Freddie Kitchens reportedly stressed the importance of his team keeping its collective composure throughout the week leading up to Thursday night's game with the Steelers. While the game did include several helmet-to-helmet hits by his players that led to Browns cornerback Damarious Randall's ejection, Kitchens, on several occasions, said that his team played within themselves until the final seconds of Thursday night's 21-7 win over Pittsburgh.
That was until Browns defensive end Myles Garrett decided to club Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with his own helmet, that will undoubtedly lead to a severe penalty -- and suspension -- for the Browns' best defensive player.
"We don't condone that," Kitchens said after the game. "Myles understands what he did wrong. He has to maintain his composure … We had five (seconds left) in the game. He understands."
A reporter asked Kitchens if there is a "seismic problem" with the Browns that dates back to the summer, when the Browns and Colts engaged in a "team-wide brawl" near the end of a joint practice. Kitchens took offense to the question.
"I'm not smart enough to understand what you said," Kitchens said, "so just ask me, point blank, what you're asking."
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The reporter then asked, point black, if Kitchens' team is out of control.
"I never OK fights. Did you say I OK fights? I never OK fights," Kitchens said. "Did I want them to get after their ass? Yes, I did, but that's not fighting, that's not after the whistle. Between the whistles, yes. I never condone fighting on a football field because that's penalties. I don't coach penalties, I don't coach false starts, I don't coach after the whistle grabbing somebody's facemark. I don't coach that. So I don't know what you're talking about Indianapolis saying I condone a fight. That's a penalty."
What does Garrett's actions say about his team?
"I don't know," Kitchens said. "That's for you guys to decide. I just know that, while I'm the head coach here, that's not gonna be acceptable, in any form, fashion, anything."
While he understood why the majority of the questions he faced was about Garrett, Kitchens said the real disservice following Garrett's actions was that it took away the ability to celebrate the good things the Browns did from both a team and an individual standpoint. Cleveland, 2-6 this time a week ago, is now 4-6 and back in the AFC playoff picture. The Browns are also 2-0 in the division and in the process have become the first Cleveland team to beat Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the same season.
On Thursday night, Cleveland raced out to a 14-0 over a Pittsburgh team that had won four straight games entering the contest. Quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was sacked just once, scored three touchdowns while not throwing an interception for a third straight game. Conversely, the Browns sacked Rudolph four times while intercepting four of his passes. The collective effort resulted in Cleveland's first win over Pittsburgh since 2014.
"You can't lose sight of the good things that we did," Kitchens said. "The turnovers the defense had. The offensive production early in the game. The ability to run the ball when we needed to run the ball at the end of the game. Had some lapses there in between that we need to continue to try to run the ball, but there's a lot of good things from the game that are going to get overshadowed by this, and a lot of people are not gonna get recognition because of (Garrett's fight)."
Kitchens, when asked about the Steelers, said that he and Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin did apologize to one another for how Thursday night's game ended. Kitchens added that he is more concerned about his team and what they need to do to overcome whatever comes out of Garrett's actions.
"We gotta stay together," Kitchens said. "Again, when you hit times of adversity, you have run toward each other, and not away. So, just come to work and know that you have support here, everybody … You run toward each other instead of running away."