SportsBrowns

Actions

Chess, not checkers: Browns coach Kevin Stefanski entered Sunday’s game prepared for the playoffs

Nick Chubb
Posted at 1:44 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 13:44:44-05

CLEVELAND — Chess players, or fans of “The Queen’s Gambit,” understand the intricacies involved in winning a game of strategy, and on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski was building a bridge to the playoffs.

During a press conference on Monday, Stefanski shed some light on why running back Nick Chubb, who had an explosive 47-yard touchdown run to start the game, was used less throughout the game—a decision that upset some fans as the game progressed and the score got too close for comfort.

“We're mindful of workload and mindful of getting that win and also understanding that we have another hopefully few games coming up here. So trying to make sure it's the right balance of keeping both those guys fresh and getting the guy in there to get some work done," Stefanski said of Chubb and running back Kareem Hunt.

On Sunday afternoon, Chubb had 14 carries for 108 yards and a touchdown while Hunt had 10 carries for 37 yards.

The Browns have found great success in their run game, boasting the league’s best backfield with Chubb and Hunt being the only pair of teammates in the league this season with at least 840 rushing yards.

Cleveland has rushed for 100 yards or more in 13 games this season. When they surpass 100 yards in a game, the Browns are 10-3.

So in the fourth quarter, when the game was within a single score, it was hard to fathom why Chubb wasn’t seeing a high volume of touches and at times wasn’t even on the field.

Stefanski said they didn’t do anything new with the running back rotation, having gone series to series with different running backs out there, and he reiterated the desire to make sure the running backs had fresh legs heading into the playoff game against the Steelers.

“That's really what we do every game—we go series to series. Kareem gets a ton of reps on third down. There’s certain plays that we want Nick in there for. There’s certain plays that we want Kareem in there for, but once we get into the flow of it, just have some dialogue with (running backs coach Stump Mitchell), and then feel comfortable with who we have out there,” Stefanski said. “Again, we feel like we want to have some fresh guys starting this week.”

Stefanski did say during Sunday afternoon’s game that the idea that they might face the Steelers in the playoffs the next week was in the back of his mind, adding to the notion Stefanski used Chubb’s production as a gambit.

Looking back on a win like that, it really does feel as though the Ivy League grad is playing chess, not checkers.

RELATED: Browns DE Olivier Vernon suffers ruptured Achilles against Steelers, will undergo surgery

Download our streaming app on your favorite device.  Click here for more.

Download our streaming app on your favorite device. Click here for more.

BROWNS 2020 SCHEDULE

Preseason

WEEK 1 · Aug. 13-17 · At Chicago Bears - CANCELED

WEEK 2 · Aug. 20-24 · At Green Bay Packers - CANCELED

WEEK 3 · Aug. 30 · Minnesota Vikings - CANCELED

WEEK 4 · Sep. 3-4 · Tampa Bay Buccaneers - CANCELED

Regular Season

WEEK 1 · L · Sun 9/13 · Baltimore Ravens - 38, Browns - 6

WEEK 2 · W · Thu 9/17 · Browns 35, Cincinnati Bengals - 30

WEEK 3 · W · Sun 9/27 · Browns - 34, Washington Football Team - 20

WEEK 4 · W · Sun 10/4 · Dallas Cowboys - 38, Browns - 49

WEEK 5 · W · Sun 10/11 · Browns - 32, Indianapolis Colts - 23

WEEK 6 · L · Sun 10/18 · Pittsburgh Steelers - 38, Browns - 7

WEEK 7 · W · Sun 10/25 · Cincinnati Bengals - 34, Browns - 37

WEEK 8 · L · Sun 11/1 · Browns - 6, Las Vegas Raiders - 16

WEEK 9 · BYE

WEEK 10 · W · Sun 11/15 · Browns - 10, Houston Texans - 7

WEEK 11 · W · Sun 11/22 · Browns - 22, Philadelphia Eagles - 17

WEEK 12 · W · Sun 11/29 · Jacksonville Jaguars - 25, Browns - 27

WEEK 13 · W · Sun 12/6 · Tennessee Titans - 35, Browns - 41

WEEK 14 · L · Mon 12/14 · Browns - 42, Baltimore Ravens - 47

WEEK 15 · W · Sun 12/20 · Browns - 20, New York Giants 6

WEEK 16 · L · Sun 12/27 · Browns - 16, New York Jets 23

WEEK 17 · W · Sun 1/3 · Browns 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 22

Post-season

NFL Wild Card Round - W · Sun 1/10, Browns 48, Steelers 37

NFL Divisional Round · Sun, 1/17, 3:05 p.m. at Kansas City Chiefs (CBS)