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PLAYOFF BOUND: Browns clinch spot in postseason with win over Jets

Browns end the regular season 8-1 at home

Postgame Recap Week 17

The Cleveland Browns are headed to the 2023 NFL playoffs.

On Thursday, they officially clinched a playoff berth for the first time since the 2020 season after their 37-20 win over the Jets on Thursday Night Football.

The Browns have battled through adversity this season, dealing with a number of season-ending injuries to key players across the board from Week 1. Throughout the course of the season, the Browns have relied on the "next man up" mentality and embodied the mantra on all three sides of the ball. From being one of eight teams since 1961 to have at least four quarterbacks win a game as a starter in a single season, to losing three tackles, their star running back and key players in their secondary.

And through it all, they stand at 11-5 with one game left in the regular season and will make another appearance in the playoffs.

The Browns celebrate after a win over the New York Jets on December 28, 2023 at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Key Moments:

The Browns put on an offensive clinic against the Jets through the first half, but then struggled to find success throughout the second. They were held scoreless in the third quarter and gave up a critical turnover in the fourth.

The Browns put points up on the board in the fourth quarter on a 33-yard field goal attempt from K Riley Patterson to officially put the game away. It was the first time the Browns had scored in the second half but it didn't matter, as their 34-point outburst in the first half was more than enough cushion on this night.

The defense stepped up in a major way in the second half. Following a Pierre Strong fumble in the fourth quarter the Browns managed to hold the Jets to just a field goal on their offensive possession. They also got a critical defensive stop on the Jets next offensive possession, as QB Trevor Siemian kept the ball and ran for the first down, but the Browns forced him out of bounds before the first-down marker, and the Jets turned the ball over on downs.

On the Jets opening drive of the third quarter, DT Shelby Harris puts his hand up and blocked their field goal attempt, keeping points off the board. DE Za'Darius Smith also had a critical tackle with 2:20 left in the third quarter to force the Jets to punt the ball.

However, the Browns first-half performance set them up for the win. They closed out the first half with a 50-yard pass from QB Joe Flacco to RB Jerome Ford, who weaved his way into the end zone for the touchdown. It gave the Browns a 34-14 lead with 1:25 left in the first half. It was the team's highest-scoring first half in four years.

Their offensive dominance started from the opening drive of the game, as Flacco connected with TE David Njoku twice in the opening drive for a total of 64 yards, and then found Ford for a 7-yard pass for the touchdown. Flacco marched the offense down the field and RB Kareem Hunt punched in the second touchdown of the first quarter on a 7-yard run.

Defensively, the Browns also had a key play in the first quarter as S Ronnie Hickman picked off Siemian's pass and returned the ball 30 yards for the touchdown.

Player of the Game:

TE David Njoku

Njoku played a critical role in the Browns' offensive success in the first half from the opening drive as he had two pass completions for 64 yards. He finished the game with 134 receiving yards on six catches. He longest reception was for 43 yards.

Stat of the Game:

Flacco threw for over 300 yards for his fourth consecutive game, as he completed 19 of 29 passes for 309 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Flacco also threw for 296 yards in the first half of the game.

What does it mean?

It was the playoff-clinching performance that the Browns needed against the Jets. The opportunity was at their fingertips, and the Browns found a way to take a hold of their destiny and extend their season in front of their home fans. It's a feat that they haven't accomplished since the 2020 season, and with all the injuries the Browns have dealt with this season, it's an important step for the group. They have shown a level of resilience throughout the season and needed that resilience once again on Thursday night. They held their composure throughout the second half, and managed their way through the ebbs and flows on both sides of the ball.

What's next?

The Browns will travel to Cincinnati for the final regular-season game against the Bengals in Week 18.