Building the Browns

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5 things we learned from Episode 13 of Building the Browns

The pain from the Browns' playoff loss two weeks ago is still fresh in the minds of players, coaches and fans who witnessed an unforgettable 2020 season.

While the sting from the loss will linger throughout the offseason, the Browns can take solace in looking back at some of the moments and games that made the year so spectacular. The "Building the Browns" production crew captured those scenes all year — from the virtual draft process in the spring to the Browns' final team meeting of the season.

Episode 13 dropped Sunday and offered a glimpse at how the team and city embraced their first trip to the playoffs in nearly two decades. Here's what we learned from the crew's final installment from the 2020 season:

1. The Browns were well aware of what they were accomplishing

The Browns insisted all season they were keeping a "one week at a time" mentality when it came to judging their 2020 success and what it meant to the franchise.

Players and coaches kept a strong level of humility and mostly refused to compare the triumphs of the season to the difficult moments Cleveland endured in its 18-year playoff drought. That approach ensured the Browns didn't get ahead of themselves when they went 11-5 — their best record since 1994 — and made the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

But the sideline reactions throughout Building the Browns all showed one thing: The Browns definitely knew how special their success was to the franchise, and it certainly showed when they clinched the playoffs in their Week 17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Browns fans inside FirstEnergy Stadium hugged, cheered and cried as the team celebrated on the field. Several players didn't head into the locker room without acknowledging the reactions from the fans, and many of them looked around the stadium to yell in joy with them and commemorate a moment that hasn't been experienced for a long time in Cleveland.

"It just felt like one of those Kodak moments," said safety Ronnie Harrison Jr., who was in coverage and helped prevent the Steelers from making a last-minute two-point conversion that would've tied the game.

"It was one of those fairytale moments. I told them that this was your legacy where legends are made."

Check out the best photos from the Browns win over the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday by the Browns photo team

2. How Kevin Stefanski rallied his team from home

The most impressive win of the Browns' season came when their head coach was not on the sidelines with them.

Cleveland will never forget its playoff win on Wild Card weekend in Pittsburgh, when head coach Kevin Stefanski was unable to be with the Browns due to a positive COVID-19 test. Players and coaches rallied behind the absence of their coach, who firmly believed his team would be just fine without him.

He made that message clear Saturday night before the game. It's not easy to deliver a motivational speech over a Zoom call, but that's what Stefanski did from his basement as players and coaches listened to him one final time from their Pittsburgh hotel rooms.

"How do we win this game tomorrow?" Stefanski asked them. "We win as a team. We win this game tomorrow as a team. I'm not going to tell you no one believes in us. I don't know what anybody else thinks. I don't care what everybody else thinks. It doesn't matter to me. I know what I think. I know what I believe. I know what the people in this call believe.

"I am so confident in this group, and I'm going to tell you why: Confidence comes from demonstrated ability. I have seen it. These eyeballs have seen it. You've seen it for yourself. You've seen it from your teammates. I've had a front row seat at 11 wins.  I've seen it. I've had the best view in the whole house. Tomorrow, I'm going to have an HD view — it's still going to be pretty damn good. But I've seen it, and I'm going to trust in what I see. We've established how we play football with the Cleveland Browns. I don't think there's any debate in how we win around here. We've done it, and guess what? We're going to do it one more time tomorrow."

The response from the Browns was historic, and that leads us to the next thing we learned ...

3. Inside the sideline reactions of the Browns' historic first half in Pittsburgh

There weren't enough cameras inside Heinz Field to capture the scenes of awe from the Browns sidelines as they built a 28-0 first-quarter lead — the biggest lead after 15 minutes ever in an NFL playoff game — against the Steelers.

From the very first play from scrimmage, when the Browns defense recovered a botched snap in the end zone for a touchdown, to the fourth and final touchdown of the quarter, players and coaches went ballistic on the sidelines. The start was beyond what anyone on the Browns could've dreamed, and it paved the way for an unforgettable win in Pittsburgh.

"I don't know if a Browns game has ever started like that before," tight end Harrison Bryant said to a coach on the sideline.

Running back Kareem Hunt had some of the best reactions of the bunch. When he saw the botched snap, he let out a high-pitched scream from the bench. When the Browns scooped it for a touchdown, he leaped up and down as his orange coat flapped over his shoulders.

"I sounded like a little girl," Hunt said. "My voice started cracking."

Hunt scored the last two touchdowns of the first quarter, the first of which came after he carried three Steelers defenders into the end zone for an 11-yard score. He celebrated the touchdown with a few push-ups.

"I jumped through the hole, smacked a guy's hand down and a linebacker tried to hit me," he said. "It was like, 'Who wants it more?' Once we made contact, I wanted it a lot."

The Building the Browns video captured plenty of reactions from other players as the team built their early rout. Quarterback Case Keenum shouted "They don't want to tackle you" in Hunt's ear as he walked back to the sideline. Bryant jumped and yelled around backup left guard Michael Dunn, who was making his first NFL start that night.

And then right guard Wyatt Teller stormed back to the bench and loudly asked his offensive teammates a question as steam rose from his head.

"We're just the same old Browns?" he asked. "We're just the same old Browns, boys! Just the same old Browns!"

4. Cleveland fans still found ways to celebrate

The hardest part about the Browns' playoff success was how the city couldn't properly celebrate with the team.

Browns fans have been waiting for years to watch their team get back to the playoffs, but only 12,000 fans could be in FirstEnergy Stadium when they punched their ticket and no fans were in Heinz Field when they won their playoff game. The massive celebrations many people envisioned when the Browns could finally return to the playoffs were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But many fans still found ways to celebrate.

Throngs of supporters drove by FirstEnergy Stadium the day before the Browns' Divisional Round game against the Kansas City Chiefs for a drive-thru rally. On the nights after both the Wild Card playoff and Divisional Round loss, fans stood outside the gates of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to loudly welcome the team back home. Players, coaches and team personnel honked their horns and waved as fans cheered just as they would inside the stadium.

The scene won't be forgotten by the Browns anytime soon.

"This is another reason why I love this place," wide receiver Jarvis Landry said as he drove past a crowd of fans greeting him. "People recognize my car, and they'll follow me around blowing their horn saying 'Let's go Browns!' That always brightens up my day."

5. Kansas City loss brought disappointment unlike any other

The Browns will remember the 2020 celebrations both from themselves and their fans for many years.

But they also won't forget about the heartaches they felt on the field at Arrowhead Stadium.

That's where their incredible season came to an end. Players and coaches grieved in the moments after their 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs as they attempted to grasp the gutting result.

Myles Garrett knelt by a Gatorade cooler and banged his fist. Nick Chubb bit his tongue and looked around the stadium. David Njoku buried his head in his hand as a coach patted him on the back and offered encouragement.

"There's a very real sense of disappointment," Stefanski said as he addressed the team the next day. "There's a sting in my heart, and I know you guys feel that, too."

The Browns will carry that feeling all the way up until Week 1 of 2021. Stefanski urged his team to use it as "fuel" for improving in the offseason and gearing up for another long road back to the playoffs.

That's what a playoff loss should be for. Stefanski knows that if the Browns do that, they'll be back in an even greater way.

"No one on this call will forget the 2020 season. That's impossible," Stefanski said. "Too much stuff happened this season to forget. We're all going to take something from this season, and it's going to stay with us."

Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday by the Browns photo team

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