Browns stun Steelers within the AFC wildcard spherical

For a moment on Sunday, the Cleveland Browns were on the verge of collapse.

A questionable coaching decision by Mike Tomlin and an 80-yard Browns touchdown ride insured the disaster was averted by an impressive 48-37 AFC wildcard win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After building a 35-7 lead in the first half after a historic first quarter, the Browns left the Steelers back in the game. But they held onto their first playoff win since the 1994 season when Bill Belichick was Cleveland’s head coach.

Cleveland punched Pittsburgh in the mouth early, preventing disaster in the second half to end a 26-year drought without a playoff win. (AP Photo / Keith Srakocic)

Blowout gets tight after half time

Cleveland’s offensive stagnated in the third quarter, scoring three hits on two consecutive runs of a goalless verse. Meanwhile, a dormant crime caught fire in Pittsburgh, scoring three touchdowns and a field goal on four trips in the second and third quarters.

The Steelers turned conservative when Tomlin hit fourth and first midfields with a 12-point deficit early in the fourth quarter. The Browns responded with an 80-yard touchdown ride to slow the Steelers’ rally and turn the page in a 26-year run without a playoff win.

Browns overcome COVID-plagued prep week

They did this in a dramatic way shortly after a disastrous week of being unable to exercise thanks to a COVID-19 outbreak. They got into the game missing several key players, including # 1 cornerback Denzel Ward and Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio. They were also without head coach Kevin Stefanski, who stayed in Cleveland after catching COVID-19.

But from the start, it was the Steelers who looked absolutely unprepared. In Pittsburgh’s first game, center Maurkice Pouncey shot the ball over Ben Roethlisberger’s head into the end zone, where the Browns recovered and took a 7-0 lead.

On their second run, Roethlisberger threw an interception that Cleveland converted into another touchdown. By the end of the first quarter, the Browns had punched the Steelers in the mouth with three forced sales and a 28-0 lead.

The story goes on

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) stands on the sideline after intercepting in the second half of an NFL wildcard playoff soccer game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday January 10, 2021 in Pittsburgh.  (AP Photo / Keith Srakocic)Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers looked unprepared on Sunday. (AP Photo / Keith Srakocic)

Something woke the Steelers at halftime, but their deficit was too big. Cleveland is advancing to next week’s divisional round as the least likely weekend playoff winner.

There you face an even bigger task: you have to deal with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

How the Browns won

The Browns secured victory by taking advantage of Steeler’s mistakes and doing what they did best – passing the ball to Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and seeking Baker Mayfield for an efficient game from behind the middle.

Chubb led the ground effort, claiming 76 yards on 18 runs. His biggest game took place on a screen pass from Mayfield in the fourth quarter, which he caught up and rumbled 40 yards to extend Cleveland’s lead to 42-23 and put the game out of reach.

The touchdown was Mayfield’s third part of the game. He made 21 of 34 attempts without turning the ball. He didn’t take a sack against a Steelers unit that led the league in that category.

Meanwhile, Cleveland’s defense made the greatest games of the game. The Browns enforced five turnovers while setting none, forcing Roethlisberger to run wild statistics on the loss.

The Steelers quarterback completed 47 of 68 tries for 501 yards and four touchdowns while attempting to dig out of the hole his four interceptions helped dig. The effort did little more than cut Pittsburgh’s deficit from 28 to 11 and put an exclamation mark on a season that got out of hand after an 11-0 start.

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