There’s still work to be done, but after last week’s collapse, the Cleveland Browns needed this one. They rebounded to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers by a final score of 29-17 on Thursday Night Football. At 2-1, the Browns are temporarily in first place in the AFC North. Let’s get to the full game recap.
The Browns received the opening kickoff, and on the second of the game, RB Nick Chubb had a wide open hole up the middle for a 13-yard gain — he was only stopped by the open field tackle by S Minkah Fitzpatrick. That was followed by three straight passes, the last of which saw QB Jacoby Brissett a tick late in trying to hit WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, leading to a punt.
The Steelers likewise picked up one first down — although that came through the air — before having to punt when QB Mitch Trubisky’s third down pass was broken up by CB Denzel Ward, leading to a punt. Cleveland’s next drive featured an early 3rd-and-1 after the Steelers had jumped into the neutral zone. However, the Browns opted to throw the ball instead of run it, and Brissett was sacked for former Browns DT Larry Ogunjobi for a loss of 9 yards. P Corey Bojorquez’ punt was then partially blocked, traveling only 25 yards to midfield.
On Pittsburgh’s second drive, RB Najee Harris started with a 10-yard run to get the team into long field goal range. The defense tightened up after that, and K Chris Boswell came on for a 50-yard field goal with the wind swirling. His kick started down the middle, and then the wind screwballed it to the right at the last second — no good. That gave the Browns their best starting field position of the game, as their own 39 yard line.
Cleveland faced a quick 3rd-and-9, and Brissett hit TE David Njoku on a crossing route for 8.5 yards. Brissett hurried to the line and ran the sneak to pick up the first down at midfield. Chubb then broke several tackles on the next play, en route to a 36-yard run into the red zone.
Two plays later, Brissett fired a quick slant to WR Amari Cooper in the slot for the easy touchdown, giving them a 7-0 lead after the extra point.
On Pittsburgh’s next drive, they got things going, led by an icnredible one-handed diving catch for 36 yards by WR George Pickens. The Steelers continued with the up-tempo approach, running twice for 12 yards to set up a 1st-and-goal from the 5 yard line heading to the second quarter.
Harris punched it in along the left side for the 5-yard touchdown to begin the second quarter, tying things up at 7-7.
Brissett completed passes to Njoku and Peoples-Jones on two straight third down plays to get the ball to midfield. That was followed by a razzle dazzle trick play that netted a first down to RB Kareem Hunt via a screen pass. Then, a 17-yard pass to Cooper got the ball down to the 20 yard line. A couple plays later, facing a 2nd-and-3 from the 13 yard line, Brissett handed off to Hunt for a gain of 6 yards and a first down, setting up 1st-and-goal from the 7 yard line. On first down, Brissett ripped it to Njoku in the seam for the touchdown, giving the Browns a 13-7 lead. K Cade York’s extra point boinked off the upright and was no good.
Trubisky completed a 16-yard pass to WR Diontae Johnson on Pittsburgh’s next drive, thanks to Harris picking up LB Jacob Phillips’ blitz. Johnson made a big play later in the drive, recovering a fumble by the running back after a 17-yard run. An end around to WR Chase Claypool then went for a first down, chipping away down to the 15 yard line. Harris ran for 10 yards to the 5, setting up 1st-and-goal from the 5 yard line again. Two plays later, Trubisky ran it in along the right side for the touchdown. Boswell’s extra point was good, giving Pittsburgh a 14-13 lead with 3:50 left in the first half.
RB Jerome Ford tried to return the next kickoff out of the end zone, and it didn’t go well as he was tackled at the 12 yard line. Brissett got Cleveland out of dangerous territory with completions of 6, 19, and 10 yards to Njoku, all in a row. A handoff to Chubb for 3 yards set up 3nd-and-7 at the 50 heading into the two-minute warning. Hunt had a burst for 11 yards for a first down after the break. Two plays later, Cleveland faced 3rd-and-8 from the 37 yard line with 0:50 remaining.
A crossing route to WR David Bell looked like it might move the chains, but the defender made a good tackle to keep it 4th-and-2 from the 31 yard line with 0:34 remaining. Head coach Kevin Stefanski decided to go for it, and Brissett completed it to a sliding Cooper for a short conversion. However, the booth reviewed it, and the call was overturned to an incomplete pass and a turnover on downs.
The defense allowed Trubisky to complete a 20-yard pass to the 43 yard line with 0:17 on the clock and no timeouts remaining. He couldn’t get any further, though, going into the half with a couple of incomplete passes to keep it a 14-13 game.
Pittsburgh received the ball to begin the second half. After getting to midfield, the Browns saw LB Anthony Walker have to be carted off with an injury, and LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was already sidelined with an in-game injury. Trubisky couldn’t complete a 3rd-and-5 pass from the Browns’ 41 yard line, bringing on the punt unit. Cleveland WR Chester Rogers fair caught the punt at the 14 yard line.
Brissett zipped a pass to Cooper, who caught it and walked the tightrope along the sideline for a 28-yard gain. That was followed by a tight end screen to Njoku for 12 yards to get into Pittsburgh territory. A 9-yard run by Chubb set up 2nd-and-1, but then extra lineman Michael Dunn was flagged for a hold on the next play, pushing Cleveland back to a 2nd-and-11. Chubb’s run for 8 yards set up 3rd-and-3 from the 38 yard line. The handoff went to Hunt, who was tripped up just short. On 4th-and-1, Cleveland went for it, and Hunt motioned to the fullback spot and got the carry for 9 yards and a first down. LT Jedrick Wills was down after the play, though.
The Browns inched closer to the goal line, but then Njoku couldn’t hang onto a pass after the defender cut out his legs on a tackle. A couple plays later, on 3rd-and-10, Brissett’s pass over the middle fell incomplete, so York came on to try a 34-yard field goal for the lead. He connected on it, giving the Browns a 16-14 lead with 2:31 remaining in the third quarter. It was a 14-play, 80-yard drive that took up 7:02 of game clock.
Cleveland’s defense then got a big three-and-out. DE Myles Garrett finally got a hit on Trubisky, but the veteran quarterback got a nice pass off up the sideline to Johnson, who dropped it. Pittsburgh punted, and the Browns took right back over at the 20 yard line. Two runs by Chubb set up a 3rd-and-1 heading into the fourth quarter. The Browns ran a playaction fake, and Brissett found Cooper wide open for 32 yards past midfield. Chubb then bowling balled his way to a 16-yard gain, to the 23 yard line.
Next it was Hunt’s turn, who had a burst of 8 yards. Hunt twirled his way on the next carry to being just shy of a first down, setting up 3rd-and-inches. Brissett’s sneak picked up 6 yards, and he was fired up heading into 1st-and-goal from the 8 yard line. The first down carry to Hunt gained 5 yards, setting up 2nd-and-goal from the 3 yard line. On second down, Hunt gained 2 yards on the cutback, making it 3rd-and-goal from the 1 yard line. On 3rd-and-goal, Hunt was stopped just short of the end zone. Stefanski opted to go for it with Chubb coming back in. Chubb got the handoff and went straight up the middle for the touchdown! The extra point gave the Browns a two-score lead at 24-13, and that drive took up 6:35 of game clock thanks to all of the running plays.
The Steelers’ second half woes continued with yet another three-and-out on offense, taking up less than a minute of game clock. They punted and the Browns’ offense took right back over at the their 39 yard line. Cleveland picked up one first down to midfield, but Pittsburgh finally sniffed out one run play for a loss of 5 yards. On 3rd-and-12 from the 48 yard line, Brissett fired an absolute bullet up the seam to Cooper, but the fastball went off of his facemask for an incompletion. The Browns punted with under 5:30 to go, with the punt being downed at the 6 yard line.
Although the lead looked safe, nothing seems too safe after what happened in Week 2. Phillips got the Browns’ first sack of the day on Trubisky on a 3rd-and-3. On 4th-and-6 from the 10 yard line, Pittsburgh punted despite there only being 4:25 remaining. This next drive started one yard shy of midfield. Hunt got the first handle for a gain of 2 yards, as Pittsburgh started burning timeouts. Chubb lost 2 yards on the next handoff, setting up 3rd-and-10. Brissett looked to pass, but ended up taking a sack as the pocket collapsed. The clock ran, and Bojorquez’ punt went out of bounds at the 20 yard line with 3:13 to go.
Of course, Trubisky now completed passes of 26 and 20 yards to his tight end. Heading into the two-minute warning, the Steelers faced a 3rd-and-5 from the 21 yard line. Phillips broke up the third down pass, and then Pittsburgh faced a decision. They lined up for a field goal, but the Browns had 12 men on the field. The 5-yard penalty was still 4th-and-inches, so Pittsburgh opted to kick the field goal again. Boswell hit from 35 yards, and now it was time for an onside kick again. God, this is agonizing. The Steelers went for the onside kick to WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, and he booted it. Thankfully, the ball eventually went out of bounds, in part thanks to WR Anthony Schwartz pushing it out.
Chubb ran it twice for 9 yards, setting up 3rd-and-1. The chain gang came out after Chubb’s next run, and he got it just barely. But then replay review ruled him short, and with some weird playclock and runoff rules, they ended up putting more time on the clock, screwing the Browns a bit. They had to run the clock down to 0:15 and punt. The punt went out of bounds at the 4 yard line with 9 seconds left. The Browns actually got a touchdown in the end zone because Pittsburgh kept trying to lateral the ball. CB Denzel Ward recovered, making it 29-17.
Next up, the Browns take on the Atlanta Falcons.
- QB Jacoby Brissett: 21-of-31 for 220 yards, 2 TD. 3 rushes, 11 yards.
- RB Nick Chubb: 23 carries, 113 yards, 1 TD.
- RB Kareem Hunt: 12 carries, 47 yards. 3 catches, 14 yards.
- WR Amari Cooper: 7 catches, 101 yards, 1 TD.
- TE David Njoku: 9 catches, 89 yards, 1 TD.
- DE Myles Garrett: ddd