Hue Jackson’s blank, dumbfounded look at the end of overtime summed up what it’s like to be a member of the Cleveland Browns, or a fan.
The Browns didn’t lose, but they didn’t win either. And they should have won. Just when it looked like Browns linebacker Joe Schobert’s interception in the final minute of overtime would give the Browns their first win since Dec. 24, 2016, the Browns’ field-goal attempt for the win was blocked. Unbelievable. Cameras panned to Jackson, who looked like he couldn’t believe what just happened … but, after going 1-31 the past two seasons, he could absolutely believe it.
Only in Cleveland could the Browns manage to tie in Week 1, in the pouring rain. The Browns will take their tie, as it ensures they won’t go 0-16 like they did last season. The 21-21 tie against the Steelers was the first opening-week tie in the NFL since Miami and Denver did it in 1971. It’s the first tie for the Browns since 1989.
It does break the Browns’ losing streak, technically. It’s the first time the Browns played and didn’t lose since before Christmas in 2016. That’s progress, though it probably doesn’t feel like it due to how it ended.
Big comeback for Browns
Give the Browns credit for coming back, even if it included some controversy.
Down 21-7, the Browns got a fumble recovery deep in Steelers territory. Safety Jabrill Peppers scooped it up and was going forward the goal line when he was hit, jarring the ball loose. It seemed like Peppers might have fumbled out of the end zone, which would have given the Steelers the ball with a touchback, but the play stood. Carlos Hyde scored a 1-yard touchdown right after that with 7:32 remaining. The Browns needed a break after the past two seasons.
The Browns got the ball back late, and Josh Gordon made the type of play that reminded us all why the Browns are so patient with him. Gordon went up over the defensive back, and somehow got his feet in bounds in the end zone. With 1:58 left in the fourth quarter, the game was tied.
Of all the unexpected things in Week 1, a 14-point Browns comeback in the final eight minutes against the Steelers was one of the most improbable.
Browns get field goal blocked at end
The Browns couldn’t get it done in regulation. Cleveland got the ball one final time in the fourth quarter and was on the fringe of field-goal range – it would have been a 59- or 60-yard field-goal attempt, which was too long in bad weather conditions – but Taylor threw deep and was picked off. The Steelers took a knee and the game went to overtime.
Overtime was wild. The Browns couldn’t get any drives going on offense. The Steelers had one nice drive, but it ended with kicker Chris Boswell missing wide left in the rain.
Then the Browns got a gift, when Ben Roethlisberger was hit from behind and Schobert picked off the pass that popped in the air. The way the Browns bungled the chance to win was typical. Browns offensive lineman Joel Bitonio got pushed back too far by Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt’s rush on the field goal, and Watt got a hand up and blocked it. Bad teams find ways to lose … or not win, in this case. Not being able to keep Watt from penetrating on a field-goal attempt, which would have delivered Cleveland’s first win since 2016, is not a fun way for a game to end.
And the beer fridges, which will unlock when the Browns win a game, stayed sealed.
Some positives for Browns
The Browns got contributions from a lot of players, most of whom are key components of their rebuild. Gordon made his circus touchdown catch. Myles Garrett looked unblockable. Cornerback Denzel Ward, the fourth pick of the draft, had two interceptions in his first NFL game.
The Browns played well. The comeback was something to be proud of. They didn’t lose, and that’s something they couldn’t say all of last season. If they only could have kicked that field goal through at the end.
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