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CHARLOTTE — It began with Jacoby Brissett — overthrowing open receivers and failing to complete even half his passes for much of Sunday afternoon — making Cleveland Browns fans want to cry.
It ended with Brissett, bathed in the the afterglow of leading a late rally, full of emotion and holding back tears.
When the clock struck zero at Bank of America Stadium, Brissett walked off a winner. He completed a couple of key passes and stood tall enough in the pocket to have a defender hit him for a key personal foul penalty and that was enough to get the Browns in range for a winning 58-yard field goal.
And afterward we found out what was going on in Brissett’s head when he was terrible, as well as later when he got his team a 26-24 victory.
Jacoby Brissett Tries Not To Break Down
“I think emotions were high,” Brissett said, his words struggling to make it out of his mouth as he choked up. “This moment … sorry.”
Brissett collected himself.
“The build-up to this moment, it goes further for me than just from being here,” he continued. “[It’s been] a long time coming to get to this point. And I’ve got to do a better job of calming those emotions down.”
He was welling up again.
“Especially in a lot of these critical situations,” Brissett added, picking up the thought midstream. “But we made the right plays at the right time.”
Brissett Was Starting For The First Time Since November
Look, a press conference is a tough place to dig deep into a grown man who just overcame the other team as well as his recollections of being told he’d never be the starter for any NFL team on opening day again.
But there we were trying to draw from Brissett what was in his heart.
“I think that definitely played a lot into it,” he said when asked if he was emotional about having another chance to start after the Indianapolis Colts stripped him of that assignment in 2019. “And just right now for me, thoughts and emotions are going through my head right now.
“Like I said, leading up to this. These aren’t promised. So, whenever you get an opportunity you cherish those opportunities.”
Brissett admitted perhaps the emotions of taking the reins of the Cleveland offense from a suspended Deshaun Watson affected him at the start of the game.
“Probably so, yeah,” Brissett said. “I would say so.”
Was Brissett’s Problem Just Nerves?
And this is where we have to draw the line between emotions and nerves. Because Brissett seemed nervous. Out of sorts.
He sailed an easy third-down throw to the sideline. He overthrew one open receiver for what would have been a long touchdown and underthrew another one in the end zone.
But here’s the beauty of starting so poorly for a team that has so much talent: The Browns still managed to build a 20-7 lead because of a great running game and stingy defense.
Cleveland Has Full Confidence In Jacoby Brissett
The Cleveland front office, you should know, elected to stick with Brissett over making a trade for Jimmy Garoppolo because no one loved Garoppolo’s metrics and the Browns are a lot about measuring players that way.
And Brissett eventually rewarded that decision by avoiding any obvious mistakes. He didn’t throw an interception and generally kept his teammates in the right place and play.
“He is our guy, we are going to follow behind him,” running back Nick Chubb said. “He is a great leader and he is amazing for us.”
Room For Improvement
Brissett finished with 18 completions on 34 passes for a modest 147 yards. Hardly great.
Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski wasn’t asked about a quarterback through 11 questions into his postgame press conference. And on the 12th question he was asked about Baker Mayfield’s work for the Carolina Panthers.
When he was eventually asked about Brissett, the coach’s assessment was that “He battled.”
Brissett knows he has to play soon. But not this day, which allowed him room for what was in his heart.
“Playing in the NFL is a highlight every time and that is why I think I am so emotional,” Brissett said. “It is because they just don’t come that often.”
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero