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Freddie Kitchens Made An Absolute Brain-Genius Move With The Browns Down Three Possessions

Photo: Kathryn Riley (Getty Images)

You know how every so often, we’ll get a story about Bill Belichick exploiting some obscure loophole in order to give the Patriots a better opportunity in a certain scenario? What Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens did in Sunday’s 27-13 loss to New England is the opposite of that.

The Browns were down 27-10 when they faced a fourth-and-11 situation on their own 24-yard line with 6:17 remaining in the game. They had one timeout left. The punt team came on, but the ball was never snapped. Cleveland’s KhaDarel Hodge was flagged for a five-yard false start penalty. Now facing a fourth-and-16, the offense came back on the field to try and go for it from its own 19-yard line. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was sacked, and the Browns turned the ball over on downs.

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As first revealed by CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson during the game, and then confirmed by Kitchens afterward, Hodge’s penalty was intentional. The head coach wanted to draw a flag so that he could stop the clock, but preserve the team’s final timeout. Via Cleveland.com:

I didn’t want to use the timeout and I wanted to go for it. We had half of our guys running off, half of our guys running on and I wasn’t giving up right then by punting the ball to them. The only chance that we had was to convert for a [first] down and then we didn’t. The defense’s job is to go out there and stop them and they did, so it gave us a chance. I was still trying to win the game.

Kitchens reiterated today that he was trying to save as much time as possible, even though one timeout and the two-minute warning still would not have been enough to force the Patriots to punt, assuming that the Browns were somehow able to trim the gap on a three-possession game within the remaining six minutes:

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Man, a team leader making the shortsighted decision to intentionally sabotage his employees’ situation for a slim chance at a small, ultimately meaningless reward? As an employee of G/O Media, I can’t relate to such a thing. The Browns lost, 27-13.

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