CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The rookie pulled it off and the Cleveland Browns beat the Pittsburgh Steelers at their own game.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson completed four consecutive passes to move the Browns into field goal range for Dustin Hopkins to kick the game winner from 34 yards out with two seconds remaining to beat the Steelers 13-10 Sunday afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Here’s our top Brownie Bites from win No 7, matching the best start in the expansion era to a season through 10 games at 7-3, also achieved by the 2020 team.
“It wasn't pretty, doesn't have to be, but it was physical, which we knew it would be,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said.
These Browns are rewriting the movie script this year. Games that they used to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with regularity are now turning into wins. Cleveland is now 4-2 in games decided by 4 or fewer points this season. “I think we're getting to a point where we're showing the world who we are as a team, as a defense, and really imposing our will on the people that we're playing and we want to continue to express ourselves and how much we can really dominate,” defensive end Myles Garrett said. The Steelers lost a game decided by one score for the first time this season to fall to 6-1 in those games. They are now 6-4 overall and continue to be outgained by their opponents in every game this season. The Browns had 259 yards of offense to their 249 yards.
As Stefanski alluded to, it wasn’t pretty but the fifth-round pick out of UCLA did just enough Sunday. Thompson-Robinson was overcome with emotion as Hopkins’ kick sailed through the uprights and the final two seconds bled off the clock. “I'm super happy, glad that I can get this one for my teammates,” Thompson-Robinson said. Thompson-Robinson completed 24 of 43 passes for 165 yards with an interception overall, but he was a perfect 4-4 for 39 yards on the final drive. “Those are big moments where you're looking for your guy to come through,” Stefanski said. “He came through. Made some big plays throughout that drive, made big plays throughout the game. I know it wasn't perfect at all times, but he came through when it mattered.” Steelers cornerback Chandon Sullivan had the pick for Pittsburgh off the tip by cornerback Joey Porter Jr. with 1:25 to play in the third quarter, but it was the only mistake for the rookie, who finished strong to set up the game-winning field goal. “I know on that last drive, from the O-linemen all the way up to the running backs and the receivers, everybody was all locked in,” Thompson-Robinson said. “Everybody had their job, knew what their job was and executed.” Walking his team down the field with the game on the line injects the Browns with confidence that although they lost Deshaun Watson, Thompson-Robinson will help them win games. “That definitely builds confidence going into next week, not only for us, but for himself,” Garrett said. “[He knows] I can do this. He hasn't even really opened up to what he can really do. Maybe going down the field a little bit more, stretching the field, using his legs, those things he hasn't even utilized yet. So once the game slows down even a little bit more and you start seeing everything a little bit easier, a little bit faster, I think he'll be really dynamic.”
Garrett sacked Kenny Pickett on the first offensive play for the Steelers. Officials put the ball at the half yard line following the play that looked like a safety, but Stefanski threw the challenge flag too late. “I for sure thought it was a safety and I thought the next though it was a safety, too,” Garrett said. Garrett added a second sack in the second half giving him 13 on the season but that first defensive snap set the tone. “That was huge, safety Grant Delpit said. “It was an edge blitz. They weren't expecting him to take an inside move. He took an inside move and got home. That's how you start a game.” Garrett now has 87.5 sacks in his career, tying him with J.J. Watt for the third-most sacks in a player’s first 100 games.
Once again, the Browns defense was dominating. The Steelers were held to 3-14 on third down, 12 first downs and just 77 passing yards. “Being in close games, we’re just trying to finish and find ways to finish those games with the win,” cornerback Denzel Ward, who became the first Brown in the expansion era with 10 pass breakups and two interceptions in six seasons, with another PBU Sunday, said. “We’ve been playing good complementary football right now.The guys have been doing a great job on offense and driving the ball. Dorian Thompson-Robinson did great controlling the game and defense did good as well.” Pittsburgh nettd 249 yards brining the season total allowed to 2,433 through 11 games, the third fewest in franchise history and the fewest since 1957 when they allowed 2,412 yards.
Stefanski threw the flag in time to challenge Jerome Ford’s touchdown run from a yard out after officials ruled Ford short of the goal line. “That was coach on his own,” Ford said. “He felt like we had it in and I had already went and sat down. I felt like I was in and he threw it and it just showed the faith that coach had in us as players.” Ford got the nose of the ball across the plane for 6 with 4:35 left in the first quarter for the games only TD. Had the replay not overruled the officials, the Browns were prepared to go for it on fourth down. “It felt real good to beat them today, especially with Nick [Chubb] being here and being in the stands,” Ford said.
A 17-play drive that chewed up 77 yards and 5:24 off the clock ended in a 25-yard field goal from Hopkins to extend the Browns lead to 10-0 with 5 ticks left in the first half. “Dustin is so trustworthy. He's so dependable,” Stefanski said. “Not ever going to worry if he misses one or two. I mean, that's just… We got him for a reason. He comes through for us.” Including the game winner, Hopkins has made three game winners this season and is 26 of 29. “You never know,” Hopkins said. “It’s crazy the way a game unfolds. Certain times when you’re almost sure you’re going to kick throughout the flow of a game, and then you don’t. And then others you’re like it’s probably not a kicking situation, and then all of a sudden it happens. I guess (today), probably not the last drive, but the drive before I thought that might have been the one where we do it.”
Unfortunately, prior to Hopkins’ first field goal make, tight end David Njoku was unable to haul in a touchdown on second-and-goal. Njoku also dropped at least three other passes, including a third down pass to end the third quarter that would not have resulted in the first down. “Very ugly game, especially on my behalf.,” Njoku said. “That's unacceptable. And luckily my teammates picked up the slack and we had a victory, but it's back to work from here on out.” Njoku, who had a career high season-high seven catches, caught an 11-yard pass on the final drive to help set up the game winning field goal. “Whether your guy drops it or not, you're going back to him,” Stefanski said. “Our guys have made unbelievable catches over this season. We'll continue to do that and you continue to trust your guys.”
With field position valuable, punter Corey Bojorquez picked the worst time for a 25-yard punt. His shortest boot of the season came with 5:47 remaining and gave the Steelers the ball at their own 48 but Cleveland’s defense held and forced a punt. Bojorquez saw his first punt downed at the 8. His second traveled 65 yards to flip the field. His third went 63 yards but the Steelers chipped 14 yards off that with a return and he had a 59-yarder too.
Steelers running back Jaylen Warren’s 74-yard touchdown run came on the second play of the second half after slipping a Greg Newsome II tackle to cut Cleveland’s lead to 10-7. Chris Boswell tied the game at 10 with a 25-yard field goal at the 7:40 mark of the fourth quarter but that was it for the Steelers offensively.
Linebacker Anthony Walker suffered a hamstring injury late in the first quarter and did not return. Safety Rodney McLeod suffered a biceps injury in the fourth quarter and was ruled out.
Nick Chubb was introduced to the crowd and chants of “Chubb! Chubb! Chubb!” broke out. Jim Donovan, radio voice of the Browns, got to smash the guitar prior to kickoff as he returned from a leave of absence to battle a relapse of leukemia. “Great to see Nick out there and I see Nick every day, but great to see him in the building, for our fans to see him and then so excited about Jimmy Donovan,” Stefanski said. “I mean, what an unbelievable person. He means so much to this organization, to this fan base. He did a nice job smashing that guitar. I was curious how he was going to get back up there for the first play call, but love Jimmy. Love everything, he brings to this team, the passion he brings to this team. So, I'm going to make sure that he gets a game ball for this one.” Ward was this week’s game captain for the Browns.