Browns explode for record 28-0 1st quarter in disastrous Steelers start

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Jason Owens
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The Cleveland Browns needed some breaks coming into Sunday’s playoff game after a COVID-19 outbreak stunted their preparation.

They got a huge one off the bat. And then some.

On the very first snap of the game, the Pittsburgh Steelers committed a critical error that led to an early 7-0 Browns lead. The flood gates remained open from there as the Browns went on to a 48-37 victory.

Disastrous start a sign of things to come for Steelers

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lined up in shotgun as the Steelers started on offense from their own 22-yard line. Center Maurkice Pouncey missed his target on the snap and sent the ball sailing over Roethlisberger’s head, bouncing toward the end zone.

Roethlisberger and running back James Conner failed to corral the loose ball before Browns safety Karl Joseph pounced on it in the end zone for a touchdown.

The touchdown was the first of four for Cleveland in the opening stanza as the Browns exploded for a stunning 28-0 lead, tying the NFL record for most points scored by one team in the first quarter of a playoff game.

Cleveland Browns strong safety Karl Joseph (42) celebrates after recovering a fumbled in the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021.(AP Photo/Don Wright)
Cleveland couldn't have drawn up a better start to its first playoff game since 2002.(AP Photo/Don Wright)

And Cleveland was the team supposedly coming in unprepared after being barred from practicing and playing without head coach Kevin Stefanski because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

2 Steelers drives, 2 turnovers

Pittsburgh’s second drive didn’t go much better than the first. The Steelers reeled off seven snaps this time before Roethlsberger threw an interception to cornerback M.J. Stewart while under pressure from the Cleveland defensive front.

Three plays later, the Browns made Pittsburgh pay. Baker Mayfield connected with Jarvis Landry on a third-down pass that Landry carried into the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown.

And just like that, the Browns took a 14-0 lead 5:14 seconds into the game.

Browns offense rumbles

Pittsburgh punted on its next possession, setting Cleveland up for its first possession that wasn’t a result of a turnover. The Browns offense picked up where their defense left off, reeling of six plays for 65 yards that ended with an 11-yard Kareem Hunt touchdown run.

And another Roethlisberger pick

It didn’t take long for Cleveland to send its offense back on the field. Four plays into their next drive, the Steelers turned the ball over — again. This time, a Roethlisberger pass bounced off the hands of wide receiver Diontae Johnson and into the hands of Browns safety Sheldrick Redwine.

Three plays later, Hunt rumbled into the touchdown for his second touchdown of the game.

The score made NFL history. And the Browns obviously couldn’t have dreamnt or drawn up a better start.

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