Stefanski, the Browns guessed, stung by tight losses | News, Sports, Jobs


Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski watches warm-ups ahead of the NFL team’s soccer game against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday, December 25, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin (AP Photo / Aaron Gash)

CLEVELAND (AP) – Despite two agonizing losses in six days, a litany of COVID-19 cases and a stoned starting quarterback who crumbles when the moment calls for strength, the Cleveland Browns still have a chance to stand qualify for the playoffs.

It is far. But there is a way, a prayer.

In this crazy NFL season, it’s either appropriate or stupid.

On Monday, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski offered no apologies or regrets for his late-game decisions in Saturday’s 24-22 loss to the Green Bay Packers, which sealed the day’s win. Christmas with 43 seconds remaining as he intercepted Baker Mayfield for the fourth time.

Stefanski left himself open to further scrutiny and deeper criticism for his call of play – a theme all season long – in final possession as the Browns (7-8) let another close game slip away. .

Cleveland has lost six games with six points or less this season, a high in the NFL and a worrying pattern for the sophomore coach and Mayfield, whose tenacity is about the only thing in his game that doesn’t come off in question.

Overcoming Mayfield’s mistakes, the Browns were able to steal a victory and the Green Bay holiday celebration from Aaron Rodgers breaking Brett Favre’s team record for touchdown passes. But as has often been the case in 2021, Cleveland has collapsed.

Keeping three timeouts and with the ball in midfield, Stefanski opted to put it – and the game – in Mayfield’s hands instead of giving it to running back Nick Chubb, who slashed Green Bay for 126 of 219 Cleveland yards rushing.

Mayfield missed two shots – a second screen pass was nearly intercepted – before Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas got away with a tug on Browns receiver Donovan People-Jones’ jersey and made his choice to seal the match.

Stefanski said he felt good about the parts he sent to Mayfield, who had not trained for almost two weeks due to COVID-19.

“We felt like we had control over there” Stefanski said. “But ultimately, when you don’t get out of it, you guess everything. You then guess the first game in the game, the second game in the game, or whatever. When that doesn’t work, we definitely question ourselves. “

Stefanski felt he wanted to score a touchdown or at least bring the ball closer so as not to force rookie Chris Naggar to attempt a long field goal for the win. Naggar was making his NFL debut after being activated from the practice squad a day earlier due to another case of COVID-19.

Although practical, Stefanski’s moves didn’t work out again as the Browns again failed to execute in the clutch. They are almost out of time to fix it, but Stefanski is convinced that he and Mayfield can thrive from the last missed opportunity.

“We have to find a way to be successful, and I have to find a way to be successful for the team when we are in these times,” he said. “I’m sure it’s easy to say the woulda, coulda, shoulda kind of things.

“For us, again, all of our focus just needs to come back into this week, this game, against this opponent.”

WHAT WORKS

Three starters, a few key substitutes and star winger Myles Garrett playing with a groin injury, the Cleveland defense came out on top in the second half, keeping the Packers three points away.

There were some crucial blackouts in the red zone, but a pretty solid effort against one of the NFL’s top QBs.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The kicking situation remains fluid and imperfect. The struggling Chase McLaughlin was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list on Friday, elevating Naggar in a predicament which he made more difficult by blowing up his first extra point.

The failure prompted Stefanski to opt for a 2-point conversion which failed after the second TD from Cleveland and changed the strategy on the home stretch.

STORE

MJ Stewart started safe for an injured John Johnson III and finished with 10 tackles, a team record, including two for loss. Stewart also made some nice saves in space, preventing the Packers from winning any longer.

Stewart, who made 11 tackles in Monday’s loss to Las Vegas, struggled to cover a single against Packers star Davante Adams. But who doesn’t?

SOLD OUT

Mayfield’s four career-high interceptions have only fueled his many critics, many of whom believe the Browns must leave him as a future starter. He was too inconsistent, too imprecise and too hurt.

INJURIES

The Browns are closer to full power after activating eight players, including defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and versatile running back Kareem Hunt, from the COVID-19 roster on Monday. Starting left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. is also back. He has been replaced in the last two games by left guard Joel Bitonio, who will return to his usual place.

KEY NUMBER

24 – total points in the Browns’ six losses of six points or less.

AND AFTER

With a little help, the Browns can win their division for the first time since 1989 and make the playoffs for the second year in a row. It will require Cleveland to win over Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, the first-place Bengals to bow to Kansas City first, and the Baltimore Ravens to abandon one of their last two games.

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