News & Analysis

NFL Week 16 PFF ReFocused: New York Jets 23, Cleveland Browns 16

Dec 27, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets defensive end Nathan Shepherd (97) celebrates a sack on Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) during the half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

With an AFC North division title on the line and without four of their top receivers, the Cleveland Browns fell to the New York Jets, 23-16, in Week 16. 

After losing 13 straight, the Jets have now won their past two contests, jeopardizing the Browns’ first playoff berth since 2002 in the process.

Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.

STORY OF THE GAME

Due to trailing the entire bout, Baker Mayfield attempted 53 total passes, completing just 28 for 285 yards and no scores. Mayfield was forced to target his tight ends and running backs far more often with his top receiving options out due to COVID-19. Austin Hooper saw 14 passes go his way but came down with just six of them for 61 yards.

Meanwhile, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for eight receptions and 79 yards. Undrafted rookie Ja’Marcus Bradley was the top receiver in the decimated group, hauling in five of 10 targets for 60 yards. 

The Browns' running game did not fare much better, as both Chubb and Hunt netted their worst rushing performances of the season. Chubb averaged just 2.5 yards on his 11 carries, while Hunt recorded 11 yards on four carries. Both did notch goal-line touchdowns. Despite the offensive line allowing three sacks — Mayfield was charged with one of his own — the unit actually played a stellar game, allowing just five quarterback pressures on 57 pass-blocking snaps. 

The Jets' offensive line fared far worse, allowing pressure on 42% of dropbacks. Sam Darnold was good enough to give New York its second win, but he was by no means exceptional. He averaged 5.5 yards per attempt on 16-of-32 passing, with 60% of his 175 passing yards coming after the catch.

Both of Darnold's touchdowns came on passes 10-plus yards downfield, but those were his only two completions on 11 attempts at that distance. He also threw a dropped interception.

Although the Browns stumbled over themselves, the Jets' defense shut them down. Cleveland entered the game averaging 4.8 yards per carry, which was tied for sixth-best in the NFL, but New York held them to just 2.6 today. In coverage, safety Matthias Farley did not allow a single reception on five targets, while corner Arthur Maulet conceded three of seven targets for 28 yards and forced a game-high two incompletions. 

The Jets may have played themselves out of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but they have shown they are not entirely bereft of talent. On the other hand, the Browns' playoff odds are now in serious danger with a Week 17 matchup looming against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Dec 27, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) knocks the arm of New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) while throwing the ball during the half half at MetLife Stadium. Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

ROOKIE WATCH

A couple of Browns rookies saw the field in the contest, with tight end Harrison Bryant and offensive guard Nick Harris getting plenty of playing time. Bryant was unable to make much of an impact, reeling in just three of seven targets for 37 yards. Harris struggled some in pass protection, allowing two quarterback pressures — including a sack — and being beaten on three more occasions. 

On the Jets side, Mekhi Becton (69), Denzel Mims (63) and Bryce Hall (81) all saw over 20 snaps. Becton endured one of his most challenging contests in pass protection as he faced both Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon on multiple occasions. It could have gone worse, as Becton allowed four quarterback pressures on 38 pass-blocking reps.

Despite seeing the field a great deal, Mims was unable to coral either of his two targets, ending the bout with a goose egg in every category. Hall was similarly ineffective, allowing all four passes thrown his way to be caught for 53 yards.

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