5 quick takeaways from the Browns playoff win over the Steelers

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Jeff Risdon
·5 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

On a Sunday night that will not be forgotten anytime soon by any Browns fan, Cleveland came up victorious in the team’s first postseason game in 18 years. The Browns beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 48-37, to capture the first playoff win for the Cleveland franchise since the 1994 season.

Emotions were all over the map. From the incredible first quarter to the dangerous downslide after halftime, the Browns rollercoaster was an incredible thrill ride on Sunday night. Here’s what I took away from the game in real-time.

A majestic first quarter

(AP Photo/Don Wright)

The first quarter ended with the scoreboard reading Cleveland 28, Pittsburgh 0. Anything that could go right did even better than that for the Browns in the opening stanza. There were three takeaways, including a defensive score on the first play of the game. Kareem Hunt was unstoppable. Baker Mayfield was almost perfect. The makeshift offensive line dominated their Steeler enemies. It's a quarter of football worth reliving if only for the glory of just how awesome it went, and doing it against the rival Steelers made it even more majestic. I've been watching the Browns since the mid-1970s. The only other time I can recall close to an incredible sequence of events was the playoff comeback against the New York Jets in the 1986 postseason, when they overcame a 10-point deficit late in the fourth quarter and won in overtime. This topped it.

Browns got away from what was working on offense

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

As glorious as the first went, the third quarter was a nightmare. One of the primary reasons was the abrupt change of course by the Cleveland offense after the half. The Browns quickly picked up two first downs on the first four plays of the second half before stalling out. Quick pass plays and tough throws with a high degree of difficulty became the norm, not running the ball. The Steelers didn't need to take away Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who combined for over 100 yards in the first half. The Browns play-calling did it for them. That's a critical mistake and it allowed the Steelers to climb right back into the game.

Joe Woods needs to bag the prevent defense

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Think back to Week 13, the Browns win over the Tennessee Titans. The Browns nearly blew a 38-7 lead because the defense went into a prevent shell and the Tennessee offense caught fire. Joe Woods apparently didn't learn the lesson from that game. The Browns defensive coordinator did the same thing against the Steelers. The secondary went from aggressively challenging receivers and making plays on the ball to standing passively and trying to make quick tackles on wide open receivers all over the field. There's a difference between being prudent and careful and being complicit in helping the opposing offense light up the sky. Woods' defense has crossed that line twice now with seemingly insurmountable leads. That cannot happen again.

Takeaways saved the day

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Browns defense recorded five takeaways in the game, a team Super Bowl-era playoff record. The plus-five turnover ratio is also the best. And they needed every one of them, from Karl Joseph's fumble recovery in the end zone on the game's first play to Sione Takitaki's fortuitous interception late in the fourth quarter. The Steelers punted just three times in 14 possessions, one of those a terrible decision by coach Mike Tomlin. Roethlisberger threw for over 500 yards and four touchdowns on the night. The Browns undermanned defense couldn't get stops unless they got takeaways. Coach Mike Priefer harped on it in his postgame press conference as the number one priority for the team entering the game. It was one of our keys to victory, as it was for most who gave the Browns even a puncher's chance of winning. Mission accomplished.

Quick hits

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Some quick-hit notes from the game... --The offensive line was incredible, especially given the calamitous injury situation. No OL coaches at the game, no Joel Bitonio at all, no Jack Conklin most of the night, and we still barely heard the names Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt or T.J. Watt all night. That might be the most unexpected takeaway. --Priefer was quick to defer all credit to Stefanski, and rightly so. This tweet from Doug Lesmeries sums it up perfectly: https://twitter.com/DougLesmerises/status/1348462348391088129?s=20 --I loved Jarvis Landry stepping up when the team really needed something positive on offense in the fourth quarter. He demanded the ball and delivered with a couple of critical catches. --D'Ernest Johnson averaged almost 28 yards per return on kickoffs and didn't have any attempts end inside his own 24. The punt and kick coverage teams were sharp all night, as was kicker Cody Parkey and punter Jamie Gillan. This was a game where the special teams needed to not lose it, and they did much better than that. --Baker Mayfield's line: 21-for-34, 263 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, QB Rating of 115.2. At least four of the incompletions were drops, at least two by Austin Hooper. He won his first-ever NFL playoff game and did it on the road against a top-five defense. It's time to stop the doubting... --The officiating let both teams hold along the offensive line all night. Normally that would be a complaint, but with the Browns O-line down to a guy, left guard Blake Hance, that Mayfield literally met for the first time in the pregame locker room, it was an acceptable oversight. --We can talk/worry about Kansas City (next Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET) soon enough. Right now, celebrate and revel in the unfamiliar glory of a Browns playoff win. It's been a long time coming!