Of all of the Cleveland Browns' blunders in their 38-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, one, in particular, seemed to stand out.
After their first drive of the 2020 season ended in a Baker Mayfield interception, the Browns took the ball over at their own 25-yard line trailing Baltimore by a score of 7-0. From there, Cleveland's offense only managed to gain six yards on three plays, bringing punter Jamie Gillan onto the field on 4th-and-4 from the Browns' own 31-yard line.
Only Gillan's first punt attempt of the 2020 campaign would have to wait, as instead of kicking the ball, the second-year punter took off on a rush attempt. Cleveland's fake proved ill-fated and ultimately resulted in a fumble, with the Ravens offense taking over at the Browns' 23-yard line.
Asked about his curious decision to call for a fake punt from his team's own 31-yard line, first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski offered the following explanation.
"Yeah, listen, that is my responsibility. That is on me," Stefanski said. "That did not work out, and you can put that right on me."
On Monday, Stefanski elaborated: "We were trying to maximize possessions in that game. When there are times that it calls to be aggressive, we are going to be aggressive, and there are going to be times where it does not call for that. It did not work. I know we get hung up on the result and we should, but we will from it and we will make sure that we continue to put our team in the best position to succeed. You are absolutely right in that buck stops with me on that type of call."
Obviously, that one play wasn't the sole reason the Browns lost on Sunday, as evidenced by the lopsided final score. After Baltimore's ensuing offensive drive resulted in a field goal to go up 10-0, Cleveland came back to score its first touchdown of the season, although kicker Austin Seibert would miss the ensuing extra-point attempt.
The Browns' failed fake punt attempt, however, did put them in a position to trail one of the best teams in football by double digits just minutes into the 2020 season. And in many ways, it encapsulated a head coaching debut for Stefanski in which everything that could go wrong seemed to do just that.
"Obviously, it is very frustrating when you lose," he said. "At the end of the day, credit to the Baltimore Ravens, and I have to do a better job. I have to get this team ready to play so that is on me."