Packers vs. Browns score: Green Bay capitalizes on four Baker Mayfield INTs, holds off Cleveland

The Cleveland Browns nearly pulled off a Christmas miracle, but in the end the Green Bay Packers survived and escaped with a 24-22 victory to improve their record to 12-3. 

The Packers were uncharacteristically ineffective on offense for much of the second half as the Browns ate away at their lead, but Rasul Douglas intercepting yet another pass clinched the game for Green Bay late in the fourth quarter. Baker Mayfield threw four picks on the game, three of them in the first half, and that proved to be the difference. 

The Browns came back from being down 24-12 on the strength of Nick Chubb and D’Ernest Johnson breaking chunk runs off the right side of the line, and they pulled within two points on a Mayfield touchdown pass to rookie Anthony Schwartz. They had an opportunity to drive for a game-winning field goal in the two-minute drill and got themselves near midfield after several more strong gains by Chubb, but Mayfield threw two consecutive incomplete passes before getting picked off by Douglas on a play where it appeared the Packers corner may have gotten away with a hold on wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. 

The Browns had several other opportunities to add points earlier in the game, but a missed extra point, interception just outside the red zone, and an untimely sack scuttled them. In the end, those points they left on the field turned out to be extremely valuable. 

Aaron Rodgers became the Packers’ all-time leader in touchdown passes shortly after Mayfield’s first interception of the game, finding Allen Lazard for an 11-yard score to break a tie with Brett Favre. He later found Davante Adams for two additional touchdowns, and Mason Crosby’s 32-yard third-quarter field goal proved to be the winning margin. 

Read on for more about the game…

Why the Packers won

Rodgers and company turned three first-half turnovers into 21 points. After each of Mayfield’s interceptions, the Packers went five plays for 53 yards and a touchdown, 10 plays for 78 yards and a touchdown, and nine plays for 49 yards and a touchdown. That was just about all the scoring Green Bay needed, though the field goal the Packers got on the opening drive of the second half ended up being the actual game-winning score. 

Why the Browns lost

There are some games where it’s tough to tell why one team won and the other lost. This was not one of them. The Browns lost because their quarterback threw four back-breaking interceptions and took a few really bad sacks, and their secondary had no answer for Davante Adams. Sometimes the explanation really is that simple. 

Turning point

The Browns started this game with an efficient, five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. They even stopped the Packers on their first possession and forced a punt. But after Mayfield was picked off on the first play of the ensuing drive, Rodgers drove the team downfield for a touchdown. 

The Browns had a chance to answer that drive with a score of their own and even got themselves down the field and just outside the red zone. That’s when Mayfield threw his second interception of the night.

That’s just a bad throw. Mayfield didn’t step into it because of the muddy pocket in front of him, and the throw sailed over Jarvis Landry’s head and into the arms of Chandon Sullivan. The Packers would again drive down the field for a touchdown, further extending a lead they would never relinquish.

Highlight play

No quarterback-wide receiver combination is better at working the sideline than Rodgers and Adams. They hooked up for an outrageous back-shoulder throw down the stretch of the second quarter — a play they made look far easier than it had any business looking.

As Joe Buck and Troy Aikman noted on the broadcast, “There’s literally nothing you can do” about that kind of precision. That’s a pair of elite players operating at the peak of their powers, doing what they do best in a big moment. You can’t stop it. 

What’s next

Green Bay holds the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and will secure both a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs if it wins out. Next up for the Packers is a game against the Vikings at home. They close the season with a road trip to Detroit to play the Lions. 

Cleveland has fallen out of the playoff picture and needs help to get into the playoffs. The Browns pay a visit to the Steelers next week before hosting the Bengals in Week 18. 

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