The Cleveland Browns were riding a four-game winning streak by the time that they ran into the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football earlier this week, defeating the Houston Texans, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Tennessee Titans.
While that wasn’t exactly murderer’s row, outside of Tennessee, let’s give credit where credit is due: it’s never easy under any circumstances to win four games in a row, and, well, it’s not something that happens in Cleveland very often.
In many recent seasons, they didn’t even win four games all year, let alone four in a row. I went digging, and you have to go all the way back to the end of the 2009 season to find the last time that they managed that feat—amazingly, in a year in which they went 5-11. And it was a winning streak that began by unseating the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were in the process of unleashing Hell in December during a baffling five-game losing streak following a 6-2 start.
So it was a big deal when they rolled into their stadium to host the Ravens, looking to avenge a week-one blowout. They nearly pulled off the win, taking a late 35-34 lead with under two minutes to play, but Lamar Jackson had enough time to put Justin Tucker in range for a game-winner—which for Tucker, of course, is 55 yards.
Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, though, so they say, and first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski was in no mood to give his team a pat on the back just for having secured their first winning season in over a decade, still sitting at 9-4.
“I do not want to go down the moral victories [path]”, he said after the game. “We lost. We got beat. Proud of the guys and how they battled — I really am — but I just look at all the mistakes that we made, and we have to correct them”.
The Browns are still technically in the running for the AFC North, but they have to run the table and have the Steelers lose all of their games, including the season finale when Cleveland hosts Pittsburgh. In order for the division to be on the line at that point, however, the Steelers must first lose to the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts, while the Browns must beat the New York Giants and the New York Jets.
Many of those are likely to happen, but all four is pushing it. At the very least, no matter how many issues the Steelers might have, they should at least be able to pull off a victory against a Bengals team that may be starting its third-string quarterback.