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Case Keenum, D'Ernest Johnson carry Cleveland to 17-14 win over Broncos

Nate Ulrich, Akron Beacon Journal on

Published in Football

CLEVELAND — The loud, long sighs of relief the Browns can let out may rival the winds whipping through Northeast Ohio on Thursday night.

Instead of letting their record drop below .500 entering a so-called "mini-bye" this weekend, the Browns prevailed 17-14 over the Denver Broncos on "Thursday Night Football" at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Earlier this week, Browns safety John Johnson III characterized this matchup as a "must-win game."

With Case Keenum carrying the torch for injured starting quarterback Baker Mayfield, the Browns improved to 4-3, giving them a much-needed sense of calm ahead of their next game Oct. 31 at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In Keenum's first start since Dec. 29, 2019, he completed 21-of-33 passes (63.6%) for 199 yards and a touchdown without an interception for a rating of 90.3 against one of his former teams. The Broncos (3-4) traded the 10-year NFL veteran in March 2019 to the Washington Football Team.

Adversity hit the Browns hard this week. Not only did they lose their second consecutive game Sunday, but they were also decimated by injuries.

 

Attrition persisted Thursday. Starting cornerback Denzel Ward suffered a left hamstring injury and exited the game for good with 8:42 remaining in the fourth quarter. Even pregame warm-ups weren't safe, as evidenced by No. 3 receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones suffering a groin injury during them and sitting out against the Broncos.

Nevertheless, the Browns responded well enough to earn their fourth consecutive victory on "Thursday Night Football." Now they need the nine days until their first AFC North showdown of the season to lick their wounds.

Mayfield's streak of 53 consecutive starts ended because of the torn labrum he suffered in his left, non-throwing shoulder Sept. 19 against the Houston Texans and further damaged Sunday in a 37-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Mayfield told Fox's Jay Glazer he has a fractured humerus bone as a result of the injured shoulder dislocating this past weekend.

In the Browns' first victory against the Broncos since Mayfield helped them triumph late in his rookie season on Dec. 15, 2018, Cleveland was also missing star running backs Nick Chubb (calf) and Kareem Hunt (calf, on injured reserve), All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin (knee) and rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (high ankle sprain, on IR).

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