‘A new kind of respect’: Historic season ends, a new Cleveland Browns era begins

Sports

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – “I wasn’t ready to stop.”

In one sentence, former Cleveland Browns running back Greg Pruitt described what fans and players were feeling after their postseason run came to a halt in Kansas City Sunday night.

Reigning Super Bowl champs the Kansas City Chiefs won 22-17 at home in the AFC Divisional round in a game that came down to a handful of plays.

“The biggest being the Higgins play,” Pruitt lamented Monday.

The “Higgins play” will likely be remembered by Browns fans for years.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield threw Rashard Higgins a 25-yard pass with about 1:42 left before the half.

Higgins caught it and launched himself toward the pylon.

While his arms were extended, Chiefs linebacker Daniel Sorensen hit him in the helmet.

The ball rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.

“I’m still trying to figure that out how you don’t get the penalty for the head-to-head, but you get the ball back on the 20-yard line,” Pruitt said.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski did not complain about the result.

“That is what the rule is,” he said in the postgame.

“An unfortunate play, and he (Higgins) understands the rule and I understand the rule,” Stefanski said.

Pruitt said the Browns should have relied more on running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

“We should have run the ball more,” Pruitt said.

“We had weapons we could have used more in that game.”

But it was the Browns defensive challenges he says sealed the seal for Kansas City.

“Letting a quarterback run 17 yards for a first down, that is what cost us that game – or an opportunity to win that game,” Pruitt said.

Backup quarterback Chad Henne scrambled with 1:14 left in the game on a third-and-fourteen.

Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes had left the game with a concussion.

Kansas City head coach Andy Reid said Mahomes is doing okay.

While many Browns fans are nursing the sting of the playoff loss, the Cleveland Browns did something they haven’t done in 26 years by even getting to the game.

When the Browns landed late Sunday night, fans lined up in the cold to greet them.

“Nobody would have thought the Browns would have come within a game of playing for the AFC Championship,” Pruitt said Monday.

“We got a new kind of respect,” he said.

Like Stefanski has reminded the team all season, it’s “onto the next.”

“We are not done yet,” Mayfield said after the game.

The 10th annual NFL Honors is scheduled for Saturday, February 6. Stefanski will likely be considered a finalist for Coach of the Year.

The 2021 NFL Draft is scheduled for April 29 through May 1 in Cleveland.

Pruitt says he’d focus on the defensive side of the ball.

“I’m excited about getting started next year.”

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