The Cleveland Browns are 0-16.
Despite facing Pittsburgh's backups, Cleveland fell shy of their first victory of the season, losing 28-24 to complete the season of perfection, joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only [0-16] winless team in NFL history.
The Pittsburgh Steelers got the ball first, and despite not having Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Maurkice Pouncey, or David DeCastro on offense, Pittsburgh marched right down the field for an opening-drive touchdown. The drive was capped by a 29-yard end around by WR Darius Heyward-Bey that saw him break several tackles for the score.
He fast.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 31, 2017
PIT 7 | CLE 0 pic.twitter.com/eTN11RiOc9
Then on Cleveland’s opening drive, DeShone Kizer was sacked twice and then there was a delay of game before the punt. Punting from his own 1 yard line on 4th-and-30, WR Eli Rogers was contained on the punt to at least keep Pittsburgh at midfield.
On the Steelers’ next drive, SS Jabrill Peppers picked off QB Landry Jones for the team’s first turnover in six games. But Cleveland went three-and-out, and on the ensuing drive, Pittsburgh quickly marched into the red zone. Cleveland actually forced a fourth down, but on the field goal attempt, they jumped offsides, allowing the Steelers offense to go back out. The ass-backwards strategy paid off, as Pittsburgh’s fullback was stuffed on 3rd-and-goal from the 1 and then 4th-and-goal from the 1, forcing a turnover on downs.
But then, Kizer made a laughable decision, calling timeout with two seconds left in the first quarter when he could’ve just let the quarter end with no penalty. Back-to-back incompletions that weren’t even close led to another punt from the Browns’ own 1 yard line, which was partially blocked. That allowed Pittsburgh to take over at the 28 yard line to begin their next drive. A few plays later, Jones hit WR JuJu Smith-Schuster for a wide open 20-yard touchdown off of a blown coverage, giving Pittsburgh a 14-0 lead.
On the Browns' next drive, Kizer hit WR Josh Gordon for a 54-yard flag route, beating CB Joe Haden, down to the 2 yard line.
Kizer ➡️ Gordon for 54 yards #CLEvsPIT pic.twitter.com/aHxoxkwysz— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 31, 2017
Two plays later, RB Duke Johnson punched it in from 2 yards out to make it a 14-7 game.
.@DukeJohnson_8 for 6️⃣ pic.twitter.com/kTMf5sAWuH— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 31, 2017
The Steelers quickly responded. They were going to be held to a field goal, but DE Myles Garrett was called for roughing the passer (despite it not being much of a late hit). One play later, RB Steven Ridley punched it in from 4 yards out, giving Pittsburgh a 21-7 lead.
Welcome to Steel City, @StevanRidley.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 31, 2017
PIT 21 | CLE 7 pic.twitter.com/97aO1i2sXN
Before you could blink, on the Browns’ next drive, Kizer fired a pass to WR Rashard Higgins over the middle, and his catch-and-run went 56 yards for a touchdown to make it a 21-14 game.
.@DeShoneKizer ➡️ @CALLME_WOOD for the 56 yard TD #CLEvsPIT pic.twitter.com/IXqpD2gpBX— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 31, 2017
After a couple of back-and-forth punts, Pittsburgh was backed up in their own end zone with under two minutes to go in the half. Jones completed passes of 46 and 14 yards to get into field goal range, but then Garrett strip sacked Jones. The ball popped up in the air, and DL Caleb Brantley snagged it before being tackled by the turf monster with 0:46 left in the half.
.@MylesLGarrett with the strip and @CalebBrantleyFB with the recovery #CLEvsPIT pic.twitter.com/0MOijExBWb— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 31, 2017
Kizer could do nothing with it, keeping it 21-14 at the half. On the Browns’ opening drive of the second half, Kizer found TE David Njoku for a 34-yard catch-and-run into the red zone. Three plays later, on third down, Kizer found Higgins for a 5-yard touchdown pass, tying the game at 21-21.
Make that ✌️ TDs for @CALLME_WOOD #CLEvsPIT pic.twitter.com/PO24giuUk2— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 31, 2017
The tie game didn’t last. On the ensuing kickoff, Smith-Schuster returned it 96 yards for a touchdown, giving Pittsburgh a 28-21 lead.
Bye. pic.twitter.com/4FHJcm4tac— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 31, 2017
On the Browns’ next drive, a few gusty runs by Kizer helped set the team up for a 51-yard field goal. Those are tough to kick in Heinz Field, but K Zane Gonzalez drilled it to cut the Steelers’ lead to 28-24.
Two bad snaps on the ensuing drive for Pittsburgh forced them to punt (they were down to their third-string center). On 3rd-and-15 of their next drive, Kizer completed a screen pass to Johnson, and he found open space, rumbling for 32 yards...but CB William Gay rushed from behind for a big strip with S Mike Mitchell recovering.
After the defense forced a punt, Cleveland started to drive again, but this time it was Kizer who turned the ball over, throwing a duck that was picked off by S Sean Davis. The Steelers went three-and-out, but now Cleveland was pinned back at the 15 yard line with about five minutes to go.
With under two minutes to go, the Browns faced a 4th-and-2 in field goal range. Kizer somehow escaped a sack and threw to a wide open WR Corey Coleman on the sideline...and he dropped it. Ballgame.
Major S/O to Corey Coleman for allowing America to celebrate the #Browns PERFECT SZN pic.twitter.com/fQbEhwlVfp— Eh (@austinsurina) December 31, 2017
- QB DeShone Kizer: 16-of-30 for 314 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT. 6 rushes, 61 yards.
- RB Isaiah Crowell: 15 carries, 21 yards (1.4 YPC).
- RB Duke Johnson: 6 carries, 20 yards (3.3 YPC). 1 TD. 6 catches, 75 yards (6 targets). 1 fumble.
- WR Josh Gordon: 4 catches, 115 yards (7 targets).
- 2017 began with Landry Jones beating the Browns on 1/1/17, and ended with him beating the Browns on 12/31/17.
It's time, Hue. Skip the post-game presser and just dive right in. Order your own shirt now. https://t.co/RGfCEAuTGu pic.twitter.com/oU7BPyltq4— Dawgs By Nature (@DawgsByNature) December 31, 2017