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Why the Browns signed Case Keenum for this very moment – Cleveland Browns Blog

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BEREA, Ohio — After trying to gut his way through Tuesday’s practice, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield woke up Wednesday morning realizing the inevitable.

Due to the torn labrum in his left shoulder, Mayfield physically won’t be able to play Thursday night against the Denver Broncos (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network).

And so, the Cleveland Browns are turning to journeyman backup Case Keenum, whom they signed last year for this very moment.

Yes, the Browns believed Keenum would serve as a terrific mentor for Mayfield. And to be sure, he has to this point. But Cleveland didn’t hand Keenum $10 million guaranteed in a three-year deal merely to be a sounding board. The Browns, general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski included, believed Keenum, when called upon, could win a game or two in a pinch. And with Cleveland’s season of playoff expectations already teetering after consecutive losses to the Los Angeles Chargers and Arizona Cardinals, that’s exactly what Keenum will be asked to do Thursday.

“I feel very ready. I have been ready,” Keenum said Wednesday after being announced as the starter. “You don’t have to get ready if you stay ready, and I’ve been ready since I got here.

“I’m excited. I’m ready.”

Indeed, Keenum has forged his career on always being prepared to play. And that was the case in Minnesota four years ago.

Then, Stefanski was the Vikings quarterbacks coach when another former Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Oklahoma — this time Sam Bradford — was the starting quarterback. In Week 2, Bradford attempted to play, but ultimately couldn’t due to a knee injury after warming up. That propelled Keenum into the starting lineup.

Keenum didn’t just keep the Vikings afloat that season; he quarterbacked them all the way to the playoffs, culminating with his “Minneapolis Miracle,” 61-yard touchdown completion to Stefon Diggs as time expired — a play that catapulted Minnesota to a stunning victory over the New Orleans Saints and into the NFC Championship Game.

“I’m built for this,” said Keenum, who noted that he’s been getting “millions of reps” mentally during practice over the past two seasons, even while Mayfield has gotten them physically. “This is what I’ve done my whole career, not knowing if I’m going to start up until game time, to not knowing who is out there with me, to introducing myself to players while I’m calling a play.”

It’s unclear what the Browns’ quarterback situation will look like after Thursday. According to a league source, Mayfield could return as soon as Cleveland’s next game — against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 31 — if the inflammation in his left shoulder subsides.

Either way, the Browns, despite numerous injuries elsewhere — including their top two running backs, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt — desperately need a victory if they’re to keep their preseason aspirations of a division title and playoff berth alive. They need Keenum to do what he’s done before. And do what they brought him in to do.

“What better chance to take advantage of an opportunity than on Thursday Night Football?” Keenum said. “I know these opportunities don’t come around very often, to be a starting quarterback in this league.

“So I’m ready to take advantage of it.”

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Derek Carr, Maxx Crosby want Rich Bisaccia back as Las Vegas Raiders’ head coach

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CINCINNATI — Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby both heartily endorsed Rich Bisaccia retaining the head-coaching job permanently following Las Vegas’ season-ending 26-19 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the opening round of the playoffs on Saturday night.

Bisaccia was promoted from special teams coordinator to interim head coach following Jon Gruden’s resignation on Oct. 11.

“I think we can all think that he’s the right guy,” Carr said of Bisaccia. “He’s proven that people listen to him. Our team listens to him. And I love him so much, I’m thankful for him. All those things will be decisions that I don’t make; I don’t get to make. I just play quarterback … but with everything that went on, if you really look at what happened, all the pieces missing, everything that changed, yeah, he held it together.”

Carr referenced the Raiders losing starting guards Richie Incognito and Denzelle Good to injury in the preseason and opener, respectively. He also talked about receiver Henry Ruggs III being cut following his involvement in a high-speed car crash that left a woman dead. Carr also cited Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller missing five games down the stretch; Pro Bowl running back Josh Jacobs being dinged up and unavailable at times; and losing versatile running back Kenyan Drake to a knee injury in Week 13.

“You go on and on and on and on, and that’s just offense,” said Carr, who had driven the Raiders to the Bengals’ 9-yard line before being intercepted at the 2-yard line on fourth-and-goal with 12 seconds to play Saturday night. “The fact that that staff kept everything together and kept us competitive and kept us finding ways to win football games, I think that’s what our organization is about, right? So, we’ll see what happens. We know what we want to have happen. But, again, we’re Raiders. We’re going to play football, but we just hope it, obviously, we hope it’s for somebody special.”

Carr also said he would stay out of direct conversations when it came to his future with the team. He has one year remaining on the five-year, $125 million extension he signed in 2017.

He said his agent and the Raiders have a good relationship.

“Lord knows there’s been a lot of things to communicate about, right?” Carr said. “When the time comes, I never want a face-to-face. I’m going to play quarterback, but my message will be talked about.

