Short-handed Cleveland Browns fail to close out Las Vegas Raiders

CLEVELAND -- The depleted Cleveland Browns still had a chance, but they couldn’t get that final first down and couldn’t manufacture that final stop to hang on.

Instead, Daniel Carlson nailed a 48-yard field goal as time expired, lifting the Las Vegas Raiders to a 16-14 victory Monday night at FirstEnergy Stadium while dimming Cleveland’s playoff hopes.

With 22 players on the COVID-19/reserve list, including 10 starters, the Browns still hung tough against the Raiders. Cleveland was without quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum, along with numerous other key players, who were all placed on the COVID-19/reserve list in recent days after an outbreak slammed the roster. Cleveland also was without coach Kevin Stefanski, who tested positive for the virus last week.

Despite that, the Browns rallied in the second half, taking a 14-13 lead when third-string quarterback Nick Mullens found tight end Harrison Bryant for a go-ahead, six-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 3:45 to play.

But after intercepting Raiders QB Derek Carr, the Browns couldn’t get a first down on three Nick Chubb runs to put the game away. And Carr took advantage, driving Las Vegas into field goal range.

“This one hurts,” Mullens said. “I really believed in the fourth quarter that this night was destined for Cleveland.

“Sometimes, it doesn’t work out like that.”

With the loss, Cleveland fell to 7-7 and into last place in the AFC North, with ESPN’s Football Power Index now giving the Browns just a 17% chance to make the playoffs.

Describe the game in two words: Heartbreaking finish. Considering the adversity, the Browns played valiantly, but to not finish the game off was deflating.

QB breakdown: Mullens didn’t put up big numbers. But he made several key throws on the go-ahead drive, culminating with the touchdown. The Browns just needed more out of the passing game in the first half. Still, given that he hadn’t taken a snap all season, and hadn’t taken any first-team snaps in practice up until late last week, Mullens did what he needed to do to give the Browns a chance.

Pivotal play: Browns linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah forced Carr into a fumble in the third quarter, setting up Cleveland’s first score, while putting the crowd back into the game. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough.