What does postseason defeat taste like when you so rarely actually reach the postseason? The Cleveland Browns made the playoffs in 2020 for the first time in 18 years, meaning that nobody who had ever spent their entire career with the team before this season currently active had ever experienced football beyond the September-to-December slate.
Until now that is, and they even managed to win a playoff game, defeating in fact the Pittsburgh Steelers. But they faltered yesterday afternoon against the Kansas City Chiefs, despite managing to hold the Chiefs to 22 points—something that only happened three times during the regular season.
“It sucks to be quite honest with you guys”, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield told reporters after the loss. “It sucks because so many people have sacrificed so much during this process and this very strange season and overcome adversity. So many people have stepped up – families of players and families of staff – and everybody sacrificed so much for us to be able to do this”.
The Browns making the postseason and winning a game wasn’t the only thing that made this a season unlike any other, of course. The coronavirus put its stamp on the year, to be certain. They were without most of their starting secondary last week because of it, for example, but others stepped up and they were able to win.
“It sucks because we believed in it. That is why we are here, but trying to find the positive out of it, we are setting a new standard here”, Mayfield went on. “Everybody is saying in the locker room and continue to tell guys that we are going to be back. It sucks when you come up short, but you get that taste of it and realize you learned lessons. For now, it is definitely going to sting”.
Mayfield just finished his third season since Cleveland selected him with the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Statistically, he had a fairly average season, and only attempted 486 pass attempts, despite playing nearly every snap, but the Browns actually ran under 1000 total offensive snaps on the season, with 495 rushes.
They do have a good nucleus on offense, though they could always use another piece or two. The offensive line was revamped and turned into arguably the best in the entire league, with Wyatt Teller, a former fifth-round pick of the Bills, really being the unsung hero.
After going 11-5 in 2020, how will the Browns do in 2021? The AFC North will have a tougher schedule than the division did this past year, so it will be hard for them to duplicate the feat of sending three teams to the postseason as they did this year.