Kevin Stefanski explains Browns’ fateful decision to punt with chance to upset Chiefs

 Kevin Stefanski explains Browns’ fateful decision to punt with chance to upset Chiefs

Kevin Stefanski may have become the latest line worker in the Factory of Sadness.

Cleveland was oh so close to stunning the world and tripping up the Chiefs in their AFC divisional matchup on Sunday, with a chance to win the game and time winding down in the fourth quarter.

But facing a fourth-and-9 situation with just over four minutes left, the Browns decided to punt the ball away to the Chiefs and quarterback Chad Henne, who was under center in relief of a concussed Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs would go on to win after a series of heroic plays from Henne and guts from Andy Reid.

The punt, though, wasn’t seen as the best decision, according to some:

So, why didn’t Stefanski go for it there?

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Why did the Browns punt?

Kevin Stefanski put it simple following the game: The decision to punt came down to the down and distance, according to the head coach. 

“Nah, it was just probably just too long there, Tony, that distance,” Stefanski told Browns reporter Tony Grossi postgame. “If it was tighter, without a doubt.”

The decision ultimately proved costly, with the Chiefs taking the ball and eventually running the clock down on a 22-17 victory. 

Hindsight, of course, is 20/20, but in real time, some were disappointed with Stefanski’s apparent lack of intestinal fortitude to try and win the game in that spot:

Others speculated that Stefanski’s decision to punt was a direct result of who was throwing passes for the Chiefs in the moment: With Henne in, there was less of a supposed threat that the Chiefs would score — or move the football — with around four minutes left in the game.

An aside and counterpoint: If the Browns really thought they could get a stop against a Henne-led offense, why not go for it in that position? Well, a few reasons: The Browns were on their own 32, and a few plays and a field goal could ice the game — or at least widen a lead — with time winding down. Assuming the Chiefs go three-and-out, a field goal from that spot would have been roughly 50 yards.

Regardless of the philosophy, the decision to punt proved not to be wisest, because Henne was, apparently, playing to win. A key third-and-14 run followed by a stunning fourth-and-inches play call punched Kansas City’s ticket to the AFC Championship game.

And as Andy Reid and Kansas City have proven time and time again in the league: No guts, no glory. The Chiefs icing the game with a fourth-down pass from Henne to Tyreek Hill was so gutsy that even Tony Romo was shocked that the Chiefs ran the play.

Herculean, shocking, surprising effort from Henne aside, at least the Cleveland head coach feels convicted in the decision to punt.

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