Honestly, how do you describe the game we just witnessed between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers to open up the season?
The first half was absolutely miserable, and one of the worst ones I've ever seen as a Browns fan. The offense couldn't muster anything, but the bigger issue was the defense. Nobody could cover or make a tackle to save their life as Pittsburgh soared over 300 yards of offense en route to a 27-3 halftime lead. The Browns got kicked in the head -- literally -- and all hope seemed to be lost.
Then, Mike Pettine must have given one hell of a message to his team in the locker room.
- The Browns switched to a hurry-up approach, marching down the field for a quick touchdown drive. After a three-and-out, the Browns put together another quick touchdown drive. Both drives were capped off by touchdown runs from rookie RB Isaiah Crowell, and with over nine minutes to play in the third quarter, it was a 27-17 ballgame.
- The Browns settled for a field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter, inching closer to 27-20. With 11:15 left in the game, QB Brian Hoyer connected with WR Travis Benjamin for a touchdown, tying the game at 27-27!
That is where things got tough. The Browns were moving the ball again, but then got stuck with a 2nd-and-7 at the 35 yard line and 4:48 to play. Hoyer threw two incomplete passes, both of which were nearly picked off, and then the Browns had to decide whether they wanted to try a 52-yard field goal with Billy Cundiff. Normally, you would, but those who know Heinz Field know that it's impossible for any kicker to make a 50-yarder in that stadium, let alone a guy who isn't the most accurate kicker from beyond 50 yards.
The Browns punted, but blew the opportunity to down the ball at the one-yard line, resulting in a touchback. The Browns' defense actually held again, and Hoyer got back on the field with 1:53 to play and the ball at the 20 yard line. Cleveland went backwards, though, and had to punt while giving the Steelers good field position. QB Ben Roethlisberger attacked rookie CB Justin Gilbert again, and it was enough for K Shaun Suisham to put the game-winning, 41-yard attempt through the uprights as time expired. 30-27 is your final.
That's when it felt like we got kicked in the face -- literally -- again. Hoyer's strength last year was being able to finish games, but he couldn't do it this time around.
We'll have more post-game analysis throughout the week, but the Browns also lost a couple of players to injury during the game. Some players returned, but RB Ben Tate and TE Jordan Cameron did not.