CLEVELAND (AP) — With Myles Garrett not available, the Browns needed others to step up and make plays.
Kareem Hunt went above and beyond.
Hunt hurdled Philadelphia’s Jalen Mills on a touchdown run, Olivier Vernon made up for Garrett’s absence due to COVID-19 by getting three sacks and a safety, and Cleveland stayed firmly in the playoff picture with a wet 22-17 victory over the Eagles.
“Nobody was stopping him from getting into the end zone,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said of Hunt, who came up just short of the goal line on a fourth-down run in the first half. “Those two guys push each other, root for each other and it’s a sight to be seen.”
Cleveland also got a 50-yard interception return TD in the first half by second-year linebacker Sione Takitaki, and the Browns constantly harassed Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz despite playing without Garrett, the NFL’s sacks leader.
Wentz’s 4-yard TD pass to Dallas Goedert pulled the Eagles (3-6-1) within 22-17, but the Browns recovered an onside kick and secured win No. 7 — one more than they had in 2019 — under Stefanski.
On Friday, the Browns placed Garrett on the COVID-19 list, and it’s not known when they’ll get back the dynamic end. But his teammates stepped up and made the kind of big plays that he’s become known for.
“We had a ton of guys step up,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “Those guys were unbelievable. ”
Chubb and Hunt, who give Cleveland a devastating 1-2 punch, combined on the game’s biggest sequence in the fourth quarter.
After the Eagles closed within 12-10 on Jake Elliott’s 43-yard field goal, Hunt went on his long run, which included him flattening defensive end Joe Ostman with a stiff arm.
Two plays later, Hunt swept right and jumped over an unsuspecting Mills near the goal line to put the Browns up 19-10.
“We have the best backfield in the league,” Mayfield said. “There’s no question. I love watching those guys run.”
It was another tough day for Wentz and the Eagles, plagued by inconsistency and hurt by injuries all season. Wentz made a bad choice on his pick to Takitaki, threw a late interception — his 14th this season — and was sacked five times. Wentz has been sacked a league-leading 40 times.
“We are where we are because of the mistakes we’re making, coaches and players,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “This is a test to see who’s in, who’s out. That’s where we are. It’s a matter of challenging the leadership of the football team, challenging the guys to keep things together. We still have an opportunity in our division.”
Cody Parkey kicked two field goals as the Browns went 2-1 in three straight home games played in awful weather conditions.
Vernon, who plays on the opposite side from Garrett, gave the Browns a 12-7 lead in the third quarter when he brought down Wentz in the end zone.
Wentz’s hesitation helped set up Takitaki’s easy TD. Philly’s quarterback had an open receiver toward the near sideline, but he tried instead to swing the ball to Sanders in the flat just as he was hit from the side by a blitzing Ward. The throw sailed to Takitaki, who went untouched for the score.
Philadelphia’s battered offensive line took a few more hits.
Steady starting center Jason Kelce hurt his elbow in the first half, and his loss forced the Eagles to turn to undrafted rookie Luke Juriga, the 12th lineman used this season. Kelce played the second half in a large brace.
Left tackle Lane Johnson hurt his shoulder in the second half.
Despite a rise in COVID-19 cases across the country, the Browns are one of the few teams continuing to allow fans to attend home games. There were 12,000 soaked fans inside FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday.
Eagles: DT Fletcher Cox left with an apparent leg injury in the fourth quarter. … DE Derek Barnett injured his knee early in the second half, but came back and blocked a field-goal attempt. … CB Cre’Von LeBlanc rolled his ankle in the third quarter.
Browns: Safety Ronnie Harrison, who has been a major bright spot of late, injured his knee on Philadelphia’s first series and didn’t return. Stefanski said Harrison will undergo an MRI on Monday.
Eagles: host the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night, Nov. 30.
Browns: Cleveland hits the road at Jacksonville on Nov. 29.