Chiefs hold off Browns 17-13 for 9th straight victory

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (19) makes a catch against Cleveland Browns cornerback Tramon Williams (22) during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs are headed back to the playoffs.

Imagine that when they were 1-5.

Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes for Kansas City, and the game clock finally stopped Johnny Manziel as the Chiefs held on to beat the Cleveland Browns 17-13 on Sunday for their franchise record-tying ninth consecutive victory.

When Pittsburgh lost to Baltimore moments after the game, Kansas City (10-5) clinched a wild-card berth. The Chiefs can still win the AFC West with a victory in their finale against Oakland a loss by Denver on Monday night or in the Broncos’ regular-season finale.

The Chiefs jumped out to a 17-3 halftime lead, but their offense became listless over the final two quarters, just as Manziel was pumping some life into the Browns (3-12) with his inspired play.

The former Heisman Trophy winner led Cleveland to 10 straight points, then had them in possession for a go-ahead touchdown before his incomplete pass to the end zone on fourth down with 2:55 left.

Kansas City had a chance to put the game away, but failed to pick up a first down, and Cleveland took over at its 30 with 1:52 left and no timeouts. The Browns picked up three first downs, and Manziel hit Darius Jennings on fourth-and-10 from the 32.

But time expired before Manziel could get off another snap, and he spiked his helmet in frustration as the Chiefs poured onto the field.

Manziel threw for 136 yards with an interception, but he also ran for 108 yards. Isaiah Crowell added 88 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Browns.

The Chiefs looked as if they’d make this one easy in the first half.

They drove downfield for a touchdown on their opening drive, with Smith zipping a pass to Jeremy Maclin between three defenders. Then, after forcing three-and-out, they added a field goal for a 10-0 lead.

Travis Coons kicked the first of his two field goals for Cleveland, and an interception of Smith off a tipped pass seemed to give the Browns life. But two plays later, Manziel was picked by Marcus Peters, and the rookie returned his eighth of the season deep into Cleveland territory.

Kansas City took a 17-3 lead into halftime when Smith hit Travis Kelce from 13 yards with 32 seconds left, and Coons had a 51-yarder on the final play blocked by the Chiefs’ Daniel Sorenson.

The Browns made things much closer in the second half.

Manziel’s scrambling ability was critical to a nine-play, 82-yard drive to begin the second half — his 34-yard run on the first play set the tone. Crowell’s 10-yard touchdown run finished it off.

Then, after forcing a quick punt, Cleveland put together a grinding, churning 21-play drive that took up more than 12 minutes despite going only 62 yards. Three times, Manziel picked up a first down by scrambling on third or fourth down, though his intentional grounding penalty helped foil the drive.

Coons was forced to kick a 36-yard field goal that made it 17-13 with 8:26 left in the game.

 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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