All posts by dgilles

A True Top 25 of Browns-Steelers Games

Joe “Turkey” Jones. Dave Mays. Chris Jennings. Gerald McNeil. David Grayson. Brian Hoyer. Trent Richardson. Tim Couch.

Cleveland Browns running back Mike Pruitt (43) runs away from Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert (58) during a 32-10 Steelers victory on November 22, 1981, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Dennis Collins/Getty Images)
Cleveland Browns running back Mike Pruitt (43) runs away from Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert (58) during a 32-10 Steelers victory on November 22, 1981, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Dennis Collins/Getty Images)

Most of the names on this list didn’t amount to very much during their Browns career. But their names are remembered because of the roles they played in victories over the team’s biggest and most bitter rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Lost in all the turmoil surrounding this year’s team – the seemingly impending dismissal of coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer, the quarterback controversy between veteran Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel, the possible trade of veteran captain Joe Thomas – is that this is “Steeler Week.” And, with Browns nemesis Ben Roethlisberger’s status for the game doubtful due to a leg injury, this Sunday’s game at Heinz Field suddenly looks to be a winnable one.

The Browns have only won one game at Heinz Field since it was opened in 2001, and it was also the site of one of the Browns’ biggest heartbreaks since the franchise returned in 1999 – their 36-33 come-from-ahead playoff loss to the Steelers in early 2003. And, wins for the Browns over the Steelers, and overall for that matter, have been few and far between since the franchise was reborn in 1999.

But, once upon a time, it wasn’t always like that. From 1950-70, the Browns got off to a 32-9 start in this series, winning the first eight games and 16 of the first 18 games the two teams played against each other. In the 80s, the Browns won seven straight games and went 14-8 over Pittsburgh.

However, thanks to the Steelers’ 26-6 record since 1999 – 34-10 dating back to 1990 – Pittsburgh has taken control in this rivalry.

A Jaded Steeler fan may wonder how someone like me could find 25 winning Browns games against the Steelers. I would like to remind Jaded Steeler Fan that your team only leads the series 66-58, not counting two playoff victories over our beloved Dawgs.

So, in honor of “Steeler Week” and the 127th meeting between the Browns and the Steelers, here are my top 25 games between these two squads in this rivalry. Who knows, maybe what happens Sunday can crack this list.

25. Browns 17, Steelers 9 (Oct. 11, 1992): Before Mike Tomczak ended his career as a long-time Steeler backup quarterback, he spent one year backing up Bernie Kosar with the Browns. And, when Kosar battled injuries in 1992, it was the former Ohio State Buckeye and Chicago Bear who stepped up and filled that void. Under second-year coach Bill Belichick, Tomczak did just enough to lead the Browns past the Steelers at the old Stadium, throwing for 171 yards and a touchdown.

The touchdown pass, a 47-yard strike to Michael Jackson midway through the fourth quarter, turned a 10-9 lead into a 17-9 advantage. Kevin Mack added a 1-yard touchdown run  to start that second half, turning a 6-3 halftime deficit into a 10-6 advantage they never relinquished. Pittsburgh wound up going 11-5, while the Browns slumped to 7-9.

24. Browns 15, Steelers 7 (Oct. 3, 1970): Let the record show that the teams’ first showdown as members of the AFC went in Cleveland’s favor. While the Steelers wound wind up being the NFL’s “Team of the 70s,” they began the decade just 5-9. And, rookie Terry Bradshaw’s introduction to Cleveland on this Saturday night at the old Stadium was not a good one. He was sacked for a safety and threw three interceptions, including a pick-six to Erich Barnes that was returned 38 yards in the third quarter that wound up being the final points.

Fellow rookie Mike Phipps relieved an ineffective Don Gault, who went 1-of-16 for 44 yards and two interceptions, and made his NFL debut a winning one. He went 3-for-5 for 86 yards and a touchdown, a 53-yard pass to Reece Morrison. Yep, the Browns just completed four passes against the Steelers and won. Gault never took another NFL snap, but yet is credited with a 1-0 record as an NFL starter. Bradshaw did rush for a touchdown in the loss.

