AROUND THE SHIELD — For the first time in 18 years, the Browns are headed to the NFL playoffs.
For the first time in his two-year pro career, former BYU linebacker Sione Takitaki is, as well.
Baker Mayfield threw for 196 yards and a touchdown, but it was the quarterback’s three-yard sprint for a first down on third-and-two that lifted nearly two decades of frustration off Browns fans’ collective shoulders, clinching a 24-22 win Sunday over the Pittsburgh Steelers that sent Cleveland to its first postseason since 2002.
The Browns (11-5) held the Steelers to just 85 yards on the ground, led by linebacker Jacob Phillips’ 10 tackles, one tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry.
Takitaki, the former BYU standout who was drafted in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, added two tackles, and former Salem Hills quarterback Porter Gustin added two stops at defensive end.
“We’re not satisfied,” Mayfield told reporters after Sunday’s win. “We expected to be here. We’ve worked extremely hard to get here … but we’re on to the next one. We’re not satisfied.”
Takitaki and Gustin are two of the 33 former Utah high school and college football products to earn a spot in the postseason of arguably the strangest season in NFL history.
From playing in empty or mostly empty stadiums to having games rescheduled and reshuffled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the finish line was no sweeter than this year.
Especially for the Browns, just three years removed from a winless 0-16 season.
Here are other former local high school and college football standouts who will be playing in the 2021 NFL postseason.
Buffalo Bills’ Zack Moss (20) rushes for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Munson)
Buffalo 56, Miami 26
Josh Allen threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns, and the Bills’ defense picked off Tua Tagovailoa three times to shore up the AFC East title.
Bills (13-3) – CLINCHED
Zack Moss, RB, Utah: Ran for 8 yards on 3 carries as a reserve
Taron Johnson, DB, Weber State: Starting safety made 6 tackles, 1 pass breakup
Dolphins (10-6) – ELIMINATED
Eric Rowe, DB, Utah: Starting cornerback had team-high 7 tackles
Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU: Starting linebacker made 5 tackles
Washington 20, Philadelphia 14
Alex Smith’s 13-yard strike to Logan Thomas with 20 seconds left in the half proved to be the difference as the Washington Football Team held on to clinch the NFC East on Sunday Night Football.
Football Team (7-9) – CLINCHED
Alex Smith, QB, Utah: Starting quarterback threw for 162 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
Jared Norris, LB, Utah: Made 1 tackle on special teams as a reserve
Eagles (4-11-1) – ELIMINATED
No locals on the active roster
— NFL (@NFL) January 4, 2021
Baltimore 38, Cincinnati 3
Lamar Jackson threw for 113 yards and three touchdowns with an interception to help the Ravens lock up a playoff berth with a win over the previously eliminated Bengals.
Ravens (11-5) – CLINCHED
Tyler Huntley, QB, Utah: Completed one pass for 8 yards, ran 6 times for 5 yards in relief of Jackson
Bengals (4-11-1) – ELIMINATED
LeShaun Sims, CB, SUU: Starting cornerback made 4 tackles, 1 pass breakup
Xavier Su’a-Filo, OL, Timpview: Started at left guard
New Orleans 33, Carolina 7
Drew Brees threw for 201 yards and three touchdowns, and backup quarterback Taysom Hill ran for a score to help the Saints sweep the NFC South.
Saints (12-4) – CLINCHED
Taysom Hill, QB, BYU: Ran 7 times for 41 yards and a touchdown, caught 1 pass for 5 yards
Kaden Elliss, LB, Judge Memorial: Played as a reserve
Chase Hansen, LB, Utah/Lone Peak: Recently activated linebacker off practice squad played as a reserve
Marcus Williams, S, Utah: Inactive for Week 17 (ankle)
Panthers (5-11) – ELIMINATED
Tyler Larsen, OL, Utah State/Jordan: Played as a reserve
— NFL (@NFL) January 3, 2021
Indianapolis 28, Jacksonville 14
Johnathan Taylor ran for 253 yards and two touchdowns to pull the Colts over the finish line and into the playoffs.
Colts (11-5) – CLINCHED
Julian Blackmon, DB, Utah/Layton: Starting free safety made 5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss
Noah Togiai, TE, Hunter: Inactive for Week 17 (coach’s decision)
Jaguars (1-15) – ELIMINATED
No locals on active roster
Green Bay 35, Chicago 16
Aaron Rodgers threw for 240 yards and four touchdowns in a rivalry win that clinched the NFC North and No. 1 seed.
