more that we can do."

TE David Njoku's success as a pass catcher in the first half

Njoku played a critical role in the Browns' offensive success in the first half, and he did so from the opening drive. On the Browns 75-yard opening drive, Njoku accounted for 64 of the 75 yards.

Njoku's first reception came on a short pass and Njoku ran for 36 yards on the pass completion. Then, three plays later, Flacco through a deep pass left to Njoku who caught the ball for 28 yards and set the Browns up for a touchdown.

"I just got to thank Joe Flacco for throwing a beautiful ball, and that's it," Njoku said.

Then, with 5:28 left in the first quarter, Flacco threw a short pass to Njoku who ran for a pass completion of 43 yards. That run set up the Browns for a touchdown by RB Kareem Hunt to build their lead. Njoku finished the game with 134 receiving yards on six receptions. His longest catch of the day was for 43 yards.

This season, Njoku has a total of 81 receptions, which is the fifth-most by a Browns tight end in a season and tied for the eighth-most by any Browns player.

Yet, it wasn't just the receptions. Rather, it's Njoku's ability to run after the catch. His yards after the catch this season. Through 15 games leading into the Browns' Thursday night game, Njoku had 501 total yards after a catch. He added to that number on Thursday night.

"It's pretty cool when you can get a guy the ball five yards down the field and you can get a 35-yard gain out of it," Flacco said of Njoku.

S Ronnie Hickman's pick six and the Browns' defensive turnaround

The Browns had a few key defensive moments that set the tone throughout the game. With 2:12 left in the first quarter, S Ronnie Hickman followed Jets WR Garrett Wilson's route and intercepted QB Trevor Siemian's pass. He then ran 30 yards down the field into the end zone for the pick six. It gave the Browns a 20-7 lead over the Jets heading into the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.  It was Hickman's first career interception.

"That was incredible," Stefanski said. "The ball finds Ronnie Hickman. It's incredible. Out at practice, walkthrough, somehow the ball finds its way into his lap, and he does a great job. You know, scoring – it was a great play by a young man and he's doing a nice job. We're going to continue to need these guys to step up."

It was a moment that provided a necessary spark. Defensively, the Browns had some ebbs and flows over the course of the game but dominated in the second half. They limited the Jets to only a field goal in the fourth quarter. DE Alex Wright came up with a critical sack in the fourth quarter that limited the Jets to the field goal.  They forced the Jets to punt twice in the second half and turn the ball over on downs in the fourth quarter. The Browns field goal unit also blocked a field goal attempt when DT Shelby Harris got his hand on the ball and blocked the kick in the third quarter.

Related Content