Baker Mayfield capitalized on hosts the Denver Broncos’ depleted cornerback corps and dubious coaching decisions on Saturday in leading the Cleveland Browns to a 17-16 victory at Mile High Stadium.
Mayfield’s two-yard touchdown toss to Antonio Callaway with just under 12 minutes left provided the winning margin for the Browns (6-7-1), who kept alive their slim hopes of ending the NFL’s longest playoff drought.
The Browns still have a shot at their first winning season since 2007 and even their first playoff berth since 2002 thanks to their first win over Denver (6-8) since 1990.
“I think the tough environment, winning on the road’s the most important thing,” Mayfield said.
Combined with their win at Cincinnati last month, the Browns have multiple road victories for the first time since 2014.
Callaway’s touchdown made it 17-13 and came with safety Justin Simmons in coverage because the Broncos were down five cornerbacks.
The Broncos responded with a 13-play drive that ate up more than seven minutes, but after Phillip Lindsay was stuffed for no gain on third-and-one from the Cleveland six-yard line, Broncos coach Vance Joseph sent in kicker Brandon McManus for a field goal instead of going for it on fourth down.
“I wanted points there,” Joseph said. “We had about 4 minutes, 35 seconds left. We had one timeout and the two-minute warning. I trust our defense to get a stop there.”
It did not happen, at least not right away, as Nick Chubb reeled off a 40-yard run on the first play.
However, the Broncos came up with a big stop on fourth-and-one from the Denver 10-yard line when Cleveland interim coach Gregg Williams went for it — and Chubb was dropped for a two-yard loss by Adam Gotsis.
The Broncos got the ball back at their 13 with 1:49 remaining and reached the 50-yard line with 52 seconds left, but a spike, two incompletions and a sack of Case Keenum all but ended Denver’s playoff hopes.
Texans 29, Jets 22
In East Rutherford, New Jersey, Deshaun Watson threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins with 2:15 left, lifting the Houston Texans to a 29-22 comeback victory over Sam Darnold and the New York Jets.
After Darnold and the Jets took their first lead of the game on Elijah McGuire’s two-yard touchdown run, Watson and the Texans (10-4) answered right back.
A holding call on cornerback Morris Claiborne on third down prolonged the drive, and Watson completed passes of 20 and 3 yards to Demaryius Thomas and 7 yards to Hopkins to get to New York’s 14.
Watson then found Hopkins streaking down the left sideline and launched a pass that the receiver somehow came down with despite being tightly covered by Claiborne.
Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 40-yard field goal made it 29-22 with 54 seconds left. Darnold and the Jets (4-10) had one more opportunity to try to tie — or win — but Houston held on.