CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer made his first start in the National Football League at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday, and he felt “absolutely” comfortable against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Despite taking seven sacks and several other hits, Kizer engineered three scoring possessions and had the Browns in position for the comeback win before a late drive from the Steelers ran out the clock and delivered a 21-18 win over Cleveland.
“We prepared well for this game,” Kizer said. “We got every look we expected to get. Nothing too crazy on our part.
“Obviously, the communication is a big key, especially in a home situation. You have to be able to go out there and make sure that every play is executed the right way in terms of the way that you are presenting it to your offense, and I think I did a pretty good job of that.”
The Browns’ offense struggled to move the ball on their first two drives of the game, but on the third, everything clicked, and they drew even with the Steelers, 7-7, when Kizer rushed for a touchdown with 22 seconds to play in the first quarter.
On second and goal from the Pittsburgh one-yard line, Kizer took the snap, ran around left tackle and muscled his way into the end zone for his first career touchdown. Fellow rookie Zane Gonzalez added the extra point to knot the score.
“It was awesome,” Kizer said. “Obviously, it was at the point of the game where we needed some momentum to turn back after a special-teams touchdown. It is up to us on offense to make sure that we go out there and swing things back our way. A little energy afterwards is also good for the team.”
The Browns cut the Steelers’ lead down to three points, 21-18, on Kizer’s first career touchdown pass and a two-point conversion rush from running back Isaiah Crowell with 3:36 to play in the fourth quarter of the 2017 regular-season opener.
On fourth-and-two from the Steelers’ three-yard line, Kizer took a shotgun snap after a shift overloaded the right side of the defense with four receivers, and then, fired a slant pass to wide receiver Corey Coleman on the left side of the formation for the touchdown.
“We are comfortable,” Kizer said. “We are moving. The momentum is back in our way. That is how we need to play at all times. The run is complementing the pass. The pass is complementing the run. We are taking what is given. We are reading defenses the way we are supposed to. Obviously, that leads into a clutch touchdown at the end of a quarter.”
Kizer completed 20 of his 30 throws for 222 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a rushing score to his credit. Additionally, on five carries. Kizer finished with one rushing touchdown and 17 yards, which were second only to 33 yards from Crowell.
“As a quarterback, your job is to put your team in a position to score points and win games,” Kizer said. “Obviously, there are some drives that we are proud of and that we are headed in the right direction on, but there were also some lulls within the game that we have to try to cut back on.”