Cleveland Browns drop season finale to Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-24
The Cleveland Browns closed out the 2016 NFL season with a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but there is hope for the future in the midst of a 1-15 record.
Say what you will about the Cleveland Browns this season, but the team never stopped fighting.
That effort, more than anything else that happened during a long, frustrating and at times maddening regular season, will be one of the major takeaways from a 1-15 season.
It was also on full display on Sunday as the Browns gave everything they had during a 27-24 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Browns raced out to a surprising 14-0 lead thanks to a pair of touchdown passes from Robert Griffin III – the first a 12-yarder to tight end Seth DeValve and the second a four-yarder to tight end Gary Barnidge.
It was all downhill from there for the Browns from the offense for a long time, as they totaled just 94 yards of offense over their next six possessions.
That gave the Steelers a chance to get back into the game and eventually take a 21-14 lead with a little more than give minutes remaining in the game after backup quarterback Landry Jones hit Demarcus Ayers with an 11-yard touchdown pass.
The Browns could have given up right there and headed into the off-season secure in the knowledge that they had the No.1 overall pick locked up, but they were not ready to give up.
After Griffin yet another sack on first down, Isaiah Crowell ripped off a 67-yard run to the Steeler five-yard line. One play later George Atkinson III scored on a five-yard run to tie the game at 21.
And that is when the fun really started.
The defense forced the Steelers to punt and Griffin hit Terrelle Pryor for a 43-yard gain to the Pittsburgh five-yard line. But on the next play Crowell fumbled the ball away and the game was headed to overtime.
Cleveland took the ball first and once again moved down the field until they had a first-and-goal at the Pittsburgh two-yard line. But on second down, Pryor blew his blocking assignment on a bubble screen to Andrew Hawkins, which ended with Hawkins losing 14 yards.
The Browns would settle for a field goal and Cleveland fans everywhere knew what was coming next.
Jones led the Steelers on a nine-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Cobi Hamilton that sent the Browns into the off-season with their 13th consecutive loss at Heinz Field.
The Browns finish the season at 1-15, but there is some consolation in the fact that they will have the first overall selection in the upcoming draft.
The loss overshadow an otherwise solid day from the Browns defense, which held the Steelers to just three-of-14 on third down, three yards of offense in the first quarter, 52 yards in the first half and 148 through three quarters. They also sacked Jones four times.
On offense, Griffin got his first touchdown passes of the year, but also took four more sacks, meaning in just five games he was sacked 22 times.
Crowell finished with a career-high 152 rushing yards, giving him 952 on the season. Pryor had seven receptions for 94 yards, giving him 1,007 receiving yards in his first season as a wide receiver.
“We had our chances, and we didn’t nail it,” Jackson said. “The whole team and everybody involved with our football team and our organization has to grow from this experience as we move forward. These games we want to be in, but we want to be in them trying to win the division and trying to fight for other opportunities to keep playing.”
Next: More changes coming to Browns?
It may not feel like it today, but the Browns are in a better position than when they began the season. This is definitely not the beginning of the end, but they are now much closer to the end of the beginning of the rebuild.
And while today’s loss will sting for a short while, that will fade away as we get closer to draft weekend, and if the Browns get it right during the draft the memory of today will quickly fade away.