Kevin Stefanski Highlights Takeaways From Texans Win

Cleveland Browns v Houston Texans

HOUSTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 04: Head coach Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns looks onward during the first quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Houston, Texas.Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Opening statement:

“Injury front, (LB Sione) Takitaki has a torn ACL so he will miss the remainder of the season, which is obviously very disappointing. Disappointed for Tak. Playing at a really, really high level for us and playing a lot for us. Just disappointed for the young man. Other injury front, (WR) David Bell is day to day. We will update you later in the week on his thumb. (WR) Anthony Schwartz is in the concussion protocol. (S) Ronnie Harrison (Jr.) was evaluated for a concussion, but he cleared after the game and again this morning.

“Yesterday, very, very proud of our football team, going on the road and getting a W, which we set out to do. Proud of the effort, obviously. Talked about the defense scoring twice, and special teams scoring was outstanding. A team effort. Then we have to look for ways to improve, and we have to do that this week going on the road versus a division opponent, an opponent we know well and they know us well. December football in your division, looking forward to the challenge.”

On Takitaki taking on a larger role in the Browns defense this year prior to sustaining a season-ending injury yesterday:

“Tak is one of my favorites. Plays very, very physically. Loves this game. Plays hard. A great teammate. Like you mentioned, he was playing more for us than he had in the past. His role had expanded because he earned it. Was playing ‘out of position,’ so to speak. We moved him to MIKE linebacker, and he was doing a really nice job. Disappointed for him, but excited for what that is going to mean for some other guys stepping up. Also, I know what Sione is going to do with this rehab. Like he always does, he is going to attack it and be ready to go next year.”

On how to help accelerate QB Deshaun Watson’s return to form after a significant period of time not playing a regular season game:

“Kind of like we talked about yesterday, that was the first one and the first one in a long time so we knew that there was going to be a little bit of playing through that. I think he gets that. He will get more comfortable with the more game reps that he gets. I think all of those things that you look at offensively and all of those things that you look at with Deshaun, they are all correctable.”

On if the team identified opportunities to build on the offense yesterday with Watson when evaluating the film and preparing for the Bengals game:

“Yes, without a doubt. Again, it is a team game. I understand on offense we have to play better than we played yesterday, and I expect us to. In terms of putting together a plan, I really believe that is what you have to do every week. You have to look at who you are facing and what gives them problems and put together a gameplan where you can have some success.”

On if Watson’s inaccuracy yesterday can be attributed to the long layoff between regular season games or other factors:

“Again, I just think it is always getting back to the basics, specifically for Deshaun. Yes, there is a long layoff so there are certain things that only come with more game reps and more practice, and I expect that to happen.”

On if it is reasonable for Watson to make a significant jump this week:

“I won’t put any type of expectations on it, per se. I think it is important for us to go find a way to win. That is what we did yesterday. Going to go on the road against a really good opponent this week. We just have to find a way to win.”

On if the Browns were able to identify glimpses of how the team can balance its run and pass games with Watson and other offensive weapons moving forward:

“Again, I think that is something that will come over the course of time. You can’t get every play in in one game. I think there were some really, really good moments for the run game there. I thought we ran it effectively throughout the game. (RB) Nick (Chubb) and (RB) Kareem (Hunt) ran very, very hard. I thought Deshaun added some nice elements to it, as well. Always are going to look to build on that.”

On if the Browns will continue to emphasize improved blocking on offense, particularly with players out recently due to injury:

“Again, we were better yesterday, I believe, in the run game as an offense. That does to your point incorporate the offensive line, the tight ends and the wide receivers certainly. Always something to grow on. We have to continue to do that. I think it is a great challenge week in and week out to do that.”

On if the takeaways in yesterday’s game reinforces the significance of how they can impact a game:

“Without a doubt. To go get four takeaways, to score twice on defense and obviously to score on special teams and to take the ball away on special teams, those are the type of things that you are always looking to do. Those help you win ballgames. As you know, they seem to come in bunches so we are always looking for multiple games where we can get multiple takeaways because it does really change the complexion of these games.”

