The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card Round to make it to the divisional round against the top seeded Kansas City Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes came off of 21 days of rest and the Browns were finally able to get three practices in as they welcome the return of head coach Kevin Stefanski from COVID-19.
This was the Browns first appearance in a divisional round of the playoffs since 1994. The Chiefs however look to make it back to the Super Bowl for the second straight season.
The Chiefs got on the board first in the first drive of the game when Mahomes ran the ball for a one-yard touchdown to give the Chiefs a 6-0 lead as kicker Harrison Butker missed the extra point. The Browns made a field goal to cut the lead to three points.
Again, the Chiefs scored on their first drive in the second quarter when Mahomes found tight end Travis Kelce for a 20-yard pass to extend their lead early in the second quarter. The Browns lost an important part of their protection as offensive tackle Jedrick Willis leaves the game early with an ankle injury.
Butker made a 50-yard field goal, which is the longest field goal ever in playoff history at Arrowhead Stadium. Cleveland had a chance to bring themselves back in the game at the end of the quarter when Mayfield found wide receiver Rashard Higgins deep for 25-yards, however it was fumbled after a tackle from Chiefs’ safety Daniel Sorensen right before the endzone that resulted in a touch back.
The Browns began with the ball in the third quarter where Baker Mayfield threw an interception to safety Tyrann Mathieu. Butkler had a chance to extend the Chief’s lead, however missed the field goal from 33-yards to keep the game at 19-3. On the next drive Mayfield was able to find wide receiver Jarvis Landry for a four-yard touchdown pass to bring the Browns back into the game.
Mahomes left the game and went to the locker room after a hard tackle to his head by linebacker Mack Wilson. Backup quarterback Chad Henne came into the game in place of Mahomes. Mahomes was later ruled out of the game with a concussion.
Kareem Hunt made his return to Kansas City one to remember as he made a huge three-yard touchdown run to cut the Chiefs’ lead to five points. The Browns’ chances of coming back were becoming big as Henne threw an interception right into the hands of safety Karl Joseph to turn the ball over with eight minutes left in the game. The Browns failed to put points on the board after the interception drive which cost the Browns the comeback.
With less than two minutes left and the Chiefs still leading by five, Henne found Tyreek Hill for the first down to secure the game for the Chiefs 22-17 without their start quarterback.
The biggest play of the game was the run made by Henne that brought the Chiefs just short of the first down to grant them the win for the day. Henne risked his body and dove to try to get the first down. Henne spoke to reporters after the game and joked how he does not use any social media besides LinkedIn so he wouldn’t know that #HenneThingIsPossible was trending after the game.
“But I don’t think #HenneGivenSunday or #HenneThingIsPossible is going to be on LinkedIn,” Henne said to ESPN. “… Once I got in that huddle, everyone had confidence for me. They were pushing for me, had my back, and this is a great team. This a great opportunity to go and play with this team and come out with a victory.”
Mahomes tweeted after the game that he was doing good, and Reid gave a quick update after the game on his condition.
“He’s actually doing very well. We’ll see how he is tomorrow, but right now, he’s feeling pretty good” he said according to ESPN.”
All good brother! 💪🏽 https://t.co/ORwLG6eFTV
— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) January 17, 2021
For the Browns, it was a disappointing loss. They had a couple of chances to take the lead late in the game but were unsuccessful. Mayfield spoke after the game about how sad he is ending a difficult season like this but he is staying positive in the future of his team.
“So many people have sacrificed so much during this process and this very strange season and overcome adversity,” Mayfield said to the Cleveland Browns. “So many people have stepped up – families of players and families of staff – and everybody sacrificed so much for us to be able to do this. It is just unfortunate for us to come up short. It sucks because we believed in it. That is why we are here, but trying to find the positive out of it, we are setting a new standard here.”
Head coach Kevin Stefanski praised the hard work from his quarterback all season and how confident he is that Mayfield will keep leading his team in the future.
“The offense in general, I do not think we put them in enough good spots, but Mayfield was ready to go help us win that game,” Stefanski also said to the Cleveland Browns. “That is what he has done all season long steering this ship, being out in front and leading this group. I am proud of him. Ultimately, we know that we did not get the job done so there is a huge amount of disappointment in that, but I appreciate how he battles.”
The Chiefs will welcome the Buffalo Bills for the AFC Conference Championship game on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Mahomes is questionable to play, depending on if he is cleared from concussion protocol in time.