Sun Jan 17 8:51pm ET
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens (53) during the first half of an NFL divisional round football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Cleveland Browns cornerback M.J. Stewart Jr. (36) reacts on the field after an NFL divisional round football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. The Chiefs won 22-17. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield throws a pass during the second half of an NFL divisional round football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Just like so many painful playoff losses in their past, the Browns came up achingly short - inches from a game-swinging play, inches from a last chance.
Cleveland's turnaround season ended Sunday in heartbreak.
''For now,'' said quarterback Baker Mayfield. ''It's definitely going to sting.''
Unable to take advantage of Kansas City superstar Patrick Mahomes being out with a concussion, the Browns let backup quarterback Chad Henne make two huge plays in the final two minutes and lost 22-17 in the divisional round.
After trailing 19-3, the Browns (12-6) fought back and were in position to maybe end the Super Bowl champions' one-year reign. But Cleveland couldn't stop Henne from scrambling for 13 yards on a third-and-14, then completing a short pass on fourth down to Tyreek Hill with 1:14 left to push the Chiefs into the AFC championship game for the third straight year.
''It came down to us on defense and we let it slip,'' said Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett, who played most of the game with an oblique injury. ''We had two opportunities. We didn't make it happen. It was right in front of us and we just didn't get it done.''
So close. So Browns.
While this postseason loss won't be stamped with a nickname like ''The Drive'' or ''The Fumble'' - the most notable playoff misses for a franchise finally back on its feet - it was nearly as painful for the Browns and their fans.
''It hurts,'' said first-year coach Kevin Stefsanksi, who missed Cleveland's wild-card win last week in Pittsburgh with COVID-19. ''There is a finality to this one when you do not get it done in the playoffs, and that really hurts. I appreciate how our guys battled. They fought like they do every single week, and it just was not enough today.''
While the last sequence was especially hard to stomach, the Browns missed a huge chance late in the first half that would have ripped momentum away from Mahomes and the Chiefs (15-2).
With the Browns trailing 16-3 with 1:42 left before halftime, Mayfield completed a 25-yard pass to wide receiver Rashard Higgins, who caught it while stumbling near Kansas City's 5-yard line but managed to keep moving toward the goal line.
Higgins launched himself toward the corner pylon, extended his arms and got blasted from the side - and in the helmet - by Chiefs linebacker Daniel Sorensen, who dislodged the ball, which rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.
So instead of cutting Kansas City's lead to six, the Browns were back on defense and Mahomes quickly drove the Chiefs for a field goal to take a 16-point halftime lead.
Stefanski praised Higgins' tenacity on the play, but said the receiver made a mistake in reaching out and leaving the ball exposed.
''I will never ever doubt Rashard Higgins' effort or our guys' effort,'' Stefanski said. ''Our rule there is not to reach the ball out when it is first-and-goal, and he knows that. Again, appreciate his effort. He battled like he always does, but we have to fight that urge because it is such a big loss if it does end up being a touchback.''
And has been the case all season, there was other adversity for the Brown to overcome.
Rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills injured his ankle on the first offensive play and was done. Then his backup, Kendall Lamm, hurt his elbow and the Browns were again forced to play reserve Blake Hance, who came off the bench a week ago to play guard against the Steelers.
Hance, or ''that guy named Blake'' as Mayfield calls him, spent 16 weeks on the Jets' practice squad and only met Stefanski on Thursday.
Despite the obstacles, and with Mahomes out after he was thrown down hard by Cleveland linebacker Mack Wilson in the third quarter, the Browns came back.
Kareem Hunt muscled his way in on a 3-yard TD run to pull the Browns within five. When Henne was intercepted by Karl Joseph on Kansas City's next possession, it looked like Cleveland, one of four teams to never make the Super Bowl, might pull off a stunner.
However, Kansas City's defense dug in and forced the Browns to punt with 4:19 left. Cleveland would never touch the ball again after Henne's heroics.
As they watched on the sideline, Mayfield and his offensive teammates felt that with one last chance, the Chiefs were finished.
