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Deshaun Watson’s turnovers cost Browns, Cleveland loses season finale to Steelers 28-14

A blah way to end the season, which is rather mercifully over.

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Browns had a 7-0 lead with a decent grip on the game, and then before you knew it, the Browns were turning the ball over and creating easy opportunities for the Steelers. Cleveland lost their season finale 28-14. Let’s get to the full game recap.

QB Deshaun Watson came out throwing, starting off with a 19-yard dumpoff pass to RB Nick Chubb, which was then followed by a 5-yard pass to Chubb. Missing RT Jack Conklin was a factor after that, as backup OL James Hudson was called for illegal hands to the face. Being backed up, on 3rd-and-9, Watson’s pass for TE David Njoku was tipped away. P Corey Bojorquez came on for the punt, getting off a short 35-yard punt that was returned to the Steelers’ 33-yard line.

The Steelers utilized the rushing attack to move the ball with ease down the field, and then when they tried their first pass play, it was dropped. That was followed by a loss on the ground by RB Najee Harris, setting up third-and-long. Pressure came on QB Kenny Pickett, but evaded it and found WR Diontae Johnson, who caught it and broke tackles down to the 2 yard line. Harris got the handoff on 1st-and-goal from the 2 yard line, and he appeared to reach for the end zone for a touchdown. The officials marked him down just short, and rather than challenge the play, Pickett tried a hurry-up quarterback sneak that was denied. On 3rd-and-goal from the 1 yard line, Harris tried to jump, but was hit by LB Deion Jones and fumbled, with DE Alex Wright recovering at the 5 yard line!

The offense got some breathing room with an 11-yard run by Chubb. A 27-yard pass to Njoku off of a fake double screen was called back due to multiple penalties, though, including a hold on LT Jedrick Wills. Watson got 15 yards on the next play with a strike to WR Amari Cooper, setting up 3rd-and-2. The handoff to RB Kareem Hunt was stopped a yard short, though, and Bojorquez punted again with Pittsburgh taking over at their own 29 yard line.

The defense appeared to come through again. Pittsburgh tried to pass on first down, with Pickett rolling out and throwing across his body to Johnson, much like he did earlier. Johnson caught it, but then CB Denzel Ward quickly punched it out and LB Tony Fields recovered. However, the officials ruled that Johnson didn’t have possession long enough and deemed it an incomplete pass instead. Pittsburgh ended up driving to midfield before the defense held strong again, forcing a punt that was downed at the 6 yard line.

Right before end end of the first quarter, Watson found WR Donovan Peoples-Jones up the seam for a 38-yard pass. They tried one more snap to end the quarter, but Watson was sacked for a loss of five yards. A run by Chubb of 8 yards to begin the second quarter made it 3rd-and-7, but he faced pressure and ended up swinging it to Hunt in the flat for a loss of three yards. Bojorquez’ punt sailed to the end zone for a touchback.

The defense forced another stop, and after a Steelers punt, the Browns’ offense started with their best field position at their own 29 yard line. Cleveland finally converted a third down when Watson found TE Harrison Bryant for 14 yards up to midfield. A defensive hold on third down gave the Browns another fresh set of downs, and then on the next play, Watson found Hunt on a dumpoff for 14 yards. A couple more runs by Hunt set up 3rd-and-1 from the 22 yard line. Chubb returned and had a burst up the middle for 12 yards. On 1st-and-goal from the 10 yard line, Watson rolled to his left and found Njoku releasing late for a touchdown to give the Browns a 7-0 lead with 6:27 remaining in the first half.

Pittsburgh then had a phantom pass interference call on third down of their next drive to push the ball past midfield. Then, on a 3rd-and-1, The Steelers tried to pass it but Garrett got immediate pressure. As he tried to wrap up Pickett, Pickett shuffled the ball to a running back, who got close to the line of scrimmage — but the officials gave him the first down. The Steelers faced a 2nd-and-10 from the 26 yard line heading to the two-minute warning. Later, on 3rd-and-15, the defense had a breakdown as Pickett found WR George Pickens wide open up the seam for a 31-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7-7 with 1:47 remaining.

Two plays later, Watson was picked off as he tried to fit the ball into triple coverage to Peoples-Jones. Pittsburgh took over at their own 44 yard line.

The double dip special continued as Cleveland allowed a 24-yard completion to Pickens down the left sideline. That helped set up a 49-yard field goal by K Chris Boswell to give Pittsburgh a 10-7 lead. With 0:33 left, the offense was thinking about trying to set up a long field goal. A 7-yard run by Watson brought the ball to the 33 yard line, but Cleveland burned their final timeout with 0:22 left. His second down dumpoff pass was knocked down, and on third down, a quick 15-yard pass to WR Michael Woods over the middle allowed them to clock it. Instead of getting to try a Hail Mary, though, Watson couldn’t handle the snap and just recovered it heading to the half.

Pittsburgh indeed got the aforementioned double dip to begin the second half, as they committed to running the ball with the defense unable to stop it. However, once they got to the 10 yard line, the drive stalled, and on third down, Garrett sacked Pickett to force a 34-yard field goal. That made it a 13-7 game with 9:04 remaining in the third quarter.

A 21-yard scramble on third down by Watson moved the ball close to midfield. Watson had a double dose of negatives after that, though, first being sacked for a loss of 11 yards, and then on 3rd-and-18, he tried a short pass that the defensive back was aggressive on the entire way, intercepting it and returning it to the Browns’ 25 yard line.

A few plays later, Pittsburgh had a 1st-and-goal from the 4 yard line. Harris punched it in two plays later to give the Steelers a 20-7 lead.

Meanwhile, the Browns’ offense continued to suck, with Watson being sacked for a loss of 6 yards and a loss of 7 yards on back-to-back plays to force a punt. To end the third quarter, Pittsburgh fumbled a pitch play, but the defense couldn’t secure it. Nonetheless, it helped lead to a three-and-out and another punt.

The Browns’ offense finally got things together again, thanks to Chubb sparking them with runs of 11 and 15 yards on the ground. Watson then found Cooper on a 36-yard catch-and-run to Cooper that was reminiscent to last week’s touchdown passes to him. Down near the goal line, Pittsburgh was robbed when DE Cameron Heyward was flagged for a personal foul on Watson for just tackling him softly; Cleveland capitalized, as Watson bought time and found Chubb for a 2-yard touchdown pass to make it a 20-14 game with 10:11 in the game.

The defense had two cracks to get the ball back for a comeback try, but on 3rd-and-10, Pickett found Pickens for 17 yards, and then on 3rd-and-8, he found Connor Heyward for 27 yards to the 14 yard line with 6:30 remaining. Later, on 3rd-and-8 again, a completion to Heyward set up goal-to-go. A handoff to FB Derek Watt got the touchdown, and then a two-point conversion through the air made it 28-14 with 4:37 to play.

Cleveland finishes the season at 7-10, and now the offseason begins. Pittsburgh, despite the win, didn’t get the help they needed to make the playoffs, as the Miami Dolphins made a 50-yard game-winning field goal to win 9-6.

Quick Hitters

  • QB Deshaun Watson: 19-of-29 for 230 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT. 6 rushes, 44 yards.
  • RB Nick Chubb: 12 carries, 77 yards (6.4 YPC). 5 catches, 45 yards, 1 TD.
  • DE Myles Garrett: 1 sack.