The Cleveland Browns got a win behind Case Keenum.
The Cinncinati Bengals barely played their starters in their week 18 matchup against the Cleveland Browns, which saw the Browns win 21-16. The decision to sit most of their starters all but ensured Case Keenum would get a win over the Bengals if he played a conservative game. Despite some turnovers in an ugly affair, with the same issues plaguing the Browns in their season finale that has been bothersome for months, they were able to ride D’Ernest Johnson for a win.
The Browns had three turnovers, two courtesy of Case Keenum, which in a normal day wouldn’t be the worst thing ever. That isn’t the case today, as the Bengals sat a majority of their starters on both sides of the team ball. Making the turnovers and mistakes far less excusable.
Keenum coughed up a fumble and an interception in the first half, with the fumble going for a touchdown. Despite that, Keenum looked fine in the game, never really testing the Bengals’ defense but instead taking what they gave him and allowing the pass-catchers a chance to make plays.
Keenum’s 71% completion and two touchdowns looked good to those who didn’t watch the game but Keenum didn’t push the action at all, a complaint that has followed him for years. He finished with just 176 yards passing and had the Bengals have their full complement of players, who knows how ugly this game would’ve worked otherwise.
The Browns leaned on Johnson, probably to spare Nick Chubb of any unnecessary injuries, which may see Johnson get a nice payday in free agency. While the Browns won, it felt like most of the players on both teams were just rolling out of bed for a paycheck in a completely pointless game.
A disappointing win to close a disappointing season for the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns will finish the season 8-9, and while fans should always want their team to win games, this win may have effectively ended their chance to get top-OSU wideout, Garrett Wilson. In a season full of disappointments, potentially losing out on a guy with such upside would be the ultimate dagger in the gut that was 2021.
Keenum’s play also proved that he likely wasn’t going to be a real option to win games this year. While he did go 2-0 against teams he started against, he started against the two worst offenses the Browns faced this year; The Broncos, who just fired their head coach, and the Bengals, who sat all of their Pro Bowl level talent. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. If Keenum is back in 2022, I’ll genuinely be surprised.
The loss of draft placing and the lackluster win over backups has really tanked any excitement this team had getting a win to close out the year. The team has a lot to rehab in the offseason, beyond just Baker Mayfield’s shoulder. They need new weapons on offense, they need to bolster the interior of the defense and they need to retool the offense to iron out the predictability.
This team isn’t far from competing, however, and at least fans can lean on that fact heading into the 2022 offseason.