DENVER -- The Cleveland Browns don't care how it happened, they just care that it did.
The Browns somehow had slogged through for a 17-16 win, their fourth in five games.
And they had somehow kept their flickering playoff hopes alive.
“Right now for these young guys in there, every game is important,” said interim coach Gregg Williams, who improved to 4-2 since he took over for Hue Jackson. “We’ve been playing each and every week like it’s a playoff. So they’re pretty experienced right now.”
The Browns will need help on Sunday. According to ESPN Stats & Information, if Pittsburgh (vs. New England), Indianapolis (vs. Dallas) and Tennessee (at the New York Giants) all win, the Browns are eliminated from the postseason regardless.
Which means the Browns will be fans of the Patriots, Cowboys and Giants -- they need only one of the three to win to stay alive heading into their Dec. 23 game against the Bengals.
Saturday’s game was a struggle -- for both teams. But the Browns got a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield and some big runs from Nick Chubb (100 yards on 20 carries) as they beat the Broncos for the first time since 1990.
“No, it definitely wasn’t our best game, starting with myself,” Mayfield said. “But coming out with a win on the road is hard. And we did that.”
Mayfield was nowhere near as effective as he had been the previous four games, but when it mattered most, he came through. After a T.J. Carrie fourth-quarter interception, Mayfield hit Jarvis Landry for 12, Rashard Higgins for 16 and Landry again for 6 before he found Antonio Callaway for the 2-yard touchdown that provided the winning margin.
Denver would get a field goal to cut the lead to one, but Chubb broke a 40-yard run and the Browns were able to keep the ball until 1:49 remained. On fourth-and-1 from the 10, Williams bypassed a field goal attempt and went for the win, but Chubb was stopped for a 2-yard loss.
“The easy thing to say is yeah, you can kick a field goal and make them score a touchdown, but if you get the first down nobody is going to say a thing,” Mayfield said. “We’re aggressive.”
“We came up here to win the ballgame and I don’t think anybody is ever worried about me not being aggressive,” Williams said.
On the Broncos' final drive, Keenum got the Broncos to the 50, but a spike and two incomplete passes left them with a fourth-and-10, when the Browns called blitz and Peppers came through the middle to end the game.
“Our guys scrapped until the clock hit zero,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield started strong, throwing a 31-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman on the Browns' first possession. He finished 18-for-31 for 188 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and a lost fumble.
It wasn’t a spectacular effort, or as Mayfield said, “It wasn’t very pretty.”
But it was a winning effort, and a franchise that won four games in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons combined has now won four of five to keep the postseason in view. At 6-7-1, the Browns trail five seven-win teams in the standings.
They need help, but at least for one Saturday night, the Browns are still alive.
That’s not a prediction many would have made when the Browns fell to 2-6-1 after Williams’ first game, or even before the season.
But that’s where the Browns are.
Believe it or not.