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Duck’s Dynasty? Backup Hodges leads Steelers by Browns 20-13

Sun Dec 1 4:56pm ET
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer

Players: Garrett Gilbert, Kareem Hunt, Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Mason Rudolph, James Washington, Benny Snell Jr.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges (6) celebrates after defeating the Cleveland Browns during in an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)


Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) wears a glove on his throwing hand during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Pittsburgh. Mayfield left the game in the first half after hitting his hand on a helmet. (AP Photo/Don Wright)


Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington (13) makes a touchdown catch in front pop Cleveland Browns defensive back Sheldrick Redwine (29) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)


Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington (13) celebrates with tight end Vance McDonald (89) after making a touchdown catch from Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges (6) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)


Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt (27) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half of an NFL football, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)


Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (80) makes a catch in front of Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Terrell Edmunds (34) in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Pittsburgh. The call was originally called incomplete but was rules a catch on review. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)


Cleveland Browns defensive end Chad Thomas (92) celebrates with defensive end Olivier Vernon (54) and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (98) after sacking Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)


Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) passes as he is pressured by Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree (48) in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)


PITTSBURGH (AP) No fighting. No helmet swinging. Barely any trash talking.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns kept things civil in their highly anticipated rematch, which ended the way they always seem to end at Heinz Field: the Steelers walking off in triumph 20-13, leaving the Browns to ponder how another one got away.

Devlin ''Duck'' Hodges threw for 212 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his second career start. Rookie Benny Snell ran for 63 yards and his first NFL touchdown, and the banged-up Steelers exacted revenge for their whipping at the hands of the Browns two weeks ago with a 20-13 victory on Sunday.

Pittsburgh (7-5) boosted its postseason chances by rallying from 10 points down thanks in large part to Hodges, a rookie undrafted free agent who happens to be a champion duck caller in his down time. He was aided by the emergence of wide receiver James Washington, who caught four passes for 111 yards and a juggling 30-yard score late in the first half.

The Browns (5-7) saw their three-game winning streak come to a crashing halt when they failed to handle a Pittsburgh offense riddled with injuries and inexperience at the skill positions. Baker Mayfield completed 18 of 32 passes for 196 yards with a touchdown and an interception; he played the entire second half with his right hand in a protective glove after smacking it against the face mask of Pittsburgh linebacker Bud Dupree.

Nick Chubb ran for 58 yards and Kareem Hunt added 65 total yards and a touchdown reception. But Cleveland failed to pull even with the Steelers in the standings and sweep the season series from its rival for the first time in 31 years.

The teams' first meeting on Nov. 14 ended with an ugly altercation between Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett and Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph that ended with Garrett hitting Rudolph in the head with Rudolph's helmet. The ensuing fallout - which included Garrett being suspended indefinitely; Rudolph fending off Garrett's allegation that he used a racial slur shortly before things got out of hand; suspensions for Browns defensive end Larry Ogunjobi and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey; and more than $700,000 in fines.

That reignited a rivalry that's been dominated by the Steelers since Cleveland returned to the NFL a generation ago.

Just in case it needed a little more stoking, Browns rookie head coach Freddie Kitchens was spotted wearing a ''Pittsburgh started it'' T-shirt on Friday night. Several Steelers responded with some inauspicious wardrobe choices while waking into work on Sunday.

Pittsburgh's response on the field was even more emphatic.

The Steelers spotted Cleveland the game's first 10 points. The spark Hodges provided in relief of Rudolph in the second half last week against Cincinnati appeared to have evaporated thanks in large part to conservative play calling.

One 39-yard lob from Hodges to Washington in the second quarter flipped the field and the momentum. The Steelers ripped off the game's next 20 points, including a bobbling 30-yard touchdown catch by Washington to tie it late in the second quarter.

On Cleveland's ensuing possession, Mayfield's right hand hit Dupree's facemask. He grabbed it in pain and jogged to the sideline, replaced by Garrett Gilbert. Though he returned to start the second half, he wasn't the same. Neither were the Browns.

INJURIES

Browns: CB Greedy Williams left in the second half with a shoulder injury. CB Robert Jackson exited in the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.

UP NEXT

Browns: host in-state rival Cincinnati next Sunday. Cleveland swept the Bengals last season for the first time since 2002.

Steelers: travel to Arizona next Sunday.

Player Notes
George Kittle Jan 27 6:00pm ET

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (shoulder) said that he's been playing through a torn labrum in his right shoulder since the start of the 2018 season. "So I dislocated my shoulder last year," Kittle said Sunday on the Pardon My Take podcast, "and my labrum is completely torn. So I don't get surgery on it -- [The protective sleeve] basically helps me, so it doesn't hurt all the time." He didn't miss any games in 2018 and set the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377. Kittle said there's "no chance" he has surgery in the future. The 26-year-old has been quiet in the postseason with four catches for 35 yards in two games, but the Niners haven't really needed him with their ground game humming. That could change in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs on Feb. 2.

From RotoBaller

Kareem Hunt Jan 27 3:20pm ET

Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt, who will be a free agent in March, emotionally admitted that he would fail a drug test to a police officer during a traffic stop recently. This was caught on video of the police officer's dash cam during the traffic stop. Hunt also admitted that the small amounts of marijuana found in the car were his, but the officer let Hunt off with just the speeding ticket. It remains to be seen if the NFL will consider a suspension for the 24-year-old from this incident. Hunt was released by the Chiefs during the 2018 season due to a domestic-violence incident, and he served a suspension before making his Browns debut in 2019. If he signs with another team this offseason and is given bell-cow duties in the backfield, Hunt could have RB1 upside.