''We did, and I think that is what hurts the most,'' he said. ''They went for it because I think they could feel that, too.''
There will be time for the Browns to reflect on this strange season. For the first time in forever, the future looks bright.
''We have a hell of a team all around,'' Garrett said. ''We showed that we can go to the AFC championship. We were just one play away. We just have to make that play.''
The Cleveland Browns Defense played well in a 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Cleveland picked up one sack and forced one turnover in the loss. The Chiefs' offense would have turned in a much better game but they lost quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a concussion early in the third quarter. Top Cleveland defender Myles Garrett played through an oblique injury to log the team's only sack of the afternoon while safety Karl Joseph picked off a Chad Henne pass in the fourth quarter. Cleveland's defense was a team weakness during the 2020 season, so expect the front office to dedicate a significant portion of their offseason resources to augmenting the unit. They could be one of the most-improved fantasy defenses heading into the 2021 campaign.
Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper was overshadowed by teammate David Njoku in their team's 22-17 Divisional Round loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Hooper wound up catching just two of three targets for 13 yards, although one of his catches was a clutch diving grab to convert a fourth down. Many DFS gamers were eager to plug Hooper into lineups to take advantage of a plus matchup against the Chiefs, but instead it was forgotten man David Njoku who came up big. Njoku caught four of five targets for 59 yards to finish second on the Browns in receiving. Hooper was a big free-agent signing by the Browns last offseason but he wound up as a bust on his new team. He should be treated as a low-upside TE2 in fantasy for the 2021 season as Cleveland doesn't pass frequently enough to support him. Njoku has a $6 million cap hit in 2021 and spent much of the past season angling for a trade out of Cleveland. He could very well be in a different uniform in 2021.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce scored a touchdown versus the Cleveland Browns in an AFC Divisional Round victory on Sunday. Kelce also caught eight of his 11 targets for 109 yards on the afternoon. Kelce had one of the most dominant seasons every for a tight end this season and that has carried over the playoffs. Kelce will be a TE1 option every week, but managers may want to double check that quarterback Patrick Mahomes (concussion) is playing before going with Kelce in a tough matchup versus the Buffalo Bills next weekend for the AFC Championship.
According to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees plans to retire after the season ends. With the Saints are getting ready to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs on Sunday night, Glazer tweeted, "Today will be Drew Brees' last game in the Superdome" earlier in the day. If the Saints lose to Tampa Bay, it will close the book on a Hall of Fame career for Brees. If the Saints win, they will head to Green Bay to take on the Packers for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. With Brees out of the picture in 2021, there's a chance that the Saints to turn to Taysom Hill as the team's starting quarterback but they could bring in a veteran as several quality signal-callers will be available this offseason, either through free-agency or via trade. Either way, it will be the end of an era for the Saints and the NFL as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in league history hangs them up.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins led his team in receiving in a 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round. Higgins caught five of seven targets for 88 yards but he will instead be remembered for the play he didn't make. Higgins appeared on his way to a touchdown near the end of the second quarter but wound up fumbling the ball through the Kansas City end zone, resulting in the Chiefs offense getting the ball at the 20-yard line. It was a tough play as he appeared to take a helmet-to-helmet hit but all Browns fans will remember is that he didn't score what would have been the game-deciding touchdown. Higgins is now an unrestricted free-agent and could be playing for a different team next season, also Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski appeared to be a fan of Higgins during his first year at the helm. If he stays with the Browns, the return of Odell Beckham Jr. would push Higgins back to the No. 3 WR role in Cleveland.
