The Browns should have maximized possessions after Patrick Mahomes exited

USA TODAY Sports

I spent much of Monday reviewing the official game book from the Browns-Chiefs game, thinking carefully about the best way to critique the manner in which the Browns handled the game after Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes exited with a concussion.

Browns safety Karl Joseph caught a can of corn from Chiefs backup quarterback Chad Henne in the Cleveland end zone with exactly eight minutes to play. Down 19-10 when Patrick Mahomes left and 22-10 at the conclusion of the drive finished by Henne, the Browns had scored a touchdown and had cut the margin to five points, 22-17. The Joseph interception shoved the pendulum of momentum squarely in the Browns’ favor.

That’s when things when sideways for Cleveland. Through seven plays (and despite wasting a timeout along the way), the Browns moved 12 yards, from their own 20 to their own 32, burning three minutes and forty-one seconds of clock time. Facing fourth and nine, the Browns punted to Kansas City instead of choosing to go for it.

The reasoning makes sense. If Mahomes had still been playing, the Browns definitely should have taken their chances on fourth and nine. With Henne, why not punt and then play defense?

One reason not to punt, of course, came from the fact that the Browns had only one timeout remaining, due to an ill-advised replay challenge and the timeout that had to be used to avoid a delay-of-game foul during what would be Cleveland’s final drive. It was Cleveland’s final drive because the Chiefs successfully milked the remaining 4:19 to seal victory.

Thus, the fair criticism of the Browns comes from the failure to move more quickly after Mahomes went to the locker room. Before Mahomes was injured, it made sense to minimize possessions and shorten the game. Post-Mahomes, the total talent gap narrowed if not disappeared. At that point, the Browns should have done everything more quickly, in order to increase the number of times both teams had the ball — because in a battle of Baker Mayfield vs. Chad Henne, the Browns are more likely to score more points than the Chiefs.

Consider the first drive after Mahomes left. The Browns used eighteen plays, consuming eight minutes and seventeen seconds of clock time.

Down 12 at the time that drive began, why not force the issue? Move faster. Run more plays. Get the ball back to the Chiefs, and hope for a mistake that could lead to an opening to win the game.

If the Browns had simply displayed a greater sense of urgency during their final two drives, the Browns could have been going to Buffalo this weekend.

27 responses to “The Browns should have maximized possessions after Patrick Mahomes exited

  1. Fate served the game up to the Browns on a silver platter. But they choked it away. Baker is the latest member of the Derek Carr, Alex Smith, Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton, Jared Goff type QB tier. A solid player you can definitely win some games with when you fill out the supporting cast properly, but not quite the guy you want when the chips are down.

  2. The Browns offense is built on the run and play action and ensuring 3rd & 5 or better. Relying on it put the them back in the game. Maybe up tempo and slinging it would have worked, but it more likely would have given KC more opportunities to burn 5 minutes at a time. Which is cool for you because then you could have written this article about the browns abandoning their identity and what was working.

  3. I totally agree with Mike Florio on his assessment. Hell must be freezing over.

  4. But Clowns fans insist the game was lost on a no penalty hit that happened towards the end of the first half because they had 7 points taken away from them that they didn’t score when they were down 13 points. Nothing they could have done the entire 2nd half could have won them the game it was all because the refs didn’t call a penalty that Tony Romo thought might have been a questionable hit in the first half of the game.

  5. It’s almost as if you should be an offensive coordinator, and not a pathetic, inconsequential blogger who will never amount to anything of importance.

  6. Test question: Please define the term “Monday Morning Quarterbacking”
    Answer: “I spent much of Monday reviewing the official game book from the Browns-Chiefs game, thinking carefully thinking carefully about the best way to critique the manner in which the Browns handled the game after Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes exited with a concussion.”

