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David Njoku's big night vs. Jets with Amari Cooper inactive powers Browns to AFC playoffs 

With Amari Cooper sidelined due to a heel injury, the injury-riddled Cleveland Browns needed a playmaker to step up Thursday night against a good New York Jets defense.

David Njoku soared in.

The tight end rumbled his way for 134 yards on six receptions. He came out of the gate hot, roaring for 36 yards on third-and-15 on the opening drive. Three plays later, Joe Flacco hit Njoku in stride again for 28 yards to set up the Browns' first TD in a 37-20 win that clinched a playoff berth.

"I just got to thank Joe Flacco for throwing a beautiful ball, and that's it," Njoku said after the game, via the team's official website.

With Cooper out, the Browns knew they would need another big day from the dynamic TE, who has thrived since Flacco took over. Njoku has had 100-plus receiving yards in two of the past three weeks after earning one such game in his career prior to Week 15. In Week 14, he earned 91 yards, giving the TE 373 yards and four TDs in the past four contests.

The former first-round pick showed off his athleticism after the catch, gaining a season-high +42 Yards After Catch Over Expected (106 YAC) against the Jets, per Next Gen Stats. Njoku has now generated +181 YACOE this season, the third-most in a season among TEs since 2018. Njoku has also gained 618 YAC this season, 122 more than any other TE.

"It's pretty cool when you can get a guy the ball five yards down the field, and you can get a 35-yard gain out of it," Flacco said of Njoku.

Njoku recorded a season-high +54 receiving yards over expected in Week 17 and has now gained +127 RecYOE this season, his most in a season since 2018, per NGS.

The 27-year-old tortured the Jets defense in the first quarter, finding soft areas in coverage and open grass after the catch.

"I give them credit," Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley said, via the New York Post. "Njoku's a great player. Joe's a great passer and great quarterback, and they connected really well. We understood that he was going to be their main target -- especially with Amari Cooper not playing. Just give them credit. They executed their game plan in that first half."

Njoku's performance sans Cooper and Elijah Moore leaving early due to a concussion is the latest example of the Browns coming out on top despite losing key player after key player this season.

"When everybody got hurt, everybody doubted us, and said we weren't going to do whatever," Njoku said. "We hold our own fate. We pushed through. We earned that. The guys in this locker room should be proud of that but understand that there is a lot more that we can do."

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