23. Browns 21, Steelers 16 (Nov. 25, 1973): Less than a month before I was born, the Browns handed

Pittsburgh Steelers Joe Gilliam (17) in action vs Cleveland Browns at Three Rivers Stadium. Pittsburgh. (Photo by Walter Iooss Jr. /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
Pittsburgh Steelers Joe Gilliam (17) in action vs Cleveland Browns at Three Rivers Stadium. Pittsburgh. (Photo by Walter Iooss Jr. /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

the Steelers an ugly loss. With Terry Bradshaw not in the lineup – Joe Gilliam started and Terry Hanratty came on in relief – the Steelers scored the first points of the game and led, 16-14, midway through the fourth quarter. Gilliam found Ron Shanklin for nine yards in the opening drive and then he led three drives that ended in Roy Gerela field goals in the second, third and fourth quarters.

Mike Phipps, who only completed 5 of 17 passes with three interceptions, scored on a one-yard sneak and found Greg Pruitt for a 15-yard touchdown early in the second quarter to give the Browns a 14-10 halftime lead. Pruitt, a rookie, scored the winning touchdown on a 19-yard gain in the fourth quarter. Hall of Famer Leroy Kelly, who would retire following the season, was held to just 12 yards on 11 carries. Franco Harris, in his second year, was held to 48 yards on 22 carries. The Steelers went 10-4, but lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Raiders. The Browns went 7-5-2, their last winning season until they went 9-7 in 1979.

22. Browns 30, Steelers 17 (Nov. 1, 1964): En route to their final NFL Championship, the Browns rebounded from a 23-7 loss to the Steelers at home by coming into Pitt Stadium and dominating their rivals from pillar to post. The Steelers rallied from a 10-0 deficit to tie the score at halftime, but the second half was all Browns. Ernie Green rushed for two touchdowns in the second half, en route to 86 yards on 17 carries, while Hall of Famer Lou “The Toe” Groza added two of his three field goals during that 20-7 second half.

Jim Brown gained 149 yards on 23 carries and added five more receptions, while quarterback Frank Ryan completed 15 of 28 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown to Clifton McNeil. The Browns defense intercepted Steeler quarterback Ed Brown twice – both by Larry Benz – and held him to just 8 of 23 for 128 yards. The win improved the Browns to 6-1-1, en route to a 11-3-1 finish and a championship.

21. Browns 17, Steelers 7 (Sept. 16, 1985): A new era of Browns football began with this Monday Night Football clash at Cleveland Stadium on the second week of the regular season. With Marty Schottenheimer in his first full-season as the head football coach and veteran Gary Danielson and rookie Bernie Kosar taking over at quarterback, the Browns needed to knock off their hated rivals after dropping a 27-24 overtime loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in last week’s season opener. Danielson, making his second start as a Brown, completed 18-of-30 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown and an interception. His 17-yard scoring pass to wideout Fred Banks in the second quarter opened the scoring for both teams, and an 18-yard field goal by Matt Bahr in the third made it a 10-0 Browns lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Mark Malone found John Stallworth for a 6-yard score in the fourth to cut the Browns’ lead to 10-7. But Cleveland put the game away on its ensuing possession with a 21-yard touchdown run by second-year running back Earnest Byner. Byner rushed for 82 yards on 18 carries, while rookie Kevin Mack added 40 yards on 12 carries. Both backs would go over 1,000 yards rushing –just the third time in NFL history a pair of running backs would accomplish the feat – and the Browns wound up winning the AFC Central Division with an 8-8 record, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 1982 and winning their first division title since 1980.

20. Browns 19, Steelers 13 (Dec. 26, 1987): Wins at Three Rivers Stadium could never be counted

Defensive back Delton Hall of the Pittsburgh Steelers tackles wide receiver Webster Slaughter #84 of the Cleveland Browns during a game at Three Rivers Stadium on December 26, 1987 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Defensive back Delton Hall of the Pittsburgh Steelers tackles wide receiver Webster Slaughter #84 of the Cleveland Browns during a game at Three Rivers Stadium on December 26, 1987 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

on, especially since the Browns had just ended a 16-year losing streak the previous season. Yet the Browns needed to win at their perennial house of horrors in the 1987 season finale to clinch their second-straight division title over an 8-6 Steelers team. The Browns jumped out to a 9-0 lead on a 31-yard field goal from Matt Bahr and a two-yard touchdown pass from Bernie Kosar to backup tight end Derek Tennell, but a 39-yard field goal by Gary Anderson cut that lead to 9-3 at halftime. The Browns got a 30-yard field goal from Bahr to take a 12-3 lead heading into fourth quarter, and the Steelers cut that deficit to six with another Anderson field goal.

