Flacco rallies banged-up Browns to win over Bears
CLEVELAND (AP) — For Myles Garrett, there's no explanation for the Browns' strange season.
It's been crazy, zany, wild and weird.
"Who could have wrote this story?” Cleveland's star defensive end asked. “Not even Dr. Seuss. It doesn’t get more abstract than what we’ve gone through."
Joe Flacco passed for 374 yards — 212 in the fourth quarter — and set up Dustin Hopkins' 34-yard field goal with 32 seconds left before the Browns withstood a Hail Mary on the final play to beat the Chicago Bears 20-17 on Sunday.
Making his third start since signing with Cleveland last month, the 38-year-old Flacco overcame three interceptions and made several brilliant throws in the closing minutes to rally the Browns (9-5) from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Cleveland has won six games by four points or fewer.
Flacco, who went 11 of 13 in the final quarter, connected on a 51-yard touchdown pass — into tight coverage — to wide receiver Amari Cooper with 3:08 left that tied it at 17-all.
The Browns got the ball back with 1:50 remaining and Flacco, the fourth QB to start for Cleveland this season, completed two passes to tight end David Njoku for 65 yards to set up Hopkins' go-ahead kick.
The Bears (5-8), who blew 17-7 lead, nearly pulled off a stunning finish.
With no time left, Chicago quarterback Justin Fields lofted a pass from the 45-yard line to the end zone into a pack of players. Two Browns defenders batted the ball down, but it went directly to Bears receiver Darnell Mooney, who was lying on his back.
The ball bounced in and out of Mooney's hands and he kicked it into the air, allowing Browns safety D'Anthony Bell to intercept it and avoid a catastrophic ending for Cleveland.
“It’s tough and crazy,” Mooney said. "How many times do you see that Hail Mary work and actually be able to maybe catch it?”
The play was a blur to Browns coach Kevin Stefanski.
“I blacked out,” he said.
Garrett had a firsthand view after chasing Fields from the pocket.
“He kind of looked at me, just made sure I was far enough away and then tossed it up.” Garrett said. "I was like, ‘Please, Lord, don’t let us be one of these like, YouTube compilations.’”
For a moment, Fields thought the Bears had pulled it out.
“I heard some celebration on the sideline,” he said, “and then it was kind of like, awww. Then I saw the guy picked off the pass.”
The Browns stayed in the No. 5 playoff spot in the AFC. It's a remarkable achievement considering they're without starting quarterback Deshaun Watson and star running back Nick Chubb, and they lost five regulars to season-ending injuries just this week.
“We’ve been through four quarterbacks,” Garrett said. "It’s not going to shake us because we’ve literally been through it all with injuries and everything else. So this is just another step in our journey, another opportunity for us to write a very peculiar but great legacy.”
Flacco has quickly become a hero in Cleveland, his longtime rival when he played for Baltimore. The 15-year veteran has thrown for 939 yards in three games.
Flacco showed resilience after his picks, one of which was returned by Tremaine Edmunds for a 45-yard touchdown on Cleveland's first play of the second half to put the Bears ahead 14-7.
“Believe me, part of you wants to crawl into a hole somewhere and hide from everybody, but you can’t do that,” Flacco said. "Especially somebody like me. I’ve been in this league a long time and you’ve seen so much happen.
“You just have to keep your eyes on what’s next. You have to continue to look forward and continue to have faith that your teammates are going to get themselves in the right positions for you to get the ball to them.”
Garrett declined to say anything negative about the officiating, one day after being fined $25,000 by the NFL for remarks following last week's game.
“Ask Roger,” he said referring to Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was at Sunday's game. ”I didn’t talk to him. But you watch the film and you ask Roger."
Garrett feels he hasn't been getting enough calls. He went without a sack for the fourth game in a row.
Njoku had a career-high 10 catches for 104 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Cooper had four receptions for 109 yards.
Offensive tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. (knee) and Dawand Jones (knee), safety Grant Delpit (groin), defensive end Ogbo Okoronkwo (pectoral) and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (pectoral) did not play for Cleveland.
Things got worse as All-Pro left guard Joel Bitonio went out in the first quarter with a back injury.
“My back’s messed up," Bitonio said. "I don’t know exactly what happened, but not feeling good.”
Bears: LG Teven Jenkins (concussion) was carted to the locker room in the second quarter.
Browns: LB Anthony Walker Jr. (knee) was inactive after getting hurt in practice this week. He came in listed as questionable. ... CB Mike Ford Jr. (illness) went to the locker room in the first quarter.
Bears: Host Arizona on Dec. 24.
Browns: Visit Houston on Dec. 24.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL