What a win. While it was only the opening round of the NFL playoffs, it was truly a victory of mammoth proportions for the Cleveland Browns. Not only was it their first postseason victory since 1994, but it was also their first victory in Pittsburgh since 2002, an arguably more significant achievement of the two considering they play the Steelers twice a season. But how did the Browns orchestrate their big win on Sunday night against their most heated rival?
In short, they brought a sword to a knife fight. The Excalibur comes to mind.
The repeated blows by the Browns began a mere 14 seconds into the game when Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey snapped the ball with enough arc to rival a rainbow. The ball went sailing clear over QB Ben Roethlisberger’s head as it rolled its way toward the end zone. While a pair of hapless Steelers pursued the runaway pigskin, it seemed evident that their arrival to the ball first would cement their recovery of it. Or not.
Falling on a football doesn’t mean it’s yours. The ball snuck under the attempt of one black jersey when a pack of wild dawgs in orange helmets chased down that leather Wilson like wolves after a fawn and by then, it didn’t have a chance.
Extra point good. Browns 7-0.
Exactly five minutes later, the Browns would find end zone gold again, this time courtesy of the offense. In a mere three plays, the Browns culminated a 46-yard drive with a 40-yard pass from Baker to WR Jarvis Landry. A few seconds later K Parkey connected on the extra point thereafter.
Just over two minutes after that, Cleveland was hammering away at a six-play, 65-yard, like-it-or-not-here-we-come drive that took a precise three minutes on the nose. It ended with a RB Kareem Hunt handoff who darted through a hole created by the unsung heroes of the offensive line. The gap allowed #27 to exploit the newfound daylight as he created a bit of pinball action that saw him bounce off linemen and defenders like a chrome sphere. The effort took him 11 yards for a touchdown with the help of a few of those aforementioned guys on the O-line to help push him in. Cody, you know what to do.
Soon after, Pittsburgh was on an end zone mission of their own commandeered by Big Ben as he began maneuvering his team downfield. For once, however, fate was on the Browns’ side and when Roethlisberger released the ball in hopes of a Steelers completion, it was instead tipped at the line of scrimmage. The contact wasn’t enough to cease the flight pattern of the ball, but it was enough to alter it…right into the hands of Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson…who tipped it again.
You see, on a passing attempt, a football is moving too fast and just not long enough in the air for it to have the opportunity to be tipped more than once, if at all in most cases. This wasn’t in most cases. After Johnson’s attempt to catch the ball provided the second redirection, Browns defensive back Sheldrick Redwine effectively used the blocking in front of him to get significant yardage after the catch, thus setting up the offense with great field position.
Pittsburgh may have been wearing black and yellow, but the Browns were seeing red. There was no taking their foot off the gas for this one as stand-in coach Mike Priefer went for the jugular. Another handoff to Kareem Hunt that called for Hunt to sweep left and do what he does best. Once again the offensive line did what they were called to do and #27 high-stepped his way over the goal line. Parkey lined up his shot to connect on his fourth extra point of the quarter.
The amount of Facebook posts and text messages that were crisscrossing data streams were many. “Is this real life?!” “OMG Go Browns!” “Dawgs Gotta Eat!” What many fans didn’t know and honestly probably didn’t care about, was the fact that the Cleveland Browns had just set an NFL record for most points scored in the first quarter of a postseason game. Yes, that does sound like a bit of an obscure stat and you’ll get no argument from me. Nevertheless, the barrage of points was needed against a very capable Pittsburgh squad whom the Browns ultimately defeated Sunday night, 48-37.
While the late Sunday night and Monday celebrations were well earned, the job is far from over. Next up the Browns head to Kansas City as it only gets tougher from here.
Bring on the defending Super Bowl champs.