Kansas City Chiefs backup quarterback completed six of his eight passes for 66 yards after replacing Patrick Mahomes (concussion) in an AFC Divisional Round victory against the Cleveland Browns. The veteran also rushed for 12 yards on two carries. Henne put together and admirable performance on Sunday, but the Chiefs are hoping to have Mahomes back against the Buffalo Bills for the AFC Championship. If Henne were to start next week, all of the Chiefs position players would take a hit on their value. Henne should be avoided by all managers if he starts next weekend.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry turned in a solid outing in a 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Landry finished with seven catches for 20 yards and a touchdown in the loss while his 10 targets led the team. The veteran wideout struggled to gain much yardage after the catch but he managed to score Cleveland's only passing touchdown on a four-yard catch in the third quarter where he did a nice job getting both feet down in-bounds. Landry saw his production in the passing attack dip in the first year of the Kevin Stefanski era, despite top target Odell Beckham Jr. appearing in just seven games. As a player who scored a majority of his fantasy points over the years thanks to high volume, Landry's days as a fantasy WR2 are behind him He is best treated as a flex or reserve wideout heading into the 2021 fantasy season.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill caught eight of his 10 targets for 110 yards and also rushed three times for nine yards versus the Cleveland Browns in an AFC Divisional Round victory. Hill was one of the top pass catchers this season and he backed it up on Sunday with another strong performance. The Cheetah remains a WR1 option, but will face a tough battle in the AFC Championship Game versus the Buffalo Bills next weekend and managers may want to make sure that quarterback Patrick Mahomes (concussion) is good to go before deploying any Chiefs player in their lineup.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt found the end zone in a 22-17 playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round on Sunday. Hunt finished with 32 yards and a score on six carries while adding a two-yard reception in the game. The veteran running back had an up-and-down season with the Browns. On one hand, he scored 14 total touchdowns (including the two playoff games). On the other hand, his production in the passing game dipped drastically as he caught just nine balls over his final five games. Hunt will be a solid low-end RB2/high-end RB3 in fantasy in 2021 but his upside is capped playing behind Nick Chubb.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Darrel Williams lead the Chiefs backfield with 13 carries for 78 yards and caught all four of his targets for 16 yards in an AFC Divisional Round victory versus the Cleveland Browns. Williams saw the bulk of the work with Le'Veon Bell only getting two rushing attempts for six yards and being held catchless on two targets. Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (hip/ankle) is getting close to a return and if he is healthy enough to play in the AFC Championship Game, Williams would like see in decrease in his workload. The Chiefs will draw a tough matchup against the Buffalo Bills next weekend and managers playing DFS should avoid the Chiefs backfield in that matchup.
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb turned in a quiet performance in a 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Chubb carried the ball 13 times for 69 yards and added four yards on two receptions. He left several plays on the field in the passing game as he dropped consecutive catchable passes on a drive, the second of which would have gone for a long gain. Despite the disappointing playoff outing, Chubb is locked in as an RB1 in fantasy in the 2021 season as he runs behind one of the better offensive lines in the league and is part of a run-heavy Cleveland offense that should be even better in the second year of the Kevin Stefanski era. Chubb should go off draft boards in the late first or early-second round this summer.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield turned in a steady performance in a 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Mayfield completed 23 of 37 passes for 204 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in the loss while adding 11 yards on three carries. The interception was just Mayfield's second in his past 11 games while his touchdown went to wideout Jarvis Landry. After an up-and-down 2020 campaign, the veteran quarterback should improve in 2021 with another year in the Kevin Stefanski offense under his belt and the return of Odell Beckham Jr. to full health. Mayfield is looking like a mid-range QB2 with upside heading into the 2021 fantasy season.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (concussion) has been ruled out for the rest of Sunday's Divisional Round game versus Cleveland. Mahomes departed in the third quarter after coming up wobbly following a tackle on a QB scramble. The team took Mahomes into the tent on the sidelines, before he was able to run into the locker room to undergo further evaluation. Upon additional testing, he has been diagnosed with a concussion, which means that Chad Henne will assume QB duties for the rest of the game. The next chance that Mahomes would have to suit up comes next Sunday in the AFC Championship Game versus Buffalo if Kansas City can close out the Browns, although Mahomes will still need to clear concussion protocol for that to happen.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers backfield is shaping up to feature Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones II, and LeSean McCoy for Sunday's Divisional Round showdown with the Saints. Head coach Bruce Arians is set to stick with Fournette as the starter, with Jones planned to be rotated in; that leaves McCoy as the team's third RB option, one that cannot be relied upon for DFS purposes. Ke'Shawn Vaughn has been utilized in bunches this year, including receiving five carries during the Wild Card round, although his lost fumble likely has an impact on his inactive status Sunday. The Bucs' backfield rotation will continue to be a point of focus should the team advance to the NFC Championship Game next Sunday versus the Packers, but for this week, it'll likely be a Fournette/Jones split with a dash of McCoy, if necessary.
