Browns resiliency has them prepared and poised for playoff race

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Don’t look now, but the Browns find themselves in the thick of a playoff race in mid-November under first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski.

Browns. Playoffs. Same sentence. Not a typo.

It’s true that if the playoffs were to begin today, even with a seventh team added, they’d be on the outside looking in, but there’s a lot of football to be played and in the coming weeks the contenders and pretenders will separate themselves.

“We do not get wrapped up in that,” Stefanski said Monday. “I know it is fun for the fans and I get all that, but for us, we kind of try and focus on the task at hand.

“You try and learn after a win as much as you learn after a loss, and then get ready to play Philly. For our fans, we like having meaningful football games, but for us, really the thing that matters most for us is the game that week.”

The approach by Stefanski, while boring to fans, is why the Browns find themselves where they are and why fans should feel confident this year’s team won’t fall off a cliff and into the abyss like the only other team in the expansion era that started 6-3 did – the 2014 Browns.

Historically for the Browns, if it could go wrong, it would. Bad to worse became the norm. Losing was their tradition.

2020 is hardly normal and these are not your bumbling, stumbling Browns we’ve become used to watching fall flat on their faces in laughable fashion week in and week out.

Under Stefanski, these Browns appear unflappable.

“Adversity comes, it hits everybody, but being able to respond is the biggest thing,” defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi said. “And that is what the year is, it is just all about how you respond. You are going to get thrown curveballs. Some days you are going to be in the building, some days you are not, but it is all about how you respond. I think that is the biggest thing.

Respond they have, and in a big way.

Get embarrassed by the Ravens in week 1, come back and win four in a row.

Lose Nick Chubb for 4 weeks, split the four games without him.

Give up a late touchdown, march right down the field and score in the closing seconds to win.

Need to bleed the clock to put an opponent away, no problem.

Have to close the facility to deal with COVID-19 protocols and still get a day’s work in, okay.

“Those guys have been unfazed with everything that is thrown at them,” Stefanski said. “We anticipate there is going to be something every week, something sometimes every day and you know there is going be something in every game that is not going to go your way. I give credit to how to guys responded in those instances.”

The Browns have responded to their three losses this year with victories the following week, a rare feat for the franchise.

It is just the third time since 1999 the Browns have not lost back-to-back games through their first nine joining the 2007 and 2014 teams and only the 2007 team avoided a losing streak during a season.

As luck would have it, it’s a crowded playoff field too in the AFC.

The Browns find themselves tied with five other teams – the Titans, Colts, Ravens, Dolphins and Raiders, who are also 6-3.

They’ve lost to the Ravens and Raiders, beaten the Colts and still have Tennessee and Baltimore on the schedule in back-to-back weeks in December.

Buckle up, because the final seven weeks are going to be agonizingly fun.

“Every game is meaningful football,” cornerback Denzel Ward, who grew up in northeast Ohio, starred at Nordonia High School and went to Ohio State, said. “At the beginning of the season, you want to try to win every single game, but it is big for the City of Cleveland just having a winning record, one, so do not want to take that lightly for anybody. Just trying to keep it up, stay focused and take it one game at a time.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Jamie Sabau-Getty Images