The Cleveland Browns overcame a lot to upset the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. Due to the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols, their facility was closed until Friday. A number of players and coaches weren’t able to be at the game after positive tests or exposure, including Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio and head coach Kevin Stefanski. They overcame all that to win their first playoff game since 1994.
The best example of the Browns rolling with the punches came from quarterback Baker Mayfield. In his postgame interview on the field, he dropped an incredible anecdote: he met one of his lineman for the first time just before the game. Literally.
“We had Michael Dunn step in at left guard for Joel Bitonio, and then Michael [Dunn] got hurt, and then a guy named Blake that I introduced myself to literally in the locker room before the game stepped up in the fourth quarter.”
Blake Hance makes a difference in NFL debut
The Blake that Mayfield mentioned is Blake Hance. Just over a week ago, Hance was signed off the New York Jets practice squad and drove from New Jersey to Cleveland to join the team. With the COVID protocols, he hadn’t been able to meet a number of his teammates until game day, and that included the quarterback he’d be protecting.
That didn’t stop Hance from doing his job and doing it well. He came into the game in the fourth quarter after Bitonio’s backup, Michael Dunn, exited with an injury, and and spent 14 snaps blocking Cam Heyward, the Steelers’ talented defensive tackle. No one got near Mayfield, who wasn’t sacked once all night.
If all that seemed a little unreal, this might blow your mind: those 14 snaps were the first Hance ever played in an NFL game. In his NFL debut, Hance helped the Browns win their first playoff game in over two decades. On top of that, Monday is Hance’s 25th birthday. He’s younger than the Browns playoff win drought, which he helped end.
There’s still one person Hance hasn’t met yet: the head coach.
Kevin Stefanski was asked if he’s met Blake Hance, who played the final 14 snaps at LG last night.
“I’m looking forward to it.”
— Andrew Gribble (@Andrew_Gribble) January 11, 2021
Hopefully the two of them will have a chance to get acquainted before the Browns face the Kansas City Chiefs next weekend.
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield didn’t meet one of his lineman until they were both in the locker room before the game. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
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Published: 2021-01-11 17:42:29
Tags: #Baker #Mayfield #met #lineman #locker #room #game