Browns front office and QB Joe Flacco deserve credit for playoff push
With three games left, the Cleveland Browns improbably remain in the top wildcard playoff spot, despite several season-ending injuries to star players and having to start four different quarterbacks.
Following the team's 20-17 win over the Chicago Bears to improve their record to 7-1 at home, the Browns are now 9-5 and on top of the conference wild card playoff standings. Cleveland also has an outside chance to catch Baltimore for the AFC North title.
Ideastream Public Media's sports commentator Terry Pluto rejects luck as the reason for five wins in which the Browns took the lead in the last two minutes.
"They've won, I think, three of them on field goals right at the end of games," Pluto said. "That's not luck, that's good kicking."
Pluto credits Browns General Manager Andrew Berry for releasing one of his draft picks, Kicker Cade York, and trading for Chargers veteran kicker Dustin Hopkins in one of two "crisis moves"
"Then, of course, bringing in (quarterback) Joe Flacco, who was playing catch with his brother ... and running around with his kids playing football," Pluto said. "You know, quarterback and kicker, you talk about winning close games, those are a big part of that."
"Joined the Browns and become the starting quarterback and win two of his first three starts and set a couple of passing records in the process," Pluto said.
Flacco, the longtime quarterback and Super Bowl champion for rival Baltimore, has thrown for 939 yards, the most ever for a Cleveland quarterback in his first three games. Flacco's 212 yards in the fourth quarter in the win over Chicago Sunday was the most by a Browns quarterback in the final quarter in 45 years. At 38, Flacco is also the oldest Cleveland Brown to attempt a pass and throw a touchdown in a regular season game.
With the Browns' ninth win, head coach Kevin Stefanski became the first Browns coach since Marty Schottenheimer in 1988 to have two winning seasons in his tenure.
Pluto believes that statistic, along with Stefanski's managing of the roster amid injuries and Andrew Berry's roster construction, will get both men a contract extension after the season.
The Browns will visit the Houston Texans, another playoff contender, on Sunday. Their final two games are at home against the New York Jets December 28 and on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals January 7.