CLEVELAND — It was so close. And yet, the Cleveland Browns weren't able to seal the deal against the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday evening.
Despite missing around 20 players and their head coach due to COVID, despite all of the adversity of a frustrating season, the Browns had taken a 14-13 lead in the 4th quarter and seemed poised to run out the clock.
But these are the 2021 Browns.
Welcome to "The 5th Quarter," your recap of the Cleveland Browns hosted by Jay Crawford and Dave 'Dino' DeNatale.
The Browns fell to the Raiders,16-14, on a last-second field goal to fall to 7-7 on the season. The season isn't over, but the team finds themselves in that excruciating position of needing help in order to get to the playoffs. More on that in a second.
Here's what the guys focused on during Monday's show:
CONSERVATIVE PLAY CALLING: Jay took the Browns to task for again "coaching not to lose" on Monday. The tipping point was a 3rd-and-3 for the offense late in the 4th quarter. If they get the first down, the Browns run out the clock, get the victory, and move into first place in the AFC North. They ran it to Nick Chubb on first and second down and Las Vegas stacked the box for another run on 3rd down. Chubb was dropped for a loss, the Browns had to punt, and behold...last place.
Also, the defense went into a soft zone during the final Las Vegas drive. It enabled Derek Carr to make enough completions to get the Raiders into field goal range. Remember, last week against the Ravens, the defense was aggressive at the end and came up with a big stand to finish. Not the case here.
THE BLAME GAME: Dino asked Jay a question that he was asked during a national radio interview: Who is most to blame for the Browns' underachieving 7-7 record? Is it the quarterback? Is it a particular player or unit of the team? Both Jay and Dino agreed that the responsibility falls on head coach Kevin Stefanski.
That's not to say that the 2020 NFL Coach of the Year has lost his touch or deserves to be fired. It's more of the fact that the Browns have struggled with everything from pre-snap penalties, to a predictable offense. They're not making in-game adjustments. And the handling of Baker Mayfield's injuries this year has been questionable at best.
THE PLAYOFF PICTURE: Amazingly enough, there is a pathway for the Browns to still win the AFC North. But they've lost the ability to control their own destiny.
One scenario for success would be for Cleveland to win their last three games against Green Bay, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. They would then need Baltimore to lose just one of their remaining games against Cincinnati, L.A. Rams, or Pittsburgh.
If the Browns lose to the Packers on Christmas Day, then they'll really need help! They would have to have the Bengals, Ravens, and Steelers each lose at least two of their last three games. Each team has some challenges:
- Bengals: Baltimore, Kansas City, Cleveland
- Ravens: Cincinnati, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh
- Steelers: Kansas City, Cleveland, Baltimore
Yes, it's possible, but the Browns surest path to the playoffs fell by the wayside on Monday night.
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More Browns coverage:
- What are the Cleveland Browns' playoff odds after loss vs. Las Vegas Raiders?
- Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski gives thoughts on loss to Las Vegas Raiders: Transcript
- Cleveland Browns DE Takkarist McKinley out for remainder of season with torn Achilles
- Cleveland Browns vs. Las Vegas Raiders: 3 plays that defined the game