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.
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:
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.