CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson vowed his second career start would be “night and day” different from his first one.
On Sunday, Thompson-Robinson made good on that promise. He completed all four passes on his final drive. That set up Cleveland’s game-winning field goal from 34 yards out with 2 seconds remaining, which lifted the Browns to a 13-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Those are big moments, where you’re looking for your guy to come through. He came through,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. “Came through when it mattered.”
Thompson-Robinson got the start against the Steelers after Deshaun Watson was lost for the season with a fracture to his throwing shoulder.
Thompson-Robinson started for Watson in Week 4 when Watson was dealing with a different shoulder injury, a rotator cuff strain. But in that debut, Thompson-Robinson threw three interceptions as the Baltimore Ravens rolled 28-3. The next week, PJ Walker replaced him as the No. 2 quarterback to Watson.
But after Watson’s season-ending injury, Stefanski decided to give Thompson-Robinson another shot.
“They believed in me,” said Thompson-Robinson, who was a fifth-round pick out of UCLA. “They trusted me.”
Thompson-Robinson got off to a hot start Sunday, completing 13 of his first 16 passes as the Browns jumped to a 10-0 halftime lead. But in the second half, Pittsburgh’s defense clamped down on Thompson-Robinson and Cleveland’s passing attack. Until the final drive, the Browns passed for just 28 yards after halftime, as the Steelers rallied to tie the game. Thompson-Robinson also threw an interception in the third quarter, robbing the Browns of a potential scoring opportunity.
“I was hurting. I was frustrated,” Thompson-Robinson said of his only turnover. “I didn’t know how the game was going to end.”
Cleveland’s defense, however, kept giving its offense opportunities. And Thompson-Robinson got the ball one final time with 1:18 to play.
“I was just taking it one play at a time,” he said. “Follow my keys, follow my rules. If it’s not there, take the checkdown and don’t make any play worse than what it is.”
Thompson-Robinson made every play instead.
With the Browns crowd chanting “D-T-R, D-T-R,” he connected on a 15-yard strike to Elijah Moore. After completions to Kareem Hunt and Amari Cooper, he pushed the Browns well into field goal range with an 11-yard first-down pass to tight end David Njoku.
That set up Dustin Hopkins’ winning kick.
It was Cleveland’s fifth victory this season with a game-winning score coming in the final 2 minutes of regulation. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, that’s the most such wins in a single season in franchise history.
“I’ve been working my tail off,” Thompson-Robinson said of the time between his two starts. “I think that whole drive just shows how close this team is and how much they believe in me.”