Another week, another close win for the Cleveland Browns.
This time, though, it was a defensive showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers that came down to a last-second Dustin Hopkins field goal. The two sides were separated by just 10 total offensive yards with only one turnover in the game: a Dorian Thompson-Robinson interception.
Other than that interception, though, the fifth-round rookie played well enough to keep the Browns alive throughout the contest. The Browns took over sole possession of second place in the AFC North with the victory and sit just one game behind the Baltimore Ravens for first place.
Here are our four downs from the huge Week 11 win.
First down: Dorian Thompson-Robinson plays well enough to win
The Browns didn’t win because of Thompson-Robinson, but the team didn’t lose because of him, either. He completed 24-of-43 attempts for 165 passing yards, no touchdowns and one interception. And that’s really all Cleveland needs out of their rookie quarterback moving forward.
With a top-flight defense and a solid rushing attack, the Browns will remain in games so long as they don’t turn the ball over and limit big plays by opponents. That’s what they did in Week 11 and will have to do moving forward if Thompson-Robinson remains the starter.
Second down: Kevin Stefanski coaching can overcome injuries
Even with a dearth of injuries this year at critical positions, the Browns remain in the playoff hunt with a legit shot to win their division. That doesn’t happen without good coaching from Stefanski. Yes, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz should get a lot of the credit for the play of the defense, but Stefanski’s leadership has held the team together.
Stefanski took risks in this game, too. The challenge on Jerome Ford’s goal line touchdown could have been costly if it went the other way, and it ended up being the difference in the game. Props to Stefanski, who normally would be a Coach of the Year candidate if the Browns were winning big.
Third down: Defense will always keep Browns in games
The Browns didn’t force a turnover for the first time since Week 3 but stymied Kenny Pickett and the Steelers enough to hold them to just 10 points.
The day could have been even bigger earlier when Browns defensive end Myles Garrett sacked Pickett near the Steelers’ own end zone. It looked like a safety for Cleveland, but wasn’t called. That play led to the Browns taking over on offense at midfield, which eventually set up the Ford touchdown.
Cleveland allowed 249 yards – the sixth time the Browns allowed fewer than 300 yards in a game.
Fourth down: Dustin Hopkins clutch kicking again
Hopkins hit all three of his kicks this week including the 34-yard field goal to seal the win for Cleveland. It’s Hopkins’ second consecutive game-winner after he secured the Browns’ win over the Ravens in Week 10.
Kicking woes plagued the Browns in the past, but now Cleveland has a reliable leg it can lean on in critical moments. He’s now hit 25-of-28 kicks this year.