ICYMI in Week 17: Ravens hang on, move on after Browns scare
All the Ravens had to do to make the playoffs was beat the Browns.
It’s not as easy as it used to be.
Baltimore needed a late fourth-down interception to stifle Baker Mayfield’s momentum, secure a 26-24 victory over Cleveland and wrap up the AFC North.
The win ended the season for the Steelers, who had closed out their own victory over Cincinnati minutes earlier and were standing on their home field, cheering for the Browns as they watched the end of the game in Baltimore on the scoreboard.
Mayfield had trimmed a 13-point deficit to two and had the Browns on the march, but C.J. Mosley tipped and picked a fourth-down pass with 62 seconds left to seal the win.
It prevented a nightmare repeat of last year, when all the Ravens had to do was beat the Bengals at home to clinch, but gave up a 49-yard touchdown pass with 44 seconds left to fall.
Meanwhile, the Browns had a chance to finish with a winning record the season after going 0-16. Despite falling short (7-8-1), they show every sign of a team that will be in contention for the foreseeable future. Mayfield, the first pick in the 2018 draft, threw three touchdown passes and finishes with the rookie record for TD passes with 27.
In case you missed it, here were some other highlights from the final week of the regular season in the NFL:
BETTER LATE: The Indianapolis Colts took the last available playoff spot, defeating the Titans 33-17 in the 256th and final game of the regular season Sunday night. The Colts, only the third team in history to make the playoffs after a 1-5 start, play at Houston next Saturday in the wild card round. The defending-champion Eagles beat Washington and captured the NFC’s sixth seed when the Vikings lost to the Bears. All of Philly will be watching Nick Foles this week to see if he recovers from a chest injury in time for the game at Chicago on Sunday. Other games next weekend: Seahawks at Cowboys on Saturday and Chargers at Ravens on Sunday.
NEAR MISS: Nothing’s been easy for the Arizona Cardinals this season. That didn’t change Sunday. Needing only a loss on the road against a playoff team — the Seahawks — to secure the top pick, the Cardinals nearly blew it. They were tied at 24 heading into the final seconds. Sebastian Janikowski got them off the hook by making a 33-yard field goal to hand the Cardinals their league-leading 13th defeat and put them on the clock for the April 25 draft. Possible pick: defensive lineman Nick Bosa of Ohio State (Cards took QB Josh Rosen last year). Waiting in the wings were the Niners, who fell convincingly, 48-32 to the Rams, but only lost 12 games this year and will settle for the second pick.
ANYONE CAN DO IT: Kyle Williams lined up in the backfield, ran out to the flat, made the catch and turned up field for a nine-yard gain. Nothing too special — except that Williams is a defensive end, playing in the final game of his 13-year career — all with the Buffalo Bills. Williams wasn’t the only one given a rare chance to show off his hands. Quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Ryan Tannehill each caught touchdown passes. Also moving outside his comfort zone was Detroit Lions kicker Matt Prater , who lined up for what looked like a field-goal attempt, but took the snap and threw a perfect pass to Levine Toilolo for a touchdown against Green Bay.
EXPENSIVE SEAT: It might have been the most expensive seat in the NFL on Sunday. Inactive due to injury, Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette spent much of his team’s 20-3 loss to the Texans sitting on the bench, talking with teammate T.J. Yeldon (who was active but didn’t play) and seemingly disinterested in the action. Tom Coughlin was not impressed. “They were disrespectful, selfish and their behavior was unbecoming that of a professional football player,” the team executive said in a statement after the game. Previously, the Jaguars notified the fourth pick of the 2017 draft that his suspension earlier this season voided the guarantees for his $7.1 million salary over 2019 and 2020. To be continued ...
JOIN THE CLUB: Among those finding themselves in rare company Sunday: Saquon Barkley. With help of a 68-yard touchdown run, the Giants back joined Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James as only the third rookie to gain 2,000 yards from scrimmage. (Barkley also had a “slam dunk” touchdown run.) Also, Patrick Mahomes joined Peyton Manning as the second QB to throw for 5000 yards and 50 TDs in the same season.
LATER, COACH: The Buccaneers let their latest loss sink in for about three hours before cutting ties with coach Dirk Koetter, who leaves Tampa with a 19-29 record over three seasons. The Jets said goodbye to Todd Bowles, who went 24-40 over four years. On Monday, Adam Gase (Miami), Vance Joseph (Denver), Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati) and Steve Wilks (Arizona) got their pink slips, as expected.