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Cleveland Browns Roundtable: Divisional Round

Can the Cleveland Browns make it to their first AFC Championship game in almost 30 years?

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 11: Myles Garrett #95 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates against the Pittsburgh Steelers on January 11, 2021 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Welcome everyone to the show that never ends! The Cleveland Browns face off against the reigning, defending World Champions of the National Football League at 3:05 EST in Kansas City. The entire football world will be watching this Divisional Round game as it’s the first for the Champs. Can the Browns keep it close? How did the Steelers’ tears taste? Find out all that and more!

1. It wasn’t a dream. What’s your reaction to the Browns winning?

Ohio

This was as improbable of a win as I can ever remember, given the circumstances. Certainly the most remarkable Browns win since the move. My overall reaction is that this Browns team not only reached their ceiling, but surpassed it. Whatever their ceiling was has been shattered — there is no ceiling. This win proved this team is capable of beating anyone, anytime, anywhere.

SuperSurge

 Euphoria. I can’t remember a game of that importance that a Cleveland team came out and dominated right from the start. Beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh in the playoffs? Overcoming the losses of players and coaches? It was the second best sporting night of my life, after Game 7. But it’s closer than you think.

Out of the Rafters

It was the best Browns moment of my lifetime. But honestly, I think the first quarter was a higher euphoria than the final second ticking off the clock. Touchdown after touchdown, turnover after turnover, that was the “pinch me” time. That was Browns nirvana. After that, even the most confident Clevelander was a little tense at some point. You’re lying if you say you didn’t utter the phrase “If they blow this…”

Chris Richani

Are you sure it wasn’t a dream? Every morning since Sunday I have woken up and promptly checked the score to make sure it actually happened. Sunday’s win dethroned Baker’s 2018 debut against the Jets on TNF as my favorite Browns game of all time. So many memories, mostly bad, ran through my mind while watching and celebrating every score and forced turnover that night. This was the culmination of everything we have endured since the return, and man it was sweet.

2. How do you feel about the Steelers stars sitting on the bench instead of shaking hands?

Ohio

Don’t care. The Browns don’t need anything from the Steelers.

SuperSurge

 I couldn’t care less. Although it lets you know their pride was hurt, which is satisfying.

Out of the Rafters

 I’d love to say that this shows how classless and pathetic the Steelers organization is. I’d love to say it reflects on their coach, who surrendered the game with one of the most cowardly punts we’ve ever witnessed. I’d love to rub it in their faces, with Juju dancing, and Claypool running his mouth this week, as examples of why Pittsburgh fans, the organization, and their overall sense of entitlement is so awful. But, I’ll answer this the same way I’d answer if it were the Browns, or some other team doing it: I don’t care. It really doesn’t matter.

Chris Richani

I have no issue with it. It exemplified their emotions: dejected, stunned, disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them drenched in the same misery they have dished out to the Browns in Pittsburgh on an annual basis since 2003. Hopefully there is much more misery to come for the Steelers, and this was a changing of the guard in the AFC North.

3. What does the win say about Kevin Stefanski?

Ohio

For starters, he should be the Coach of the Year and it should be unanimous. Additionally, this win shows how strong of a culture he has created (with the help of others) in less than one calendar year. How this team performed without him on the biggest stage is the best evidence of this you can get. What he has accomplished in such a short period of time, during a pandemic, is simply unprecedented.

SuperSurge

It’s just another sign that he could be our long-term coach we’ve been waiting for. The stability, selflessness, and accountability he practices and preaches has set the tone for the culture to change in the organization.

Out of the Rafters

It says that the team plays better without him. Worst hire ever. Stay in your basement Kev. Don’t ruin a good thing.

Okay, actual answer. It’s impressive that this team was able to operate the way it did without their head coach. Being able to set up a culture and a system so that you’re no longer needed is impressive. I’ve always held the belief that, in the workplace, a sign that a person is ready for a larger role is that they’ve already trained someone who can fill their current role. There was one part of the NFL’s released “Mic’d Up” footage that shows a coach on the sidelines, when we’re up 28-0, telling the guys “Nothing special is happening. We’re just doing our jobs.” That exemplifies the sort of culture Stefanski embodies, and it makes me proud to be a Browns fan.

Chris Richani

It solidifies Coach of the Year for Kevin Stefanski in my mind. Stefanski built a machine here, and he did so during the most difficult circumstances for a rookie head coach in sporting history. Sunday’s win epitomizes all of the qualities that make Stefanski great. He is calm, cool, and collected, and his attitude permeates the team. He is ready for any adversity with well though out contingency plans. He can prepare his team under any circumstances (even strictly via Zoom). And he has hired talented, aligned coaches who have proven that they can lead the team in his image if he is forced to miss time. He’s COTY.

4. The World Champions. In KC. How do the Browns win this game?

Ohio

Winning the turnover battle is a must. The Browns are undefeated when they win or tie in turnover battle. In each of their losses, they lost the turnover battle. Offensively, similar gameplan as the Steelers game. Stay balanced between run and pass, get the ball out of Baker’s hands quickly. Defensively, do anything you can to keep KC out of the endzone. Holding them to a couple field goals could be the difference.

SuperSurge

The Browns are going to have to score a lot of points. A LOT. They’re also going to have to find a way to create a turnover or two. Let’s keep the game close until the 4th quarter and see what happens.

Out of the Rafters

The Browns offensive line needs to feast on the Chiefs defense. Baker needs to not turn the ball over, via fumble or interception. Our pass rush needs to speed rush right past their tackles and attack Mahomes’s stupid-deep drops on third down. Our defensive line needs to shut down their run game. Our secondary needs to communicate properly, and keep plays in front of them. If our safeties don’t blow coverages, we have a very good shot. If KC receivers are running free, uncovered, behind our defense, it’s going to be a long night.

Chris Richani

The Browns can win this game by playing to their strengths and hoping for a beneficial game script. If the Chiefs are able to seize a two-score lead early, the Browns will be in a world of pain. Keeping the contest close or finding a way to play with a lead will allow the Browns to lean on their league-best run and play action game. The defense is going to have to force timely turnovers, because there is no stopping this Chiefs’ offense. Myles Garrett’s speed rush may play a big factor with the depth of Mahomes’ dropbacks; he will need to have a career-defining game off the edge to give the Browns a shot.

Bonus: Who would you rather see in the AFC Championship game?

Ohio

Baltimore. The Browns owe them something. CLEVELAND owes them something. Nothing else needs to be said.

SuperSurge

I’d want the Ravens. Exercise all the demons in one postseason. 

Out of the Rafters

The Browns, duh.

Chris Richani

I would rather see the Ravens. The Browns could exercise all their demons in one fell swoop by disposing of the Steelers in Pittsburgh and the Ravens in Baltimore on their way to their first Super Bowl appearance. That’s how you turn a damn page for the franchise.

Been a Browns fan since birth but unfortunately don't remember much of the good times. Lived through expansion era, the Butch era, Romeo era, Mangini, Holmgren, Sashi, Dorsey and now we begin a new era!

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