Before this weekend’s games, the Browns had two slim chances of getting into the post-season. The best route was to win the division, although they would need help for two weeks in a row. The other scenario had them securing the seventh and final seed, but yet again, would need help. Lots of help actually.
Some of the contests fell the Browns way such as both the Ravens and Dolphins losing. But alas, the dice did not fall exactly as Cleveland had hoped. In the end, with two games remaining on the schedule, the Browns, along with the Broncos and Dolphins, became a casualty of the loss column and all three were officially eliminated from the 2021 playoffs.
And so, Monday Night Football’s presentation of the Browns vs. the hated Steelers completely lost its luster. Pittsburgh, however, still had a slim hope and going into this game was seeded in the 11th slot after all games became final.
A loss to the Browns would eliminate the Steelers as well. And of course, no Cleveland player or fan would do anything to help the black and yellow succeed on purpose. Never, actually.
In the end, the Browns’ ability to score just 15 points a game was a major issue once again as they lost 26-14. The offense was pathetic while the defense was on the field way too many minutes and made Pittsburgh look like a playoff team. The loss meant a losing record for Cleveland this year .
So who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?
CB Denzel Ward - A man possessed in this game. In the first quarter alone, Ward had four tackles and a pass breakup. Had a nice tackle for loss in the third quarter on a third down.
TE David Njoku - One target, one overthrown ball, one amazing catch, one touchdown. We like it. So, doesn’t he deserve more action in the game plan? The fourth quarter movement of the offense was mainly him.
Defense - This unit came to play. Malik McDowell and Sheldon Day each almost had an interception whereas A.J. Green did right before the half. Jadeveon Clowney had a great pass rush for most of the contest as did Tommy Togiai. M.J. Stewart has proved he is a player and had several slam tackles that had to be rewound to view again. This defense stopped the Steelers right before half from scoring six with a first-and-goal at the nine to which they settled for a field goal. Greg Newsome’s man had only a few catches while Denzel Ward began strong with numerous tackles. Malcolm Smith, JOK and Anthony Walker (nine tackles) had their moments as well. 13 points through three quarters is to be celebrated with four field goals instead of touchdowns.
TE Austin Hooper and WR Donovan Peoples-Jones - There were just four big plays for the offense all game: the touchdown catches by Njoku and Harrison Bryant, plus the 21-yard pass completion to Hooper in the third quarter, and finally DPJ’s 22-yard reception in the second quarter. The latter two completions were on drives that ended in punts. There, those are the offensive highlights. Brownies for all.
CB M.J. Stewart - Another banner game for the hard-hitting corner. Out of his six total tackles, several were highlight reel worthy. He planted Steelers receiver Ray-Ray McCloud twice in the first half that had the loud crowd ooh and aah for a moment. Nice job.
CB Greg Newsome - Had coverage on the speedy Ray-Ray McCloud who had 10 targets but for yardage of just 35 yards. Also contributed eight tackles mainly in run defense. Nice job rook.
2021 Season - Thought to be one of the best teams in the league this year and the most analyzed and promoted, the problems and issues are too many to count. Browns’ fans deserve better than a losing record produced plus missing the post-season altogether.
RT James Hudson - The rookie could not do anything with Pro Bowler T.J. Watt. So what measures were changed to help him out? A tight end to chip? Leave a back in to help? Actually, nothing. And so nothing is what the offense got out of Hudson. A lot of missed blocks on passing downs, but good maneuvers on running plays. Watt had three sacks off Hudson whereas his replacement Derreck Tuszka got one of his own. A simply horrible, horrible game for an outside tackle.
First half offense - 58 passing yards, 50 yards on the ground against the Number 32 rushing defense, two sacks allowed, four QB hits, six passes batted down, 1-6 on third down conversions, one failed fourth-and-seven that gave Pittsburgh good starting position, four punts, one turnover, 34 plays, 10 yards in penalties, 11 incomplete passes on 15 attempts, two dropped balls. Oh yeh - and zero points. In fact, never even sniffed the end zone.
Third downs - The Browns’ offense converted just 3 for 15. Yeh, you read that correctly. Ten were for seven yards or greater with stupid yardage such as needing 10-yards (four times), 11, 20 and 31. What is worse is that two of the three conversions were from Mayfield scrambling. Cricky!
Play calling - No team in the league has allowed more rushing yards than Pittsburgh yet the Browns only ran the rock 20 times for 93 yards. No, not a misprint. Dumb penalties, poor execution at times, passing on first down, Nick Chubb standing on the sidelines and another anemic offensive showing which featured 10 straight incompletions, numerous batted passes and almost double-digit sacks. On a third-and-31 they finally ran the ball for two yards on an obvious passing down. This offense is an embarrassment and it starts with the man calling the plays: Kevin Stefanski.
WR Rashard Higgins - This offense for weeks has needed him to step up and be a main contributor. Instead, he had five targets, one catch and two drops.
Offensive line - Nine sacks. At times it appeared the gates were left open and someone yelled “free pizza and beer” as the inmates just kept filing out. Four sacks were on Hudson who for unknown reason, wasn’t offered another body to at least chip so the rookie did what he had to do and learn from it. Jedrick Wills allowed two sacks and Joel Bitonio’s man had a couple as well. At least half of the sacks was attributed to a collapse of the pocket to which Baker Mayfield did not escape but instead stepped up and was taken down by the second wave. 93 yards rushing against the worst run defense is sad. Very sad.
Milk Bones – assume your parents celebrated New Year’s in a grand way if you were born in September
S Grant Delpit - Missed tackles everywhere then suddenly a body slam. With 6:22 to go before halftime, Delpit missed an open field tackle on RB Najee Harris who should have gained a couple but instead went for 12. Finished with 11 total tackles and led the defense in missed tackles.
DE Jadeveon Clowney - The veteran provided more pass rush than any other defensive lineman. At the 8:53 mark in the second quarter, he beat tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and then caused Roethlisberger to fumble on a second-and-10 which became a third-and-16 and eventually a punt. Who knew throwing an opponent’s shoe is worth 15-yards? Well, now everyone in attendance at the game and watching at home knows. That was on a third-and-10 play that netted just two yards, yet set the Steelers up who then scored their only first half touchdown. Had the costly offsides penalty in the third quarter that once again the defense had stopped on third down which the Steelers then converted and led to a field goal. Without Clowney’s mistakes, it would have been Pittsburgh 3, Browns 0 instead of 13-0. Geez. The first sack he split between Okorafor and guard Trai Turner. Finished with six tackles and two sacks.
Special teams - Punt coverage was stellar as always with Richard LeCounte, Willie Harvey, Jr. and Sione Takitaki, but that was it. Punt returns were abysmal from Donovan Peoples-Jones who caught four kicks for a 7.3 average. Kickoff returns were not much different as D’Ernest Johnson and Anthony Schwartz did not get back to the 25. Punter Dustin Colquitt had a terrible game and gave Pittsburgh the ball in great field position not once but twice. Chase McLaughlin made both extra point attempts.
What was the Number 1 issue of the season?
This poll is closed
Offense not scoring enough points