G Joel Bitonio (1.17.21)

G Joel Bitonio:

On what hurts most about today’s loss, including not getting a final opportunity at the end of the game:

“Our defense played really well down the stretch there, and we were hoping for one more chance. They called a good play, and they made a big play. It was tough to not have a chance, but we had opportunities earlier in the game where we could have gotten some points and maybe made it a different ballgame.”

On how the team can grow from this year’s playoff experience and if that will benefit the team down the road:

“I hope so. Coming back next year, we will have a lot more experience. If you have been with Cleveland before, you won 7 games and that was maybe the most wins you would have. We learned how to win a little bit this year, and hopefully, we will use that experience next year and take it a little bit farther.”

On the Browns’ making uncharacteristic mistakes early in the game:

“We did not have that many opportunities on offense. We got a field goal on our first drive, and we only had three possessions in the first half. We obviously fumbled before the half, and that one hurt us a little bit. All season long, our mantra has been, ‘We have to take care of the ball’ and ‘it is all about the ball.’ We lost the turnover battle. That hurt us a little bit. We got into a rhythm in the second half, started to run the ball well and protected Baker better. In a playoff game against the world champs, you can’t spot them that many points, and it is tough coming back out of that hole.”

On WR Rashard Higgins’ fumble into the end zone:

“He was fighting for that extra foot. That was his goal there. I have not talked to him directly yet. Everybody was pretty down in the locker room. We knew going into halftime that we were keeping our heads up. While it was an unfortunate play, we knew we had to play the whole second half. He had some big catches in the second half and was able to bounce back. It is something we will learn from. We will learn. It is a game of inches – literally on that play. You want a guy fighting for that last inch, and it is just is unfortunate how the ball bounced on that one.”

On the hit Higgins’ fumble and if it could have potentially been a penalty for a helmet-to-helmet hit:

“I honestly was just looking at the ball. That was the first I heard about helmet to helmet. I have not seen the review yet. I was just seeing where the ball was in relation to the pylon and where it went out of bounds. I have not seen that yet.”

On the Browns’ struggling early in the run game:

“I think we only had five runs in the first half, and we only had three possessions. They were blitzing a little bit and had some different fronts. It is tough when you only get five carries in a half and you only get 20-something plays in a half. In the last drive and the last possession we had, we were in a two-minute situation to try and score. It was kind of a mix of things. I do think we showed we could run the ball on them, and it was just the game script and game flow made it so we did not get into a rhythm early in the first half.”

On how losing Ts Jedrick Wills Jr. and Kendall Lamm impacted the Browns offense’s rhythm:

“It was a tough situation. Jed got rolled up on pretty good and then Kendall’s elbow got hit pretty good. (G) Blake (Hance) came in again and I do not think he has played left tackle in a few years, and he was going out there and competing. That is all that we could ask him to do. That is part of it. You wanted to have your five linemen out there and rolling, the guys who we came in the season as starters, but it is football. Guys get banged up, and I really do think we were moving the ball pretty well in the first half. We just did not turn them into points, which against the Chiefs, you have to do that. I never thought we were so out of sync where it was like, ‘Man, we can’t do much here.’ It was just converting those finishing in the red zone, which is something you have to do to win these games.”

On what was going through his mind when the Chiefs offense was facing third-and-14 on the last drive of the game and if he was expecting to get the ball back:

“It was tough. On the sideline, we were talking about how much time we were going to have time we were going to have left – probably 1:20 or so with no timeouts. You always have faith in your defense to make a play, and that was a heads up play by him (Chiefs QB Chad Henne). He scrambled, he got it close and (Chiefs Head) Coach (Andy) Reid had a big time play call there to throw the ball on fourth-and-short. I thought they might go with the hard cadence and then maybe run a QB sneak after a timeout or something. He had faith in his offense. We were talking on the sideline and we have faith in our defense to make those plays, and they made one more play than we did today.”

On the team’s mindset on the final offensive drive with a chance to take the lead:

“We were just trying to take it one play at a time. We had a big drive and a big stop by our defense going into that drive so we felt comfortable taking our chances. We had plenty of time to go down there and score, and we were hoping to get a touchdown and then make them have to go the length of the field to get a field goal or to tie if we got the two-point conversion. You are just taking it one play a time. You never know. We could run the ball still or we could pass the ball, and that was just one thing where you just try and focus on the next play and your responsibility for those plays. If you look too much big picture, you kind of get a little fog in your head. It was cool. You have the ball to go up and score in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs in the fourth quarter, that is all you can really ask in that situation. Obviously, we did not handle our business, but we were taking it one play at a time and trying to give ourselves a shot.”

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