During this year’s Wild Card Weekend in the NFL, The Browns finally ended their 18-year playoff drought playing against their division rivals, The Pittsburgh Steelers.
Despite having multiple team members miss the game after testing positive for COVID-19 including their head coach Kevin Stefanski, Starting Left Guard Joel Bitonio, and many more, they went on to beat the Steelers in an electric 48 -37 outing to move them on to the divisional round.
Filling in for Bitonio was former Seattle Dragons standout offensive lineman Michael Dunn who would be making his first NFL start. For those unaware of Dunn’s past, he was undrafted in 2017 only to be signed and later cut by both the Rams and the Jaguars.
In 2019 he spent time in the AAF with the Birmingham Iron and had a short stint on the Dolphins practice squad, before signing with The Seattle Dragons for the XFL’s 2020 season. He would finish the XFL’s season as the second highest-rated offensive lineman in the league per Pro Football Focus with a grade of 79.5.
When asked following the game about the O-lines performance versus the Steelers, Stefanski singled out Dunn for a shoutout and was quoted saying
I thought he was outstanding last night, really really great in his technique, in his effort, his assignment, he did a great job”
The numbers would tend to agree. Taking 79% of the snaps, Dunn finished the game allowing only 1 QB hurry and 0 sacks on 23 pass-block attempts. On top of that, Dunn contributed to 30 out of the team’s 31 rushing attempts, helping the Browns rush for 192 yards before he would exit the game with an ankle injury in the 4th quarter. He finished the game with a Pro Football Focus grade of 81, being the 4th highest graded lineman of the game for The Browns.
As of right now, Michael Dunn is currently day to day with an ankle injury and his status is questionable versus the Kansas City Chiefs. After last night’s performance, I would assume that Dunn has earned himself a role on this Browns team.
With Joel Bitonio likely making his return next week, it will be interesting to see if they find a new place for Dunn in the lineup if he is healthy.
The last time Cleveland made an appearance in the playoffs was a 2002 Wild Card loss to the Steelers, however, their last playoff win came as far back as 1994 against Drew Bledsoe and The New England Patriots. They would go on to lose to the Steelers in the Divisional Round that year.
After finally getting past the Steelers for the first time in over 25 years, I’m sure The Browns aren’t trying to end their playoff berth here. Up next is the Kansas City Chiefs, so Cleveland will have to be on their A-game. If the O-line can play anything like they did last night I believe they have a real chance.
Baker Mayfield & Patrick Mahomes have gone head to head a few times. Their first meeting was in College where they put up a combined 125 total points.
Their most recent meeting was in 2018 where Mahomes and the Chiefs would take a victory over a struggling Cleveland team that finished 7-8-1. Needless to say, this is now a very different Browns team than the one in 2018. With both of these teams playing arguably their best ball all year, we should be in for an exciting Divisional Round matchup.
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