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Browns Beat The Bengals In Final Game

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The 2021 season didn't go the way Cleveland hoped, but the Browns finished it out with a nice, feel-good win to build upon heading into the offseason.

We're steering our Takeaways one last time for the 2021 season to the defense, where Cleveland yet again saw some of its best football being played.

1. Browns D delivers one more time to cap its strong season

There's one stat that best sums up the improvement between 2020 and 2021 for the Browns defense. With more stats to track the efficiency and success of a defense than we've ever had before, it boils down to the original one that matters most: points.

In 2020, Cleveland's defense had four games in which it limited its opponents to 17 points or fewer. The Browns won three of those games.

In 2021, the Browns had nine, including Sunday's 21-16 victory over the Bengals. Those games accounted for six of the team's eight wins.

That's up there with some of the best defenses in the league, and the Browns, despite some hiccups early in the year, played like one through the better part of the 2021 season.

"It took us a while to start playing together," LB Jacob Phillips said, "but once we did, we have so much talent it all panned out."

Entering Week 18, no NFL team allowed fewer than 17 points per game and just four allowed fewer than 20. The Browns will finish in the top half of the league in scoring defense (21.8 points per game) just one year after it surrendered an average of 26.2 points per game — the second-most of any 2020 playoff team. 

The Browns entered 2021 with hopes of greatly improving its defense, and it's clear they succeeded. Needless to say, it's a bright spot to build upon and perhaps the biggest source for optimism heading into 2022 after the team came up short of its overarching goals of winning the AFC North and making the playoffs. The Browns went 3-1 in those 17-points-or-fewer games in 2020. This year, the Browns went 6-3.

On Sunday, facing a Bengals offense that held out most of its starters, the Browns used the same recipe that worked in their previous top defensive efforts. 

It started up front with relentless pressure from Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett, who combined to sack Bengals backup QB Brandon Allen three times to give them a combined 25 sacks on the season. Entering the 4 p.m. games, the Browns were tied for seventh in the NFL with 43 on the season.

"We have become real good guys and close to each other because we play together," Clowney said. "I pick his brain, and he picks mine. We feed off each other out there. It is a good thing to have someone on the other end that you do not worry about. You are just like, 'Hey, I will meet you there [at the quarterback]."

It continued in the back seven, as the Browns bottled up the kind of big plays that gave them issues during the early part of the season. Cincinnati had just two plays go for 20 or more yards with just one coming in the final three quarters.

The Bengals gained 182 yards of offense, marking the second-stingiest performance of the season from Cleveland's defense. Entering the 4 p.m. games, the Browns ranked third in the NFL in total defense (311.5 yards allowed per game).

"It is all about having something to play for, and I think there was something to play for and multiple things to play for today," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "I think the guys understood that. To see them fight for each other and with each other one last time, I think that tells you a lot about our guys."

 Cavs Acquire Veteran Rajon Rondo to Shore Up Young Backcourt 

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Accomplished, experienced veteran backup point guards are an extremely valuable commodity in the NBA – a point made abundantly clear this season in Cleveland.

Playing behind, and sometimes alongside, the supremely talented Darius Garland, 11th-year man Ricky Rubio got the Wine & Gold into playoff contention 34 games into the season. Now, the Cavaliers are hoping Rajon Rondo can take them the rest of the way.

On Monday, one day after snapping a three-game skid that began the night Rubio was injured, the Cavs made it officially – acquiring Rondo, the 16-year veteran from the Lakers in a three-team deal that sends Denzel Valentine to the Knicks along with the draft rights to Wang Zhelin (57th overall pick in 2016) and Brad Newley (54th/2007) and cash considerations from L.A. The Lakers also get the draft rights to Louis Labeyrie (57th/2014) from New York.

When it comes to veteran resumés, they don’t get much more impressive than Rondo’s – who comes to Cleveland as a two-time NBA Champion and four-time All-Star who’s been named to the league’s All-Defensive Team four times. In terms of big game experience, Rondo – originally drafted by the Suns with the 21st overall pick in 2006 before being sent to Boston that same night – has played in 134 postseason contests.

And if the Cavaliers were looking to keep their pugnacious identity intact, they acquired the right man in Rondo – a player known to play with an edge.

Ex-NFLer Clinton Portis Gets Six Month Prison Sentence for Healthcare Fraud Scheme⁠

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On Thursday, former #NFL running back #ClintonPortis was sentenced to six months in prison and six months of home confinement after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud.⁠

Portis pled guilty in September to defrauding the program of nearly $100,000 by filing bogus medical equipment claims.⁠

According to court documents, Portis permitted former NFL linebacker Robert McCune to make reimbursement claims for an oxygen chamber and a cryosauna on his behalf.⁠

“Portis knew the claims McCune submitted on his behalf were false and fraudulent or was aware of a high probability that that the claims McCune submitted on his behalf were false and fraudulent and deliberately ignored that fact,” the plea agreement read.⁠

According to ESPN, the Department of Justice requested a sentence between 10 and 16 months, claiming in a pre-sentence document Thursday that it requested a longer sentence since Portis continued to deny his guilt until he faced a retrial after the hung jury.