The loss stung as Nate Orchard rode on a bus out of Arrowhead Stadium and toward the Kansas City airport.
One of the defense's best halves of the season wasn't enough to overcome a frustrating first half against the Chiefs in a 17-13 loss. It was frustrating for everyone on the team because of how close Cleveland came to stunning the playoff-bound Chiefs on their home field.
Yet in the darkness of another loss, some humor was found when he reflected on one of the biggest plays of his NFL career with his teammates.
Just hours earlier, Orchard intercepted the first pass of his career and ran it back 46 yards. It wasn't as simple as it sounds, though, as Orchard batted the ball back and forth with Craig Robertson before ultimately securing the ball. Quarterback Duke Johnson Jr. dropped by as the two discussed the awkward, yet successful play.
"Hey," Manziel said, "does it really take two guys to catch the football?"
On this occasion, yes, it did, but the result was exactly what the Browns wanted and needed not only from Orchard, who has seen his confidence rise over the past month, but also the entire defense, which hadn't forced a turnover in the previous 13 quarters.
"It all happened so fast," Orchard said Monday on a conference call with reporters. "I knew 'it's either you or me that's going to take this ball.' I saw everyone piled up behind us so I just snatched it and ran and a little designed trick play on us, you know? Throwing our opponents off and running down the sideline."
A close-up look at all of the action from Sunday's game.
The turnover ultimately resulted in zero points for the Browns, who turned the ball over with an interception of their own a few plays later, but it kept Kansas City from extending its lead late in the first half. His third sack of the season, which came midway through the third quarter, had the same result, sending the Chiefs offense off the field with his big third-down play. He also "wrecked" a third-down pass to Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce during the fourth quarter to ensure the Browns would have one last shot to score an upset.
"I just think it is coming with confidence, with repetition," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "As I have said all year, there is no substitute for live game reps. That is what we talk about – eyes to the future. We are just thrilled that Nate has been able to get there and be on the learning curve that he is."
Orchard admitted Monday his confidence was a little down 12 games into his rookie season. He was praised repeatedly by Pettine and defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil for his strength against the run, but he'd yet to pick up a sack. What was his specialty at the University of Utah had become a mounting source of frustration for the Browns' second-round pick.
The two sacks he collected against the 49ers relieved him of the burden.
"I was back to my old self, confidence was back up," Orchard said. "I knew that 'hey, this is why they brought me here. One of the best pass rushers in this draft class, I know I can do this. This is what I'm here for' mentality and going out and do that. I'm finally back in my groove and it's all good."
With the team's sack leader, Armonty Bryant, inactive against the Chiefs and scheduled to be inactive again Sunday against the Steelers, Orchard likely will see a heavy dose of pass-rushing opportunities in a game that will provide him with one last opportunity to end his rookie season on a high note.
"It's a long season and the only thing you can do is get better week by week," Orchard said. "The last thing you want to be is complacent and happy with your playing time and what you're doing. Me, personally, I want to make the most of every opportunity I get."