Case Keenum, replacing Baker Mayfield, helps Browns end streak and stay in playoff race – Cleveland Browns Blog

October 22, 2021

CLEVELAND – On the fourth down at Denver’s 10-yard line, Cleveland Browns quarterback Case Keenum fell back with the Denver Broncos’ pass run falling on him and with no place to throw the ball.

Then Keenum took off down the middle. And with a Denver linebacker on the way, Keenum faked left, then dived to the right for a first down at the 1-yard line. Then, on the next play, he threw a touchdown pass out of play action for help propel the Browns to a 17-14 victory over the Broncos on Thursday night.

Two off seasons ago, the Browns didn’t just sign Keenum as a mentor to starting quarterback Baker Mayfield. They made him believe that he could pull through in a pinch, to keep Cleveland’s season afloat if asked. With Mayfield out due to a labrum tear and a non-throwing tuberosity fracture in his left shoulder, Keenum delivered Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium.

“He fought like always,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said of Keenum. “He orchestrated the operation. That was a great play there on fourth down. Just to make one play, fighting for extra yards. He did a great job fighting.”

Operating efficiently from a short shot-oriented attack based on heavy game action, Keenum steadied the Browns after two straight losses. He completed 21 of 33 passes for 199 yards and the touchdown, which followed the play of the game – his fourth down conversion.

“You don’t have to get ready if you’re ready,” Keenum said this week, “and I’ve been ready since I got here.”

Keenum may have to be prepared for now.

To further complicate the situation for the Cleveland quarterback, Mayfield revealed that he also has a broken left shoulder. Mayfield is aiming to return for Cleveland’s next game on Oct. 31 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But if Mayfield can’t go, Keenum proved Thursday that the Browns have another quarterback they can deliver.

Buy in a spectacular performance: With Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt both healing calf injuries, third-row running back D’Ernest Johnson made the most of his first career start. Johnson rushed for 34 yards on the opening drive, including a 4-yard touchdown run. Johnson finished with 146 yards, the first 100-yard game of his career. Chubb could be back as soon as October 31. But with Hunt expected to be out for several weeks, Johnson proved he can keep Cleveland’s powerful running game going.

Worrying trend: The Browns defense dominated much of the game, holding Denver to 76 total yards in the first half. But in the second half, Cleveland’s defense had multiple opportunities to drive away Denver, and its mediocre offense. Instead, the Broncos were able to engineer a fourth-quarter touchdown series to keep the game interesting. The Browns still have the talent to present a top-notch defense. But in the middle of the season, they still have to put it all together.

Describe the game in two words: Get it right. It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but the Browns desperately needed this win to keep their lofty preseason aspirations intact.