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Shorthanded Browns stun Steelers early, stifle late rally for first playoff win since 1994 season

January 11th, 2021

For a moment Sunday, the Cleveland Browns appeared on the verge of a meltdown.

But a questionable coaching decision by Mike Tomlin and an 80-yard touchdown drive by the Browns assured that disaster was averted in a stunning 48-37 wild card over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After building a 35-7 first half-lead on the heels of a historic first quarter, the Browns let the Steelers back in the game after halftime.

Blowout turns tight after halftime

Cleveland’s offense stagnated, posting three-and-outs on back-to-back drives. A dormant Pittsburgh offense caught fire, scoring three touchdowns and a field goal on four drives spanning the second and third quarters.

But the Steelers got conservative with Tomlin opting to punt facing fourth-and-1near midfield while trailing by 12 points at the start of the fourth quarter The Browns responded with an 80-yard touchdown drive to stunt the Steelers rally and turn the page on a 26-year run without a playoff win.

Cleveland Browns strong safety Karl Joseph (42) celebrates after recovering a fumble in the during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Browns overcome COVID-plagued week of prep

They did so in dramatic fashion, on the heels of a disastrous week that saw them unable to practice thanks to a COVID-19 outbreak on the team. They came into the game missing multiple key players, including No. 1 cornerback Denzel Ward and Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio. They were also without head coach Kevin Stefanski, who remained in Cleveland after catching COVID-19.

But from the start of the game, it was the Steelers that looked woefully unprepared. Pittsburgh’s first play saw center Maurkice Pouncey snap the ball over Ben Roethlisberger’s head and into the end zone, where the Browns recovered the ball to take a 7-0 lead.

Their second drive saw Roethlisberger throw an interception that Cleveland’s offense converted into another touchdown. By the time the first quarter was done, the Browns had punched the Steelers in the mouth to the tune of three forced turnovers and a 28-0 lead.

Something woke the Steelers up at halftime. But their deficit was too much and their rally too late. Cleveland is advancing to the divisional round of the playoff as the weekend’s least likely playoff victor.

There, they’ll face an even taller task, taking on Patrick Mahomes and the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs.

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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