Browns Embrace the Underdog Role as Playoff Run Continues in Kansas City
Fresh off of stunning the Pittsburgh Steelers for their first playoff win since 1994, the Browns (11-5) face an even bigger challenge this weekend in Kansas City (14-2). The opening line has the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs as a 9.5-point favorite.
Still, WKSU's sports commentator Terry Pluto says the Browns' convincing win over the Steelers this past Sunday shows it's a new era for Cleveland. And, anything can happen in the NFL playoffs.
"Once in a while, there's a team that gets very hot," Pluto said. He referenced the 2018 L.A. Rams, who made it to the Super Bowl after going just 4-12 two seasons prior.
As for the Browns, the expectations for this season were relatively low.
"They went into this year with yet another new head coach, a new offensive system [and] a new defensive coordinator," Pluto said. "It was the never-ending cycle of hirings and firings. And it all came together. The times are changing here a little bit."
Here comes Mahomes
But next up is elite quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
"[Mahomes] is right in his prime, and he's also won a Super Bowl," Pluto said. He also says the Chiefs have a steady coach in veteran Andy Reid.
The last time the Browns and the Chiefs played was 2018.
"It was the game right after the Browns fired [coach] Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. The Chiefs won easily," Pluto said. He notes, however, that that loss means nothing in terms of this year's matchup, as the Browns have a different coaching staff and many new players.
"It was the never-ending cycle of hirings and firings. And it all came together. The times are changing here a little bit."
The John Dorsey connection
There is one through line between the Browns and the Chiefs: John Dorsey. The Browns' manager from 2017-2019 held the same position with the Chiefs from 2013-2017.
Dorsey drafted many of Kansas City's best players, including Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce, who graduated from Cleveland Heights High School. For the Browns, he drafted quarterback Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 pick in 2018, along with star running back Nick Chubb and traded for wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
Dorsey also drafted running back Kareem Hunt at Kansas City in 2017. After Hunt was cut from the team following a domestic violence incident in 2018, Dorsey gave him a second chance with the Browns in 2019. Since then, he's rushed for 841 yards with six touchdowns and caught 38 passes for 304 yards and five touchdowns in Cleveland.
Pluto says the Browns will be hoping to keep COVID-19 out of their facility this week. The virus forced head coach Kevin Stefanski to watch the Steelers game from his basement, and many players have tested positive in recent weeks.
"It seems like when it hits these teams, it goes through them. But right now, the Browns seemingly have had their outbreak and are maybe coming out on the other side of it," Pluto said.
And his advice to fans: Enjoy it. "We always talk about sports being a diversion. It doesn't change what's going on with the virus, but for a few hours on a Sunday, what fun it's been to get away from all that and watch the Browns."