On the Browns OL’s performance in recent weeks and the impact of C Ethan Pocic’s injury:

“Ran the ball effectively yesterday. Like you mentioned with Ethan’s injury, (G) Hjalte (Froholdt) is stepping up and doing a nice job for us, but I think week in and week out, you are going up against some very difficult fronts. I think for us yesterday to block how effectively as we did – it wasn’t perfect – had some really nice runs mixed throughout. It is always going to be a challenge when you are facing some of these fronts.”

On the status of the Browns LBs and MIKE due to the impact of injuries and if Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry and the team will look to acquire another LB:

“We will work through all of those things. We have guys who have played MIKE linebacker for us right now so we have guys certainly who can do it. Andrew obviously always works through those things with his staff. We believe in the guys that we have, and they have to step up. Big shoes to fill, and that is part of the game.”

On if the Browns’ success in the return game provides a sense validation for the team’s patience in that area:

“No, not looking for validation. I just think we are trying to be consistent and trying to get good special teams play. Yesterday (WR) Donovan (Peoples-Jones) did a great job getting vertical and the guys did a great job blocking, and he ran away from people and did a really nice job. I think the big thing to your point is we just have to play consistently. In the special teams game, that is coverage and return phases and it is field goal being able to be consistent there. I think that is what you saw yesterday.”

On his message to the Browns offense and Watson prior to this week’s game at Cincinnati:

“You really have to learn from every rep you get – every player and every coach learn from every one of those reps and come in here today like we did and watch the tape and learn from it. I think that is so important for all of us. Deshaun, that is his first start so he got the first one out of the way, and I know he is looking forward to turning the page, really diving into Cincinnati, understanding this defense, putting together a plan and going out here and working on it this week. I think that really becomes our focus.”

On if LB Deion Jones is the simple solution to step into the MIKE role after Takitaki’s injury:

“Certainly, Deion has played for us and played at a high level at that position. We have had (LB) Jordan Kunaszyk in there. We have options. We have guys who are going to be moving around potentially. We will make sure that we have a good plan going into this one.”

On if LB Tony Fields II’s role might expand following Takitaki’s injury:

“Again, when you lose a player, everybody has to step up. Certainly, guys earn roles and carve out roles, and those are the type of things that we will look at and talk about the next couple of days.”

On if QB Jacoby Brissett called an audible on the third-and-short conversion:

“I don’t want to get into the specifics, but he did exactly what he was supposed to do.”

On if the Browns defense’s consistency against Cincinnati and Baltimore the past few seasons is due to familiarity or matchups:

“I don’t know. I think it is a good question. Specifically to Cincinnati, there is familiarity on both sides really. They know how we play offensively, defensively and special teams. Obviously, we know the same. It is a great matchup. They are really, really well coached. They have great players. We have to make sure we put a plan together this week and then we have to go play.”

On if the Browns could implement a specific package for Brissett on gamedays:

“We will see as we go forward each game what that game calls for and what that gameplan calls for. Jacoby was a huge, huge help yesterday. He was awesome on the sideline, like he always is. He was a help to I know Deshaun and the rest of that offense. That is part of his role and picking us up on the sideline. I thought he did a great job.”

On if there were more opportunities for Watson with RPOs yesterday and if rust was also a factor for Watson with RPOs, in addition to acclimating to the passing game:

“I think all of the above. Some of the plays that we will continue to work, there are always wrinkles to each gameplan, and I think it is important for all of our players and the entire offense to understand what we are trying to accomplish on each one of those plays.”

On Watson’s interception:

“I think the biggest thing is we were late, and we were late because of a couple of things up front. You have to learn from that one. If it is not clean, we have to find an incompletion on that play.”

On how yesterday’s game went with Watson yesterday from a functionality standpoint:

“The functionality was good. He did a nice job operating. It takes a lot of guys in the huddle. It is the quarterback’s job obviously to get everybody in there and get it called, but everybody has to be on point when it comes to substitutions, listening to the play call, breaking the huddle and getting lined up. Never perfect, hasn’t been perfect and never will be, but we have to always continue to work to get better.”

On evaluating how the gameplan with Watson this past week matched expectations for what would work:

“Again, I think he did a nice job with what we are asking him to do. In the second half, as you all saw, I felt like we were in pretty good control with the way our defense was playing in that game so really leaned into the run game, and the guys fought for some hard yards there in the second half.”

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