The Browns are on to the biggest beast of the AFC.
Sunday. 3:05 p.m. The AFC Divisional Playoffs are the stage. The Kansas City Chiefs are the opponent, and they’re as tough as it gets.
The 48-37 Wild Card win Sunday night in Pittsburgh will be worth celebrating all week — actually, as the first playoff win since 1994 (and first win in Pittsburgh since 2005), it’ll be worth celebrating for years.
But the Browns will shift their focus quickly to the next game on the schedule. That’s what any team should do in the playoffs, and the Chiefs, who followed up their Super Bowl win last season with a 14-2 record and secured the No. 1 seed in the AFC, will require as much game prep as possible.
“We have been the underdogs since the beginning of the season,” defensive end Myles Garrett said. “Nobody thought that we would have a winning record. Nobody thought that we were going to get to the playoffs. Nobody thought that we were going to do anything in the playoffs. We just have to keep on proving people wrong.”
Garrett is right — the Browns were underdogs heading into Pittsburgh after a week full of unfortunate news in Berea. Head coach Kevin Stefanski wasn’t able to coach the Browns on Sunday after he returned a positive COVID-19 test result, and Cleveland needed to find a way to win without Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio, top cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson and versatile wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge. Defensive end Olivier Vernon, who recorded nine sacks this season, was also placed on Injured Reserve at the beginning of the week.
Add in the absences of offensive line coaches Bill Callahan and Scott Peters, defensive backs coach Jeff Howard and tight ends coach Drew Petzing — and how the Browns practiced just once all week — and it’s not hard to see why the odds were stacked against Cleveland on Sunday.