HC Kevin Stefanski (1.3.21)

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement: 

“On the injury front, (WR) Donovan Peoples-Jones has a concussion. OV (DE Olivier Vernon), we are going to get an MRI on his ankle.

“I am really proud of that football team. I am proud of the finish. That is a team that battled some adversity through the week and through the game. Guys stepping up that did not know they were going to be playing, showing some resilience. I am really proud of those guys. I am really just happy for our fans. They deserve this. They have been waiting for, this and we are happy to deliver that to them. A lot of work left to be done, but I do want to make note of that.

“Also. want to make note that I gave a game ball out to Jimmy Haslam in there. Dee (Haslam) and Jimmy and the entire (Haslam and Johnson) family just have been so supportive of this group, and anything we needed in such a unique season, they have been right there. Really organizationally, just thinking about all of the people who have wanted this and wanted to taste this, I am really proud to be a part of this for them – people who have been with the organization for a long time, and they deserve this so I am happy for them.

“We achieved what we set out to do today – win and you are in – and we are in, but there is work left to be done. The goal was never just to make the playoffs. That is the message to the guys, and they understand that. I know we are going to play in this team again next week. We have a ton of respect for them, their coaches and their players. It is a first-class group that we are going to have to have a great week to get ready to play.”

On the closing the final drive of the game with a first down by QB Baker Mayfield and how much this win meant to Mayfield after last week’s loss:

“He wanted this one, I can promise you that. He was already on to this game on that airplane. Just in talking to him, I could see that determination. He works very, very hard at his craft, which I appreciate. I thought he did a great job of running around and making plays with his feet today. That play at the end, just put the ball in his hands and said, ‘Go get this thing.’ It was well blocked, and I think (RB) Kareem (Hunt) was at the point of attack there, as well. To go get was pretty cool.”

On Mayfield’s 28-yard scramble to set up a Browns score:

“It is great as a play caller when you call really bad plays and he makes a play – that is outstanding. When teams play man coverage versus a mobile quarterback, sometimes the defenders have their back to the QB and a big play can happen like that.”

On reflecting on the Browns reaching the playoffs and the journey this season has been, looking back to the full year:

“It is not over, though. We have work left to do. I like this football team. I like how this football team works. I like how this football team responds when their back is up against the wall. We will just keep grinding on this thing, and we will wait for the reflection much later.”

On how tough it was not having three coaches and six Browns players available today due to COVID-19 reasons:

“First of all, I am disappointed for anybody who can’t be out here. I want all of those guys to make sure that they are feeling better. Our whole goal here is to keep everybody safe. I feel for anybody who is away from this operation due to that. That is really where I am thinking, first and foremost. People stepped up. Players stepped up and coaches stepped up, and we were able to get a win today.”

On the Browns running game today with G Wyatt Teller and T Jedrick Wills Jr. back and how RB Nick Chubb was able to get going:

“The guys battled. Nick had that one early where he was just running so hard and was really not going to be denied. I just thought that the guys were leaning on him. That is a really good football team. They have good football players. I understand that they rested some guys, but they have a bunch of good players. We knew it was going to be tough sledding at times so we had to fight, scratch and crawl, and the guys did that.”

On if he sensed that Chubb wanted to put everything on his shoulders and help carry the team to the playoffs today:

“I got that sense on that long run. I would not have wanted to tackle him. He was determined.”

On the decision to go for it on fourth-and-7 in the fourth quarter:

“We lost how many yards on the play previously? Would likely have kicked it had we not lost the yardage, but we had a play in that window that we had not used and it was really the top play in that window. Felt good about it so that is really all it was.”

On the Browns fans celebrating the team’s first playoff berth since 2002:

“I am very happy for Northeast Ohio and for Browns fans all over the world. They are not far from our minds when we win. The 12,000 strong [in FirstEnergy Stadium], they got to see it live. We know that many people around the country and the world are watching and we feel their support. Happy for them. Again, we are in the dance, but I feel we have a lot of work to do this week and we want to keep this thing going.”

On the Browns overcoming the COVID-19 challenges this week and still get the win:

“It is that resilience piece which we have been talking about forever. We just do not talk about it; I think the guys embodied it. To have a bunch of guys step up, I am really proud of those guys. They have done it all year. They really have. You had guys coming off of an injury and you had guys up and active for the first time maybe all year, and that is what it is going to take this season. You have to have the next man up mentality, and we are trying to live it.”

On reflecting on this week’s gameplan and how it could apply to next week’s AFC Wild Card game against the Steelers:

“It is not like you can Xerox a gameplan. You have to go back in and see what you called, see what worked, see what did not work and see who is available to you, and they will do the same. It is going to be quite the challenge. Again, we respect that team over there. It is a really good team, and we are going to have to play our best to have a chance to beat them.”

On how he will celebrate the Browns winning today and earning a playoff berth for the first time in 18 years:

“All of these wins, you savor them. We will make sure to do that before the clock strikes midnight, and then we are on to the next one. I will be with my family. I will sit there on the couch and have the TV watch me, and I will have a drink the size of your head (laughter).”

On CB M.J. Stewart’s interception and WR KhaDarel Hodge’s catch in the fourth quarter and the importance of those two plays:

“M.J. is very ball aware. He does that in practice. He has done that in games for us before. We really zeroed in on that turnover margin being a big key today so that right there led to points. Third-and-long, you are trying to give the quarterback a play that has a chance and gets out of his hand. Hodgey came through there. The ball was behind him, but he made a play on it, which was outstanding. Again, Hodgey is a guy who is all about that work, and he does whatever is asked of him – special teams, blocking and catching the ball like that. He is a very smart, tough football player.”

On trusting Mayfield by calling designed running plays, despite multiple fumbles last week:

“He wants the rock in his hand. That is the type of person he is in these moments. We really liked that concept. Thought it had a chance. He knew that he was going to have to have ball security, and he did. A well-designed play by (offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan there, and we needed it.”

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