Kevin Stefanski, Nick Chubb both take blame for clock blunder that blew game
If the Browns and Jets had been playing in prime time (or at any time when multiple other games weren’t reaching a crescendo), coach Kevin Stefanski would still be getting the Nathaniel Hackett treatment two days later.
Stefanski, who’s ultimately responsible for giving coaching to players and ensuring they accept and implement it, failed to ensure that running back Nick Chubb would not score near the two-minute warning.
Here’s the situation. The Browns led, 24-17. The Jets took their final timeout with 2:09 to play.
The problems actually began when running back Kareem Hunt took a second-and-six carry from the New York 24 down to the 12. Hunt failed to stay in bounds, stopping the clock at 2:02. If Hunt had stayed in bounds, the clock would have run down to two minutes, the clock would have stopped for the two-minute warning, and (as anyone who plays Madden knows) three victory-formation kneel-downs would have chewed up the final 120 seconds.
Instead, the Browns had to run a play. First and 10 on the 12.
Chubb got the ball on a handoff. He made a cut to the outside and got to the corner. Inside the five, he cut back inside. Instead of just laying down at the two, he walked into the end zone.
He didn’t need to go down. With the clock stopping for the two-minute warning, Chubb could have (should have) ducked out of bounds inside the two. If Chubb had done it, the game would have been over -- after three successful kneel-downs.
Instead, Chubb scored. Then rookie kicker Cade York missed the extra point. Then no one bothered to cover Corey Davis on a 64-yard catch and run from Joe Flacco. Then the Jets recovered an onside kick. And then the Jets drove down the field and scored, winning the game.
On Monday, Stefanski reiterated that it’s on him to make sure players know when to not score.
“Obviously, with retrospect, you want to do anything to secure the win,” Stefanski told reporters. “That is something that is my responsibility to communicate to that huddle. Putting yourself up potentially 14 points inside of two minutes, you should close out that game. Yes, I wish I had said that to Nick and Nick would have done it, but it does not change the fact that we had plenty of opportunities to win that game.”
Stefanski said that, in the past, he has told the quarterback to instruct the running backs to not score. Stefanski, to his credit, admitted that he failed to make that point on Sunday.
“No, I did not,” Stefanski said. “I do want to be clear on this one. I absolutely could have told him that in that situation.”
For his part, Chubb has assumed responsibility for failing to ice the game.
“I probably shouldn’t have scored right there honestly, looking back at it,” Chubb said Tuesday, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “It cost us the game. A lot of things went wrong. Not just one thing, but collectively as a unit, as a team, we could’ve all done things different, but I mean, it’s only a problem because we didn’t win, so I probably should’ve went down.”
Chubb said he didn’t think about it until after the game ended. “I had to reflect on it and see what things I could’ve done different and that was definitely one of them,” Chubb said.
It would have been simple. Get down after getting the first down. Or just go out of bounds, since the clock was stopping anyway. Stefanski should have told quarterback Jacoby Brissett, and Brissett should have related that instruction to Chubb.
In a league with razor-thin margins, that’s the difference between a win and a loss. That loss, once all 17 games are played, could haunt the Browns.
Is it fair to expect Stefanski to be sufficiently meticulous in order to ensure that his players knew what to do in that spot? Yes, it is. Because the best coaches -- like Bill Belichick -- make those calculations and communicate instructions accordingly to their players all the time. It’s situational football, and the coaches who master it end up being in the best situation to compete for championships.