Entering Cleveland on a short week and faced with a Browns club determined to cement its spot in the playoffs, the Jets quickly fell behind in a first-half shootout and couldn't muster a second-half rally in a 37-20 loss. The Jets fell to 6-10 while the Browns moved to 11-5 and guaranteed themselves a spot in the postseason.
"We were just slightly off with regards to technique, but like I said it just wasn't good enough all the way across the board," HC Robert Saleh said. "I'm looking inward on myself, in terms of what we can do better with these short week games."
Breece Hall turned in another impressive all-around performance with 126 yards, Garrett Wilson (5-50) reached 1,000 yards receiving for the second consecutive season and second-year DL Jermaine Johnson cashed on his first pro INT with his first pro TD. But QB Joe Flacco, who started 9 games for the Jets in 2020-22, had a masterful performance for the Browns, throwing for 3 TDs and ending the Jets' streak of 33 consecutive games without yielding a 300-yard passer. Flacco, who finished with 309 air yards, threw for 296 yards in the first half as Cleveland totaled 367 yards in the first two quarters.
"They're playing on a lot of confidence," Saleh said. "They're playing a lot of juice and a lot of energy right now. Flacco, he's just going to get better and better in these months. And I believe it is his fifth game and he's getting more and more comfortable with the offense. So, again, credit to them and hats off to them."
Entering this nationally televised affair, Cleveland had allowed an average of 13.1 points per game while posting a 7-1 home record. The Jets got 17 in the first two quarters while getting TDs from Hall and Johnson plus two takeaways, but they entered the third quarter down ,34-17. The 51 combined points made for the highest scoring first half in the past four years.
A defensive battle was expected, but both clubs came out with offensive flair as the teams traded three 75-yard TD drives on consecutive possessions. Hall's 21-yard TD reception provided the Jets an early answer to Jerome Ford's 7-yard TD grab, but Cleveland countered on Kareem Hunt's 7-yard run. After a failed extra point, the Jets trailed 13-7 with 4:43 remaining in the opening quarter.
Then the Jets turned the ball over twice, surviving a special teams mistake and seeing the deficit grow to 13 on an interception. Rookie RB Israel Abanikanda's lost fumble on a kickoff didn't cost the club as the defense turned away Flacco on downs after the Browns had reached the NYJ 4. Three plays later, QB Trevor Siemian locked in on Wilson and was picked off by Ronnie Hickman over the middle. Hickman, a teammate of Wilson's at Ohio State, promptly turned up field and returned it 30 yards for a score.
After 15 minutes and a 20-7 game, the teams had combined for 264 yards of total offense (Browns 166, Jets 98) as Cleveland TE David Njoku had 4 catches for 113 yards while Hall had 72 yards from scrimmage (40 rushing, 32 receiving). The Jets finally stopped Njoku when C.J. Mosley recovered his strip of the athletic tight end following a 15-yard reception. Flacco made it 27-7 with an 8-yard TD to former Jets WR Elijah Moore, but the Jets crept back on Johnson's wonderful individual effort. He waited out Flacco, timed his jump perfectly for a deflection and then hauled in the pass and took off for a 37-yard score.
The visitors amassed a third takeaway when Quincy Williams jarred the ball loose from Browns RB Pierre Strong and Johnson added to his INT with a FR in plus-territory. That set up the second half's first points as Greg Zeurlein hit from 44 yards to make it a 34-20 contest. The Browns answered with a field goal of their own in what proved to be a mild final 30 minutes that saw the Jets outgain the Browns, 198 to 61.
"I thought the guys came out in the second half and we continued to fight and tried to chop wood," Saleh said. "And I thought our offense moved the ball really well against a really good defense. And defensively, obviously, in the second half I thought we were much better. But that first quarter, it just wasn't good."
The Jets will wrap up their season next week against the Patriots in New England.
See the best game action photos during Thursday night's game against the Browns.
QB Trevor Siemian, making his second consecutive start for the Jets, was 32 of 45 for 262 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. … Greg Zeurlein, whose status was in question due to a quad injury, connected on a 46-yard field goal at the end of the first half. But Zeurlein's 31-yard attempt in the third quarter was blocked by Shelby Harris. .... An apparent Jets takeaway was overturned on replay review when officials ruled RB Jerome Ford was down when it appeared S Jordan Whitehead had ripped the ball away before the Browns runner hit the field, negating a takeaway in plus-territory. … Jake Hanson, who got the start at RG, left in the second half with a concussion and was replaced by Xaiver Newman. …. Already minus star WR Amari Cooper, who was inactive due to a heel injury, the Browns lost former Jets WR Elijah Moore to a concussion in the second quarter. Moore had 5 catches, 61 yards receiving and 1 TD. … Breece Hall's 21-yard TD reception in the first quarter marked the Jets' first opening drive TD of the season. Hall had 73.5% of the Jets' scrimmage yards in the first quarter (72 of 98). Over the last 2 games, Hall has combined for 21 receptions. … After a torrid start in the first quarter, Browns TE David Njoku finished with 134 yards on 6 catches. … The Jets had 12 penalties marked off for 74 yards.