CLEVELAND — The Browns slayed what had been the NFL's longest active playoff drought with a dramatic 24-22 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the regular-season finale Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
With the win, the Browns clinched their first playoff berth since 2002. They had gone 17 seasons without a playoff appearance.
Their last playoff game was Jan. 5, 2003, a 36-33 wild-card loss in Pittsburgh. The defeat began a stretch of 90-197-1 for the Browns. The team suffered 14 double-digit loss seasons during the span.
The Browns (11-5) and Steelers (12-4) will meet again in next weekend's wild-card round.
Browns running back Nick Chubb (Photo: Ken Blaze, USA TODAY Sports)
Quarterback Baker Mayfield ran for a 3 yards to seal the win on third-and-2 from the Pittsburgh 42-yard line.
"We just put the ball in his hands and said go get this thing," Stefanski said.
The win did not come easy. Steelers backup QB Mason Rudolph threw into double coverage to Diontae Johnson inside the 10 with just over two minutes left and the Browns leading by eight.
Rudolph then threw a TD pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster with 1:23 left but his two-point conversation pass was overthrown. Cleveland recovered the onside kick.
Asked to reflect on the significance of this season, Stefanski said there is still work to be done.
"I like this football team. I like how this football team works. I like how this football respondse with its back against the wall," Stefanski said. "We’ll wait for the reflection till much later.”
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