The Browns closed out the regular season on Sunday with a 31-14 loss to the Bengals. However, with the postseason clinched and the fifth seed in the AFC locked in, the Browns used Sunday's game as a chance to play their younger players and backups for experience and game reps.
"Obviously, you come down here and you want to go get a win," HC Kevin Stefanski said. "Disappointed in the results, but I thought those guys played really hard. I thought that was a great learning experience for a bunch of young guys. They will get better because of that."
Now, they'll look to prepare for the Wild Card round of the playoffs and their matchup against Houston. Before we completely turn the page, let's take a look at the big takeaways from Sunday's loss.
A look at QB Jeff Driskel in the offensive system
About 10 days ago, Driskel was signed to the Browns' active roster from the Cardinals' practice squad. He joined the team and was quickly thrown into practices as he was named the starting quarterback for Week 18. He spent the week not only getting to know his new teammates, but also learn as much as he could of the Browns' offensive system.
When he took the field for the Browns first offensive drive, he was the fifth quarterback to start a game for the Browns this season. Driskel struggled early, as he was picked off on his first throw of the game but settled in as the game continued.
"I thought he operated well," Stefanski said. "There's definitely in every game for every quarterback that I know he would like to get back. But, all things considered, I thought he operated well."
Driskel finished the game completing 13 of 26 passes for 166 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Driskel said he felt like he grew more comfortable as the game continued.
"Getting in the flow of the game was good," Driskel said. "Getting some things started just builds confidence in everybody, myself and everybody around me. So, once we got some stuff going, you could see us clicking a little bit. But the more opportunities you get out there, the more comfortable you're going to get."
Driskel also connected with WR David Bell twice in the fourth quarter to put points on the board for the Browns. The first came with 8:45 left in the game when Driskel threw a 31-yard touchdown reception to Bell. Then, with 2:39 left in the game, Driskel connected with Bell again on a 24-yard pass for the touchdown.
The two built a bit of rapport over the week of practice as they prepared for their Week 18 matchup.
"That was cool," Driskel said. "And that was cool for me to get a couple of touchdowns there. And he's a guy that I found out pretty quickly in the week of practice that, you give him a chance, he's probably going to come down with it."
DE Ogbo Okoronkwo returns following pectoral injury
While the Browns had a handful of defensive players inactive or resting, DE Ogbo Okoronkwo returned to the field on Sunday. He missed the three previous games after suffering a pectoral injury. Okoronkwo returned to practice on Wednesday for the first time since he suffered the injury in Week 14 against the Jaguars and was a limited participant throughout the week.
The Browns wanted to get Okoronkwo some game reps before the playoffs began, as he has played an important role in the success of their defensive line. This season, Okoronkwo has a total of 31 tackles – 22 of which are solo tackles and nine of which are assisted – as well as 4.5 sacks and a fumble recovery.
"Ogbo, we're really excited about getting him back," Stefanski said. "He's such a big part of our success, of our team, just everything that we do. So, just excited to see 54 back out there."
Okoronkwo did not record a tackle on Sunday but was on the field different defensive possessions throughout the game. As their edge rusher, he played in passing situations and a handful of run downs as well. Okoronkwo said following the game that he did not feel like he was limited with wearing the harness on his left shoulder to help protect the injury as he returned to the field.
The Browns had a few injuries to players late in Sunday's game. WR Cedric Tillman took a hit in the fourth quarter and left the game to be evaluated for a head injury. Stefanski said following the game that Tillman is in concussion protocol.
Stefanski said that RB Pierre Strong Jr. took a hit on his lower back in the fourth quarter, and that they will have more information on the injury on Monday.
Shelby Harris left the game with a shin injury, but Stefanski said he believed that Harris would be OK.