The New Orleans Saints will be without running back Latavius Murray (quad) and tight end/quarterback Taysom Hill (knee) for Sunday's Divisional Round matchup versus the Buccaneers. Murray's absence means that Alvin Kamara will be in line for a whopping workload as the Saints' RB1, while Hill's means that Jameis Winston will be the team's unquestioned backup QB should Drew Brees need to depart for any reason. Murray will miss his first game of the year due to injury, having been ruled out in Week 17 due to COVID-19 contact concerns. The next chance that either Murray or Hill will have at taking the field comes next Sunday if the team were to advance to the NFC Championship Game in Green Bay.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes exited Sunday's contest versus Cleveland after coming up wobbly following a scramble during the third quarter. Mahomes needed to be helped to the sidelines before entering the medical tent, but he was able to run to the locker room. Chad Henne took over to complete the drive, which ended with a Chiefs field goal. Mahomes is likely to be tested for a concussion, but he was also dealing with a left big toe ailment that limited his mobility earlier in the game. Check back for the latest updates on Mahomes as they become available.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II (quad/finger) has been given the thumbs up to take the field for Sunday's game versus New Orleans, marking his return following a one-game absence. Leonard Fournette served as Tampa's top back during the Wild Card round, but he is likely to see a decreased role with Jones cleared to suit up. Despite being banged up late in the season, Jones came just 22 rushing yards shy of 1,000 on the season, adding seven rushing scores, including one in each of his last two appearances. The Saints Defense has been among the game's elite this year, but for those fantasy managers who are committed to rostering a Bucs running back, Jones is the more coveted option.
Cleveland Browns left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. (ankle) played all of one snap in Sunday's game versus Kansas City before departing due to an ankle injury. At halftime, the team announced that Willis would not return to action. The Browns have moved Blake Hance -- who was signed off of the Jets' practice squad just over a week ago -- over to LT to fill the gap for Wills. Cleveland used the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on Wills, who started 15 games as Baker Mayfield's blindside blocker this season. The next opportunity that Wills will have to suit up would be in the AFC Championship Game if the Browns can advance with a second half comeback over the Chiefs.
The Jacksonville Jaguars brought in recent Falcons interim head coach Raheem Morris for a head-coaching interview earlier this off-season before deciding to hire long-time college coach Urban Meyer to fill that role. Now? Meyer has reached out to Morris to potentially become his defensive coordinator, a role that he had filled for Atlanta prior to being elevated. Morris has had extensive NFL experience, albeit primarily as a defensive backs coach. Should he take the role overseeing the Jaguars Defense, he'd face an uphill task to correct a group that allowed the second-most points (30.8) and total yards (417.7) per game during the 2020 regular season. Morris is set to head to Florida in the coming days, so check back for the latest updates as they become available.
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold has faced turmoil from all sides as it comes to his role as the team's starting QB in the past 12 months, and that shows no signs of slowing as 2021 kicks off. But it appears that new head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur see their signal caller as having "untapped potential," after watching extensive tape. Darnold has primarily had to battle the possibility of New York drafting a quarterback with the No. 2 overall selection in the upcoming NFL Draft, but with Texans QB Deshaun Watson now reportedly available in a deal, Darnold may have a new wrinkle in his path to remaining the starter for the Jets. It's well within the realm that New York tabs Darnold under center in less than eight months time when the new year begins, as a full off-season with LaFleur may be just the ticket his future needs.