Rams extend winning streak by putting away Browns late

Puka Nacua had 139 yards of total offense and a receiving touchdown for the Rams (6-6). Kyren Williams rushed for 88 yards and a score for Los Angeles, which remained in the thick of the NFC wild-card hunt.

AFC playoff hopeful Cleveland (7-5) lost for the second straight week, but Joe Flacco played effectively in his first start at quarterback for the team.

Still, Flacco wasn’t mistake-free. With the Browns trailing 20-19 with under seven minutes to play, John Johnson snagged an interception and returned it 42 yards to the Cleveland 24. The Rams capitalized when Stafford connected with Cooper Kupp for a three-yard touchdown with 3:48 to go, part of a 16-0 run to close the game.

A free agent who signed with Cleveland in November following a season-ending injury to Deshaun Watson, Flacco, 38, made his first start since Week 18 of 2022.

The veteran’s return started strongly. Cleveland took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in nine plays and 4:42. Flacco was 4-for-5 for 65 yards while punctuating the drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Jerome Ford.

Los Angeles answered with successive scoring drives to take a 10-7 lead. The Rams got on the scoreboard with a 44-yard Havrisik field goal midway through the first quarter, and then forced the first of five straight Browns punts.

A two-play Rams touchdown drive followed, as Stafford found Nacua for a 70-yard scoring pass.

Havrisik, a former member of the Browns’ practice squad who signed with the Rams in October, hit a 28-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter to give the hosts a 13-10 halftime lead.

Browns wide receiver Amari Cooper was ruled out of the game after being evaluated for a head injury late in the first half. Cleveland stuck around, however, and had a chance to tie the game after Flacco’s eight-yard touchdown pass to Harrison Bryant with 8:49 remaining. Dustin Hopkins missed the point-after attempt to keep the Rams ahead 20-19.

Flacco was 23-for-44 for 254 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Elijah Moore had four catches for 83 yards. The Rams’ Kobie Turner sacked Flacco in the end zone for a safety with 36 seconds left.