Kevin Stefanski knows he must do better for the Cleveland Browns. The team is in that odd position where they have won three out of five games, yet it does not feel like they are winning. The loss against the Los Angeles Chargers was a painful one, because the score was unusually high (47-42) and one mistake on Stefanski’s part changed the course of the game.
Kevin Stefanski Is Aware He Must Do Better for Cleveland Browns
The Browns scored 42 points, rushed for 222 yards, gained 531 total yards and had zero turnovers. Yet they still lost. Why? As reported by Jim Ingraham of Forbes, “There are a thousand reasons. We’ve got to own them… make corrections,” said Stefanski.
Has Stefanski Lost His Touch?
Stefanski’s amazing play-calling was one of his greatest strengths in 2020. He led Cleveland to a 12-6 record and their first post-season appearance in 18 years. It was one of the main reasons he was named Coach of the Year. All of that was forgotten after a bizarre sequence of play calls against the Chargers. With three minutes left in the game, trailing 47-42, the Browns had the ball following a punt at their own 14-yard line. On first down, Kareem Hunt ran for one yard. There was an incomplete pass from Baker Mayfield to Rashard Higgins on second down. There could have been a pass interference call on Chargers defense.
But on third and nine, Stefanski called for a draw play to Hunt who gained three yards, and the Browns had to punt. This decision drew a lot of second-guessing. “In hindsight I definitely wish I’d done something different. This is where I’ve got to put our guys in a position to succeed. I didn’t do that there, and I’m sick about it. I was definitely too wrapped up in the previous play.”
Stefanski has not regressed, he’s still doing a great job. It simply fell apart in Sunday’s game during the Browns’ final two possessions. Cleveland trailed by seven points and his play calls amounted to nothing. Following the odd string of calls, the final possession began with 1:31 left in the game at their own 25. The Browns ran eight plays, but the drive stalled at their own 46-yard line. Four consecutive Mayfield incompletions marked their second loss of the season.
Miscommunication Amongst the Secondary
Browns defense shone in their previous two games, and they were rewarded with victories over the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings. All that fire was nowhere to be seen against the wild Chargers. The secondary was plagued by injuries, but Stefanski attributed their performance to miscommunication. That would appear to be the logical explanation to two monumentally blown coverages that resulted in two touchdown passes from Justin Herbert to Mike Williams. There was no Browns defender in sight.
The biggest embarrassment came when the Browns were leading 42-41 and somehow pushed and pulled Chargers star running back Austin Ekeler into the end zone for what would become the winning touchdown. It was Cleveland’s convoluted attempt at creating a game-winning touchdown – and that didn’t happen. Browns defense allowed 47 points, 13 more than the points they gave up in three previous games combined.
Arizona Cardinals Will Be a Challenge
Browns running back Kareem Hunt combined with Nick Chubb for 222 yards rushing, but he knows the entire team is not doing enough. “We can play with anybody, but we’ve got to find a way to click in all phases and finish the game strong.” They will need to click in all phases against the Cardinals, whose quarterback Kyler Murray has enough speediness to present a challenge to Browns defense.
Stefanski is by no means doing a bad job. It’s possible for him to bounce back with his play-calling. Likewise, the Browns have always taken a few weeks to find momentum. Injuries are holding them back, but they have all the tools needed to start winning again.