Not many pundits gave the Cleveland Browns much of a chance to upend the Pittsburgh Steelers during their wild-card game on Sunday. The odds were heavily stacked against the Baker Mayfield-led Browns as COVID-19 ravaged the team this week, shutting down the facilities, limiting the team’s practices, and sidelining head coach Kevin Stefanski and multiple players for the game. After the contest, Baker Mayfield made a stunning admission when he revealed just how desperate things got by recounting a bizarre pregame interaction he had with a teammate he had never met.
Baker Mayfield leads Cleveland Browns to upset win over Pittsburgh Steelers
Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns immediately knew last Sunday after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cleveland during the regular-season finale, the wild-card matchup with the Steelers on the road in Pittsburgh was going to be a whole different beast altogether.
For starters, the Browns’ success, or lack thereof in Pittsburgh was more than noteworthy as the team entered the game on a 17-game losing streak at Heinz Field, the third-longest road losing streak to a single opponent in league history.
Add into the mix the absence of first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski, Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio, and top cornerback Denzel Ward, all of them back home in Cleveland following positive COVID-19 tests.
Naturally, with all those things working against them, Baker Mayfield and the Browns jumped out to an early 28-0 advantage and held on for a 48-37 victory, the first postseason win for the club in a quarter of a century and months before Mayfield was even born.
Cleveland Browns rely on players not even on team a week ago
With Cleveland’s Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio out, the Browns offense relied on Michael Dunn, who had been called up from the practice squad for a third time this season. Up until the playoff contest, Dunn had played 15 snaps this season, all of them on special teams.
Dunn performed well in the game, blocking for Browns running back Nick Chubb and protecting quarterback Baker Mayfield. Then, in the fourth quarter, he got injured and was replaced by Blake Hance.
Hance had never started an NFL game and was on the New York Jets practice squad just a week ago. Hance was on the field when the Browns scored the game-clinching touchdown and ran out the clock to seal the win.
Baker Mayfield makes stunning admission in postgame interview
Following the game, NBC’s Michele Tafoya interviewed Baker Mayfield, asking him how the team was able to overcome so much adversity. Mayfield provided the expected answer of the team believing in each other, then offered up a stunning admission about a pregame interaction that happened in the locker room.
“We believe. The people on the outside don’t matter to us. It’s on the inside, and we believed the whole time, and that’s all that matters,” Mayfield said. “We had Michael Dunn step in at left guard for Joel Bitonio. And then Michael got hurt and a guy named Blake that I introduced myself to literally in the locker room before the game stepped up in the fourth quarter.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to the world, the U.S., and wreaked havoc on the NFL this season. On Sunday, it provided the opportunity of a lifetime for Michael Dunn and a guy named Blake who both made the most of it and helped their team achieve the improbable.