  7. Great article. The Browns coaching staff cost them a golden opportunity wasted due to poor game plan on offense, a really bad challenge, poor clock management. In the first half they were barely getting the play calls in and the ball snapped. Kevin Stefanski also had a really bad offensive game plan. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt 2 elite RBs, averaged 5.3 yards per carry challenge, yet they only got 19 rushes against a very suspect Chiefs running defense, yet threw their very average QB 37x against a really good Chiefs pass defense, and Browns WRs that struggle to get open or have to make miracle catches because Mayfield’s ball placement on his passes constantly puts his receivers in danger. The problem with Stefanski is he never learned from his play calling mistakes since Week 1 vs the Ravens. Everytime in every game, the Browns would get behind, he would abandon the run and pass every play, which is why they got blown out by the Ravens and Steelers in the 1st games. Browns fans are happy for a winning season, but Kevin Stefanski is not a good HC, and he is a horrible play caller. They looked much better versus a better Steeler D with Stefanski in the basement

  8. Yup…exactly Mike. Once Mahomes was ruled out, the game was in the Browns hands to win. This is a great example of what they call “situational football”. The Browns did not maximize the situation. This is a case of inexperience. Hopefully The Browns coaching staff learns from this situation and is better prepared next season.

  9. Can’t argue Florio. I am a Browns fan (lifelong) and actually had them to win *with* Mahomes in (I did beat the spread pick). Not because I think the Browns were the better team, but because sometimes the better team doesn’t always win on the field. I agree without Mahomes on the field the talent gap likely disappeared. This is a good, scrappy football team that I have said through the second half of the year could go toe to toe with any team in the league.

    I chalk that up to inexperience on the part of Stefanski and the coaching staff. They’ll be back, and as said fan I hope for a long long time. Remember, they weren’t supposed to make it to the Divisional Round in the first place.

  10. It was completely horrible. Time management was ridiculous. The play calling just as bad. Then the challenge? When you are watching it, it’s like are they trying to lose? Head scratcher.

  11. Nah, you’re wrong about that Florio. First it’s unreasonable for everyone to call them the running ball control offense that they really were on here long and then criticized them for being a running, ball control offense in the most important drive of their season. secondly, you assume incorrectly the clevelands defense could have stopped a pee wee football team from scoring. Pat mahomes, Chad henney, or Chad ochocinco could have been back there and that awful defense wouldn’t have stopped them. How many times did KC punt in that game?

  12. And that’s what every Browns fan was telling at the TV. Having lived the experience of Lamar trotting back out on Monday night, every second with Mahomes in the locker room was critical. And I’d take that win! Ugh, as great of a season as it was, and as much as Stefanski proved this year, he’s clearly going to have to learn from this one.

  13. Before Mahomes was injured, it made sense to minimize possessions and shorten the game.

    But why shorten the game when they were losing? And you just knew that wasting those times-out was going to hurt the Browns. If nothing else, they could have used one before the Hill catch.

  14. Not sure I’ve ever seem someone, particularly a ‘journalist’, work so desperately to change the outcome of a game in their head. Guess you’ll have to send all that fan gear back?

  15. The review of the Hill catch was something most coaches would’ve done. It was bobbled and appears to touch the ground, and would look that way even more from the coaches perspective on the sidelines. Everyone is so quick to say what the browns did wrong, yet the Chiefs defense gave up just over 300 yards for the game. Give credit where credit is due, not the typical; imagine, ifs, and hypotheticals…

  16. I was texting one of my friends during the game in the third quarter saying, “why aren’t the Browns playing hurry-up offense now?”

    You’re not alone in thinking their game and clock management late in the game was suboptimal at best.

  17. Not sure I’ve ever seem someone, particularly a ‘journalist’, work so desperately to change the outcome of a game in their head. Guess you’ll have to send all that fan gear back?
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Its called cognitive dissonance and its all the rage this year.

  18. After Nick Chubb dropped two passes out of the backfield, I would have made Kareem Hunt the focal point. You all realize that Hunt only touched the ball once in the first half? Hunt ran hard ….when he got it…and was motivated to stick it to the Chiefs. Shame on Stefanski. And I also agree that Bakeri is not the guy. 8 minutes to go and only got 1 first down. Trade him and OBJ for Deshaun Watson

  19. Don’t underestimate the impact of Charvarius Ward’s tackle of Kareem Hunt on the the 3rd-and-10 play. One of Hunt’s strongest attributes is the ability to make yards after contact. Hunt caught the swing pass from Mayfield, and Ward absolutely stoned him, a 2-yard gain and no YAC. If Hunt could have gained and extra 2 or 3 yards, would the Browns still have punted instead of going for it? We’ll never know, but Ward’s tackle certainly factored into their decision.

  20. Browns will be 8-8 next yr – teams will handle their medieval running gm better, Faker will make his usual mistakes, and they won’t sneak up on anyone. Book it.

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