PITTSBURGH — So much for the weight of history. Or practicing. Or having your head coach on the sideline. Or your emotional leader on the field.
The Cleveland Browns overcame all of it, dismantling the Pittsburgh Steelers 48-37 in the wild-card round Sunday night.
The franchise’s first postseason victory in more than a quarter-century — a New Year’s Day win over New England in 1995 — secured a trip to Kansas City next Sunday to face the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs.
With coach Kevin Stefan- ski, guard Joel Bitonio and cornerback Denzel Ward back in Cleveland after all tested positive for the coronavirus, the Browns (12-5) raced to the biggest first half by a road team in NFL playoff history then held on.
Baker Mayfield threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns, including a screen pass that Nick Chubb turned into a 40-yard score that halted Pittsburgh’s momentum after the Steelers had pulled within 12. Kareem Hunt added 48 yards and two rushing TDs, and Cleveland’s defense forced five turnovers by the Steelers (12-5).
Pittsburgh got off to an 11-0 to a season that ultimately ended with a thud. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 501 yards on an NFL-record 47 completions with four touchdowns and four interceptions.
The 48 points were the most the Steelers have given up in the playoffs.
Pittsburgh’s problems started on the first play from scrimmage when center Maurkice Pouncey’s snap sailed by Roethlisberger all the way to the end zone. Cleveland’s Karl Joseph fell on it for a touchdown. The miscues were just starting. Roethlisberger threw three first-half interceptions, two of which led directly to Browns scores.
By the time the Steelers found their footing, they were down 28-0. Even when they did get it going on a 1-yard touchdown run by James Conner with 1:44 to go in the half, the Browns came right back. Mayfield capped a cathartic opening half with a masterful 64-yard drive that ended with a 7-yard toss to Austin Hooper that put Cleveland up 35-7 at the break.
Saints 21, Bears 9
NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees completed 28 of 39 passes for 265 yards, connecting with Michael Thomas and Latavius Murray for touchdowns, for the Saints (13-4).
Alvin Kamara rushed for 99 yards and added a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for New Orleans, which will host Tampa Bay next week in the divisional round.
Chicago (8-9) couldn’t get going offensively. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky completed 19 of 29 passes for 199 yards and an inconsequential TD to tight end Jimmy Graham as time expired.
The Bears were held to 48 yards rushing.