The Browns headed into this week’s playoff game against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs as quite an underdog. Did anyone even remotely think Cleveland could defeat them?
However, the same held true last week when the Pittsburgh Steelers were the favorite and the Browns were without many players and coaches due to COVID and assorted injuries.
The 2020 year already is one of the most difficult years in human history. For Browns’ fans, it was amazing. First a winning record, then a playoff berth, then a playoff victory over the Big Brother Steelers.
25-19. What are those numbers? That is what the score should have been in the fourth quarter with the Browns leading.
So, who played well against the Chiefs? Who didn’t?
2020 Cleveland Browns - Who predicted Cleveland to finish not only with a winning record, but a playoff bid plus a playoff win over the hated Pittsburgh Steelers plus an almost win over the Super Bowl champs Chiefs. Every Browns fan should rise from their seat and give this team a standing “O.”
HC Kevin Stefanski - The Browns have been through sooooooo many head coaches, with each hire “the one.” Finally, a man who knows offense, is an excellent play-caller, hired the right assistant coaches beginning with OL coach Bill Callahan, and brought this club forward in a COVID atmosphere. Another standing “O” to the NFL Coach-of-the-Year. He brought along a raw Baker Mayfield and has developed his strengths. We love you coach.
GM Andrew Berry - Not only have the Browns gone through coaches like it was free margarita night at the corner pub, but the GM lazy-Susan needed gallons of WD40. Berry isolated the offensive line and brought in free agent Jack Conklin, drafted Jedrick Wills and Nick Harris, then re-signed Chris Hubbard as insurance. He gutted the safety position and traded for a gem named Ronnie Harrison and drafted his backfield mate Grant Delpit for next season. Berry could have let Rashard Higgins walk, but inked him which saved that position when OBJ went down and then grabbed unheralded rookie DPJ as a developmental talent who came through many games. Nice job sir.
QB Baker Mayfield - All the haters pointed to the success of Lamar Jackson and Brandon Allen and asked the Cleveland faithful “why didn’t you pick them instead?” A rocky first half of the season was capped by exceptional play down the stretch when it was needed. The interception today was his first in 369 pass attempts. Mayfield is a gutsy guy who has zero quit in him and is an excellent leader that will only get better in time. From 1999 to the beginning of 2018, the Browns have had 30 starting quarterbacks. Now, they have one. Excellent year Bake.
WRs Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins - There is little doubt that the wide receiver group is in good hands with this duo with a sprinkling of DPJ and perhaps OBJ. All three had a good game and are excellent downfield blockers.
RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt - An understatement to address how valuable this two young men are to this club. Chubb is the grinder while Hunt is that electric flash. Both men where stymied in the first half, but once unleashed they produced in the second half. Key blockers in the passing game because the Chiefs sent a safety or a corner repeatedly. Neither was a contributor in the passing game as is the usual, but found running lanes when first downs were needed.
S Karl Joseph and S Ronnie Harrison - The interception by Joseph was a key stop. The important aspect of this catch was the fact that Joseph downed it in the end zone instead of trying to be the hero and run it out only to be tackled deep in their own end of the field. Both were active tacklers and did a good job keeping KC receiver Tyreek Hill from killing them with massive yardage although he did finish with 110 yards.
10-point swing - The Chiefs only had two possessions in the second quarter. After a Jamie Gillan punt, with 9:39 left Kansas City went 68-yards on 13 plays and ate up 6:29 of clock to which Harrison Butker nailed a 50-yard field goal and go up 16-3. Undeterred, Mayfield drove the field in just six plays and hit David Njoku for 26-yards then Higgins for 23. As Higgins was stretching for the end zone, Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen crashed into Higgins helmet-to-helmet in a non-call that forced Higgins to drop the ball just short of the goal line which traveled out of the end zone for a touchback with just 1:42 left in the half. Look at the photo - is that not a penalty? After the fumble, being the high-flying Chiefs offense they drove to the Browns’ 18-yard line and Butker hit the field goal. Midway through the fourth quarter, the 10-point swing would have had Cleveland up 25-19 instead of down 22-17.
Higgins non-call - The rule is quoted under the above photo, and states “.....it is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact.....” In this photo, what is Kansas City safety Sorensen’s view? The ground. Isn’t that “....player lowers his head.....”?!? Look at Sorenson’s hands - they aren’t even trying to make a tackle. In fact, the only thing attempting to stop Higgins is indeed his lowered helmet.
Media naysayers - Many media outlets had the Chiefs winning by a large margin. The truth is, the Browns had a chance to win this game - especially after QB Patrick Mahomes became injured and did not return. The 10-point swing virtually killed them in the end and kept the score close at the end.
Milk Bones - using Super Glue to repair, then dealing with that crusty goop stuck to your palm and fingers
LB’s Sione Takitaki and Malcolm Smith - For most of the game, this duo had All-World tight end Travis Kelce bottled up with minimal yardage. The daggers came just before the half with a 22-yard gain by Kelce to get the Chiefs to the Browns’ 26 and with just 9:24 remaining in the fourth quarter which ended with the Karl Joseph interception.
TE David Njoku - The forgotten tight end had a good game with two key receptions and excellent blocking. Targeted five times with four catches for 59 yards. Had a key drop on a crucial first down, but picked up an important first down on a third-and-three on the Hunt touchdown drive in the third stanza. Has become an accomplished blocker this year. Overall a nice game.
TE Austin Hooper - The expensive tight end was a non-factor in this game with a key drop. Had that critical catch on the fourth down in the final quarter. Hoop was supposed to elevate this offense to new levels, but has largely been a marginal player. 435 yards with four TDs is nothing to write home about. His 46 receptions equate to $97,826 per catch or $1.125 million per touchdown.
Defensive front - Not much of a pass rush for much of the game, but did find the backfield in the second half and on a key Myles Garrett sack, kept the Chiefs out of field goal range. Adrian Clayborn is a keeper and may keep the Browns from drafting an edge rusher this year. Sheldon Richardson had good push and often was shoving KC right guard Andrew Wylie back into the pocket. Larry Ogunjobi was a non-factor in pass rush while Jordan Elliott was a difficult player to block in passing downs.
Offensive line - This unit could not keep the Chiefs pass rush out all game. Finally found their stride in the second half in the run game behind C J.C. Tretter and RG Wyatt Teller. Lost two players to injuries and once again had to rely on former practice squad player Blake Hance to fill in, who played adequately and had some good second level blocks on his own. Chiefs’ NT Derrick Nnadi and DE Frank Clark were bull-rushers to which Mayfield’s pocket just wouldn’t hold up - especially in the first half. A total of 18 rushing yards in the first half displayed this group’s problems before the half, but was able to adjust in the final two quarters and did a good job down the stretch. This is a very good unit overall and should be granted a very big “Brownie” for the year, but had its issues in the first half today despite giving up a single sack against Kansas City.
What position should the Browns target the most help in next year’s draft and free agency?
This poll is closed
All the above
Position not listed