As the Browns kicking unit and K Dustin Hopkins lined up for the game-winning field goal, rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson knelt on the sideline. He had just led the Browns to victory over AFC North rivals in the Steelers with a successful final drive to set them up for the field goal.
Teammates like CB Martin Emerson Jr., CB Kahlef Hailassie, S D'Anthony Bell, RB Pierre Strong Jr. and others walked over and patted him on the back, congratulating him on the win. OC Alex Van Pelt hugged Thompson-Robinson. TE David Njoku also later embraced Thompson-Robinson on the sideline and spoke with him as the Browns went on to beat the Steelers 13-10.
Thompson-Robinson walked off the field following the win with tears in his eyes, hearing the chants of "DTR, DTR, DTR" from fans in the stands.
"The guy loves the hell out the game," DE Myles Garrett said. "He focuses on his craft. He's very insightful and is always looking forward to listen to guys and his elders to get new information. He's gathering information from all of us. Defense, offense, he wants to be the very best he can be, and he showed it. Making plays down the stretch, putting throws on the money and leading us down the field to get that field goal. I mean, the guy is only going to continue to grow as a person, a player and a leader on this team."
The Browns had an emotional week as a franchise. They lost their starting QB Deshaun Watson to a season-ending shoulder injury, and Thompson-Robinson found out on his 24th birthday on Tuesday that he would start the second game of his NFL career against the Steelers.
Thompson-Robinson said that he received a called from Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry when he was on his way to a restaurant in downtown Cleveland. While he celebrated a bit that night with his teammates, he quickly shifted his focus to Sunday's game.
He began studying, coming into Wednesday with a solid understanding of their offensive plan. Thompson-Robinson used the week of practice to prepare and gain the necessary first-team reps for Sunday's game, working to improve from his first start in Week 4.
Thompson-Robinson also went back and watched his tape from UCLA's game against USC in 2021. When he's reflected on his NFL journey the first few months, he's drawn parallels to his time at UCLA. He's gone back to watch games to remind himself of the swagger in which he knows he can play with.
"It's been a whirlwind," Thompson-Robinson said. "I just can't thank the fans, (Kevin) Stefanski, our whole program and all the guys that are there in the locker room. Everybody's been helping me out. Everybody's letting me know that they got my back, from the guys walking around on the street outside when I go to a store, to my teammates in the locker room every day. Everybody this week has been great, and it's only made my job a lot easier."
Thompson-Robinson wanted to bounce back from his first career start in Week 4, when the Browns lost to the Ravens 28-3, and he threw three interceptions. And he did. Thompson-Robinson played with a high level of composure throughout the game, even as he had a handful of incompletions.
As the Browns entered their final drive, Thompson-Robinson had completed 19 of 38 passes on the day. With 1:18 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Thompson-Robinson threw a short pass to WR Elijah Moore for a gain of 15 yards on the completion. Then he connected with RB Kareem Hunt on a pass for five yards. The Browns continued to march down the field, as he found WR Amari Cooper for a gain of eight yards on a pass completion, and another to Njoku for a gain of 11 yards.
Thompson-Robinson connected on those four consecutive passes to move the Browns down the field, as well as a couple of handoffs to Hunt to set Hopkins up for the field goal. He finished the game throwing 24 of 43 for 165 yards and one interception.
"Those are big moments where you're looking for your guy to come through," HC Kevin Stefanski said. "He came through. Made some big plays throughout that drive, made big plays throughout the game. I know it wasn't perfect at all times, but he came through when it mattered."
Throughout Sunday's game, Thompson-Robinson said that he kept reiterating to himself to stay disciplined and take one play at a time. As he reflected on different moments of Sunday's matchup, he said that if that play happened back in Week 4, he would have forced a play.
But on Sunday, his mindset was different. He followed each of his keys and his rules throughout the game. Even when he struggled and threw incompletions or his one interception, he didn't panic.
Stefanski said that Thompson-Robinson didn't lack confidence on Sunday, as he trusts in his ability as a quarterback. His teammates saw that same level of confidence.
"He is a warrior," Njoku said. "It is not easy being in his shoes, especially being a rookie. He is such an incredible athlete. He got the job done today."
Sunday's win was an important one not only for the Browns, but also for Thompson-Robinson. Throughout the week, he believed that his performance in Week 11 would be "night and day" from his first game in Week 4.
And it was exactly that. Even through the imperfect moments that come over the course of the game, his ability to command the offense and stay disciplined allowed the Browns to defeat the Steelers.
He had about 20-30 family members and friends from all over the country in the stands at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sunday to witness his second start. As he noticed the cheers of "DTR" echoing through the stadium, he thought about what that meant to his family.
"It's great for my family," Thompson-Robinson said. "I wouldn't say I don't like it, but I'm trying to stay focused on the game and make sure I'm doing my job. But it is super cool to be able to look back on and see those type of things."