From RotoBaller

Philip Rivers Jan 27 3:00pm ET

The Los Angeles Chargers have "moved on from Philip Rivers," according to FOX Sports' Jay Glazer. Rivers is set to become a free agent in March, and the writing was on the wall when he recently moved his entire family from San Diego to Florida. Rivers will end a 16-year run with the Chargers, but it remains to be seen where he'll land on the free-agent market this offseason. The Buccaneers are a popular expected destination, but that'll only be if they move on from Jameis Winston. Rivers completed 66 percent of his passes for 4,615 yards, 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 2019 for a QB rating of 88.5. He might have a few more seasons left in him, but at 38 years old his arm strength is clearly deteriorating, and he'll probably be more of a QB2 in 2020, depending on where he winds up.

From RotoBaller

Frank Clark Jan 27 12:30pm ET

Baltimore Ravens defensive end Matthew Judon is a candidate to receive the team's franchise tag and could also be traded, according to league sources. The Ravens would like to bring Judon back in 2020, but they are also likely to listen to trade offers if another team shows interest. The Niners dealt a second-round pick to the Chiefs last year for defensive end Dee Ford, who then signed a five-year deal worth up to $87.5 million last March. The Chiefs also traded first- and third-round picks to the Seahawks last April for defensive end Frank Clark, who then signed a five-year, $105.5 million deal. Judon has emerged as a high-end pass rusher with at least seven sacks in each of the last three years. The 27-year-old had a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2019 and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time.

From RotoBaller

Fletcher Cox Jan 26 6:43pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles DT Fletcher Cox was credited with a 61-yard interception return for touchdown at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.

From TheHuddle

Jack Doyle Jan 26 6:33pm ET

Indianapolis Colts TE Jack Doyle posted three catches for 63 yards and a touchdown on four targets for the AFC at the Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26.

From TheHuddle

T.J. Watt Jan 26 6:33pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers DE T.J. Watt posted an 82-yard fumble return for touchdown in the fourth quarter for the AFC at the Pro Bowl in Orlando on Sunday, Jan. 26.

From TheHuddle

Mark Andrews Jan 26 6:23pm ET

Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews ended up with a game-high nine receptions for an AFC-best 73 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.

From TheHuddle

D.J. Chark Jan 26 6:23pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars WR DJ Chark Jr. registered two grabs for 67 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown in the third quarter, for the AFC at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.

From TheHuddle

Davante Adams Jan 26 6:13pm ET

Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams ended up with a team-high six receptions for 61 yards and two touchdowns on seven targets for the NFC at the Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26.

From TheHuddle

Amari Cooper Jan 26 6:13pm ET

Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper finished with three grabs for 24 yards and a touchdown on seven targets for the NFC at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.

From TheHuddle

Kirk Cousins Jan 26 6:03pm ET

Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins completed 13-of-22 passes for 181 yards, two touchdowns and one interception at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26

From TheHuddle

Michael Thomas Jan 26 6:03pm ET

New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas hauled in five receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown with a team-high eight targets at the Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26.

From TheHuddle

Calais Campbell Jan 26 5:53pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars DE Calais Campbell had a solo tackle, a sack and a quarterback hit in the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26, winning the Defensive Most Valuable Player award.

From TheHuddle

Lamar Jackson Jan 26 5:53pm ET

Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson completed 16-of-23 passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the AFC in the Pro Bowl, winning Offensive Most Valuable Player. He also ran twice for six yards in the 38-33 win.

From TheHuddle

Darren Fells Jan 26 2:13pm ET

Houston Texans impending free-agent TE Darren Fells is a player the Texans will try to re-sign this offseason, but he probably will receive interest from multiple teams in free agency.

From TheHuddle

A.J. McCarron Jan 26 2:13pm ET

Houston Texans impending free-agent QB AJ McCarron is a candidate to be re-signed this offseason, in the opinion of ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop.

From TheHuddle

C.J. Mosley Jan 26 1:00pm ET

New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley (groin), who is six weeks removed from groin/abdominal surgery, said he is jogging "a little bit" and is on track to take part in "spring football." Mosley has also started a vegan diet after playing in just two games last season because of his injury in his first year in New York. The 27-year-old should be ready for a full training camp heading into the 2020 season, and he should give Gang Green a steadying presence in the middle of the field next season. Mosley recorded 100-plus tackles in four of his five seasons in Baltimore before signing with the Jets in free agency last offseason.

From RotoBaller

Eric Berry Jan 26 1:00pm ET

Former Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who did not play at all in 2019, plans to play in 2020 after intentionally taking the season off to rest his body and mind. Berry was cut by the Chiefs in 2018 and has only played in three games since 2016 due to injuries and a bout with cancer. The former first-round pick in 2010 has 14 career interceptions and five touchdowns and could provide a team with a veteran presence in the secondary in 2020. However, it remains to be seen if any team will take a chance on the veteran moving forward. Berry is unlikely to be an asset in IDP leagues if he gets picked up by a team.

From RotoBaller

Drew Brees Jan 26 12:50pm ET

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who will become a free agent in March, said he is still waiting to decide if he will play a 20th season in the NFL. "Then, I'll kind of lay low for a little bit, get away and then assess. I kind of have a process in mind. And I'll give it a month or so," Brees said. If the 41-year-old does decide to return, it'll be for the Saints. General manager Mickey Loomis also said that the team would welcome him back if he decides to keep playing. Brees' arm strength is starting to deteriorate, but he still put up great numbers when he came back from a fractured thumb last season, and he should remain in play as a QB1 if he returns for the 2020 season.

From RotoBaller