Packers (13-3) – CLINCHED
Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU: Ran for 26 yards on 5 carries
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State: Inactive for Week 17
Bears (8-8) – CLINCHED Wildcard
Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah: Inactive for Week 17 (shoulder)
Patrick Scales, LS, Utah State/Weber: Played 5 snaps on special teams
Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner reacts after a play against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of an NFL football game in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Seattle 26, San Francisco 23
Russell Wilson threw a pair of touchdown strikes, and Alex Collins’ 8-yard scoring run with 1:49 remaining helped the Seahawks hold off the Niners to clinch the NFC West.
Seahawks (12-4) – CLINCHED
Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State: Starting middle linebacker made 6 tackles
Cody Barton, LB, Utah/Brighton: Made 3 tackles on special teams as a reserve
Bryan Mone, DT, Highland: Played as a reserve
49ers (6-10) – ELIMINATED
Fred Warner, LB, BYU: Starting linebacker made team-high 10 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 quarterback hurries
Kai Nacua, S, BYU: Played as a reserve
Tony Bergstrom, OL, Utah/Skyline: Played as a reserve
Mitch Wishnowksy, P, Utah: Punted 5 times for 227 yards, a 45.4-yard average with a long of 49
NY Giants 23, Dallas 19
Daniel Jones threw for 229 yards and two touchdowns, and the Giants did just enough to eliminate the Cowboys from postseason contention.
Giants (5-10) – ELIMINATED
Kyler Fackrell, LB, Utah State: Starting linebacker made 3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 quarterback hurry
Jackson Barton, OT, Utah/Brighton: Inactive for Week 17
Cowboys (6-9) – ELIMINATED
Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah: Inactive for Week 17
Francis Bernard, LB, Utah/Herriman: Played as a reserve
Dalton Schultz, TE, Bingham: Starting tight end caught 7 passes for team-high 70 yards; intended target on game-sealing interception
Los Angeles Rams kicker Matt Gay (1) kicks a field goal against the Seattle Seahawks during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Scott Eklund)
LA Rams 18, Arizona 7
Troy Hill scored an 84-yard pick-six, and Matt Gay added three field goals to help the Rams clinch a postseason bid with a win over the Cardinals.
Rams (10-6) – CLINCHED
Matt Gay, K, Utah/UVU/Orem: Starting kicker made field goals of 28, 34 and 27 yards
Cardinals (8-8) – ELIMINATED
Leki Fotu, DT, Utah/Herriman: Played as a reserve
LA Chargers 38, Kansas City 21
Justin Herbert threw for 302 yards and three touchdowns for the already-eliminated Chargers against a Chiefs team that already clinched homefield advantage.
Chargers (7-9) – ELIMINATED
Michael Davis, CB, BYU: Starting cornerback made 3 tackles, 2 pass breakups
Nick Vigil, LB, Utah State/Fremont: Made 1 tackle as a reserve
Alohi Gilman, S, Orem: Starting safety made 2 tackles, 1 QB hurry
Sam Tevi, OL, Utah: Inactive for Week 17
Chiefs (14-2) – CLINCHED
Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State: Starting running back ran or 45 yards, 1 touchdown on 14 carries; caught 7 passes for 65 yards, 1 touchdown
Daniel Sorensen, S, BYU: Playing sparingly as a reserve
Darwin’s second TD of the day!
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 3, 2021
Minnesota 37, Detroit 35
Kirk Cousins threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns to help the Vikings end the season with a win.
Vikings (7-9) – ELIMINATED
No locals on the active roster
Lions (5-11) – ELIMINATED
John Penisini, DL, Utah/Snow/West Jordan: Starting defensive tackle made 1 tackle
Miles Killebrew, S, SUU: Played as a reserve
New England 28, NY Jets 14
Cam Newton threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 79 more as the Patriots ended the season with a win.
Patriots (7-9) – ELIMINATED
No locals on the active roster
Jets (2-14) – ELIMINATED
Javelin Guidry, DB, Utah: Made 2 tackles, 1 forced fumble as a reserve
Las Vegas 32, Denver 31
Josh Jacobs ran for his second touchdown on a 1-yard plunge with 24 seconds left, and Derek Carr’s 2-point conversion pass helped the Raiders rally by the Broncos.
Raiders (8-8) – ELIMINATED
Devontae Booker, RB, Utah: Ran for 16 yards on 5 carries as a reserve
Nevin Lawson, CB, Utah State: Made 9 tackles as a reserve
Dallin Leavitt, S, Utah State: Made 1 tackle on special teams as a reserve
Andre James, OT, Herriman: Played as a reserve
Broncos (5-8) – ELIMINATED
Garett Bolles, OT, Utah/Snow/Westlake: Started at left tackle
Tim Patrick, WR, Utah: Starting wide receiver caught 2 passes for 46 yards before leaving with an injury (foot)