“I’m not going to go to dinner and say, ‘We have to do something.’ I’m not that guy. I’ll let my voice be heard, but in a different way.”

Crosby, who was just named second-team All-Pro, called Bisaccia a “great leader” for the Raiders.

“If it was up to me, I think everyone in the world knows what my decision would be,” said Crosby, who had a sack among his six tackles on Saturday. “I love Rich. You know, I’m biased, obviously, but he’s, he’s a great coach … he came in and got us to 10 wins. We came on the road, on a short week, and gave Cincinnati everything they could handle.

“One of the best people I know. One of the most honest dudes I know. And I’ll go to bat for him any day of the week. I love that dude to death. He knows that. I appreciate everything he’s brought to the table. I hope we keep doing it.”

Raiders owner Mark Davis has remained silent on the team’s head-coaching search, as well as on the futures of Carr and general manager Mike Mayock.

Bisaccia, meanwhile, laughed when asked if he thought about being elevated to the full-time job.

“I’m just thinking about those guys in that locker room that played the game with their heart and soul out there like that,” he said, “and had a chance to win at the end.”

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Bengals win first playoff game in 31 years, set the table for a run at AFC title – Cincinnati Bengals Blog

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CINCINNATI — Send those text messages. The Cincinnati Bengals have finally won a playoff game.

Cincinnati defeated the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19 at Paul Brown Stadium in an AFC wild-card game on Saturday. It was Cincinnati’s first playoff victory in 31 years, since before cell phones were capable of sending texts, as memes on the internet reminded folks in the days preceding the game.

But the win wasn’t just about ending the longest playoff win drought in the NFL. It was about the first step in making a run at the AFC title.

Over the course of the season, Cincinnati went from the projected cellar dweller in the AFC North to division champs, ending a six-year stretch without a playoff appearance. That journey included an overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers, one of the top teams in the NFL, and a Week 17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the AFC representatives in last year’s Super Bowl.

Those performances indicated Cincinnati wasn’t just a team that could win a playoff game. They showed the Bengals can hang with the best in the NFL.

For the second time this season, the Bengals needed to hang tough against the Raiders in order to pick up a win. The first came on Week 11 and set the tone for the second half of Cincinnati’s season.

The second victory was much more significant. It gave the city of Cincinnati something it hasn’t experienced in decades and set the table for the Bengals to have a truly special postseason.

“We expect to beat everybody that we play, not just hang with them,” Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said after the game.

Burrow added: “I mean, it’s exciting. But this is expected. This isn’t like the icing on top of the cake or anything. This is the cake. So we’re moving on.”

Describe the game in two words: Curse ending. The Bengals ended the fabled “Curse of Bo Jackson” — the former Raiders running back’s final NFL game in January 1991 that also ended Cincinnati’s last playoff run that featured a win.

“I’m just really, really happy for the city of Cincinnati and that they get a chance to enjoy this,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “And now, just exhale and enjoy the ride we have. Because we’re not done yet.”

Pivotal play: On third-and-four at the end of the first half, Bengals quarterback Burrow scrambled and found Tyler Boyd for a 10-yard touchdown pass to give Cincinnati a 20-6 lead. Initially, it appeared Burrow was going to go out of bounds. A referee even blew an errant whistle. But the play continued and Cincinnati got a key red-zone touchdown.

QB breakdown: Burrow was efficient in his playoff debut. After throwing for 148 yards earlier in the season against the Raiders, Burrow finished Saturday’s win completing 24-of-34 passes for 244 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

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Josh Allen, Dawson Knox produce fireworks for Buffalo Bills in freezing weather vs. Patriots

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills started off Saturday night’s wild-card matchup against the New England Patriots with a bang. Quarterback Josh Allen found tight end Dawson Knox for an impressive score in the back of the end zone, giving Buffalo a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

Allen was given plenty of time to scramble behind his offensive line (9.64 seconds), but initially it looked like none of his options downfield were open. The quarterback moved to his right and appeared to be throwing it out of bounds, but Knox made an impressive toe-tap grab for the score. The 32.1 run yards traveled before passing are the most on any touchdown of Allen’s career. The pass had a completion percentage of 18.4%, per NFL Next Gen Stats, the second-most-improbable passing touchdown of his career.

It was the first passing touchdown in the past five playoffs in which a quarterback took at least nine seconds to throw, per Next Gen Stats.

The scored capped off a nine-play, 70-yard drive that included Allen rushing for 41 yards on two carries.

On the Patriots’ ensuing drive, quarterback Mac Jones moved the ball downfield and appeared to have a touchdown pass to wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Safety Micah Hyde, however, had other ideas and jumped in front of Agholor for an impressive interception in the end zone.



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