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Browns' 4th-quarter rally comes up short in loss to Packers

Cleveland falls to 7-8 with 2 games left to play


The Browns scratched and clawed their way back from a double-digit, second-half deficit but couldn't complete the comeback Saturday in Green Bay.

Anthony Schwartz's first career touchdown catch with 4:31 to play drew the Browns within 2, but that was as close as they'd get, as the Packers closed them out, 24-22, and put Cleveland's playoff hopes in peril.

The loss was Cleveland's second in five days and dropped its record to 7-8 with two division games left to play. The Packers, who clinched the NFC North last week, moved to an NFL-best 12-3.

Cleveland's offense had its most productive day in weeks — racking up 408 yards with 219 coming on the ground — but was ultimately undone by three costly, first-half turnovers that put it in a hole it couldn't dig out of. The Browns took better care of the ball in the second half and mounted some productive drives but were stymied by a number of untimely sacks and penalties.

Their fourth and final turnover with 43 seconds to play sealed it.

Baker Mayfield, back under center after missing Monday's game with COVID-19, threw for 222 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. The Packers turned all three first-half picks into touchdowns on the ensuing possession and sealed the victory when Rasul Douglas intercepted Mayfield for the second time with 43 seconds to play.

Packers QB and reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers took advantage of every opportunity and finished with 202 yards and three touchdowns on 24-of-34 passing. Davante Adams was his favorite target and a nuisance for Cleveland's defense, catching 10 passes — eight in the first half — for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

Nick Chubb recorded the longest catch of his career — a 40-yarder on Cleveland's opening drive — and cleared 100 rushing yards for the fifth time this season. He finished with a season-high 184 yards of offense, 126 of which coming on the ground. D'Ernest Johnson added 58 on just four carries.

The Browns, after trading field goals with the Packers in the third quarter, trailed by nine entering the final 15 minutes.

Cleveland's defense delivered three consecutive stops to set up the Browns with multiple chances to overcome the deficit. The Browns finally cashed in with 4:31 to play, when Schwartz hauled in a 5-yard touchdown on a drive that was kept alive by Johnson's 30-yard run on third-and-long.

The Browns got it back after a rare Adams drop on third down, taking over possession at their own 25 with 2:05 to play. A 7-yard pass to Chubb got the Browns to midfield with less than a minute to play, but that's as far as they'd get. Looking for Donovan Peoples-Jones across the middle on third down, Mayfield fired a pass that went just out of his receiver's reach and into the hands of Douglas.

Saturday's loss was the Browns' sixth of the season by a margin of 6 points or fewer.

The Browns had more familiar faces on the field Saturday than they did for Week 15, but they still entered the game with 13 players on reserve/COVID-19. The group included multiple starting offensive linemen (Jedrick Wills Jr. and JC Tretter), K Chase McLaughlin and a handful of defensive starters, including DE Jadeveon Clowney and CB Greg Newsome II. Cleveland was also without every-down safety John Johnson III, who was out with a hamstring injury.

Check out photos of the Browns against the Packers in Week 16

Mayfield was officially activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list Friday and cleared to play Saturday. He did not practice at all during the week and flew separately from the team, arriving in Green Bay on Saturday morning.

The Browns had their best start in weeks and took an early lead with their first opening-drive touchdown since Week 10. Chubb's career-long, 40-yard reception got Cleveland rolling, and Chubb capped the possession himself with a 1-yard touchdown run, his eighth of the season, to stake the Browns to a 6-0 advantage.

Mayfield's first two interceptions, though, set up back-to-back Packers touchdowns. The first made some history, as Rodgers surpassed Brett Favre for the most career touchdown passes in Green Bay history with an 11-yard pass to Allen Lazard, and the second — a 9-yard touchdown catch by Adams — put the Browns in a 14-6 hole midway through the second quarter.

Cleveland, which had no trouble piling up yards in the first half, came right back with a six-play, 70-yard drive that was punctuated by Harrison Bryant's 1-yard touchdown catch. An unsuccessful 2-point conversion kept the score at 14-12.

Mayfield's third pick set up another Adams touchdown, this one coming with 12 seconds to play in the half, and put the Browns behind, 21-12, at the half.

The Browns are back in action next Monday when they face Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football at Heinz Field.

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