However, the Browns put the game away with two-yard touchdown run by Earnest Byner to take a 19-6 lead. Pittsburgh’s Cornell Gowdy made things interesting with a 45-yard interception return late in the fourth quarter to make it a six-point game, but the Browns were able to run out the clock and improve to 10-5. Hanford Dixon and linebacker Eddie Johnson each picked off Mark Malone once apiece, while Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome caught six passes for 94 yards to lead the Browns offense. The 10-5 Browns reached the AFC Championship game three weeks later, but lost a heartbreaking 38-33 game to the Denver Broncos when Byner fumbled on the 2 with just over a minute remaining in the game.

19. Browns 27, Steelers 7 (Nov. 20, 1988): The Browns, who had started four different quarterbacks during the season, were sitting at 6-5 with the hapless Steelers coming to town. If the Browns wanted to get back to the playoffs for the fourth-straight season, they needed to take care of business against Pittsburgh. With Bernie Kosar healthy and back under center, the Browns didn’t waste any time showing who the dominant team really was. After opening the scoring with a 32-yard field goal from Matt Bahr, Kosar found backup tight end Derek Tennell for a two-yard scoring pass to take a 10-0 lead into the second quarter. Frank Minnifield added to that lead when he blocked a Harry Newsom punt and returned it 11 yards to give the Browns a 17-0 lead that the Steelers cut to 17-7 just before the half.

Kosar, who threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, found Reggie Langhorne for a 77-yard touchdown bomb early in the third quarter to put the game away, and Bahr added a 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. The Browns defense sacked Steelers starter Bubby Brister six times, led by rookie Michael Dean Perry’s two, and picked him off twice. Linebacker Eddie Johnson had a sack and an interception, while Minnifield had the other pick to go along with his huge blocked punt. The Browns used this performance to win five of their last six games and finish 10-6, qualifying for the playoffs as a wild-card team. This was also the last time the Browns swept the Steelers in a season series (until this year, perhaps).

18. Browns 23, Steelers 20 (Sept. 17, 2000): The Browns had just stunned the Steelers, 16-15, at Three Rivers Stadium in 1999 – one of just two victories for the expansion Browns that season – and had rebounded from a 27-7 thrashing by Jacksonville in the 2000 season opener to defeat the Bengals, 24-7, on the road to take a 1-1 record into Cleveland Browns Stadium and their next meeting with the hated Steelers. The Browns jumped out to a 14-0 lead behind two first quarter touchdown passes from Tim Couch to tight end Aaron Shea and fullback Mark Edwards, respectively. But the Steelers, behind former Ohio State quarterback Kent Graham, rallied to cut that lead to 14-10 at halftime with a field goal and a four-yard scoring run by Richard Huntley. A 23-yard field goal by Phil Dawson gave the Browns a 17-13 lead midway through the third quarter.

However, a 10-yard rush by Jerome Bettis gave the Steelers a 20-17 lead heading into the fourth. Instead of rolling over, the young Browns fought back with a pair of fourth-quarter Dawson field goals – the latter from 19-yards out with 2:48 remaining – to take a 23-20 lead. Graham had the Steelers marching into field goal territory on his final two-minute drive. However, with no timeouts, rookie No. 1 overall draft choice Courtney Brown sacked Graham for a four-yard loss with 13 seconds remaining, and the Steelers ran out of time before assembling the field goal team. It’s the last time the Browns have won two straight against the Steelers (hopefully, until this coming Sunday). The Browns couldn’t sustain that 2-1 start, finishing a dismal 3-13. Ironically, of Chris Palmer’s five wins as the Browns’ head coach in two seasons, two of those wins came against the Steelers. That loss dropped the Steelers to 0-3, but they rebounded to finish 9-7 (and missing the playoffs).

17. Browns 33, Steelers 13 (Oct. 5, 2003): This is still the only time the Browns have won at Heinz Field (until this Sunday, hopefully). More importantly, not only was this a nationally-televised Sunday night game, but this was the teams’ first meeting since the Steelers came back from deficits of 24-7 and 33-17 to escape with a 36-33 playoff victory. Tim Couch, playing arguably the best game of his short five-year career, completed 20-of-25 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. William Green gauged the vaunted Steeler defense for 115 yards on 33 carries. Couch’s six-yard touchdown pass to Andre Davis and a short Phil Dawson field goal gave the Browns a 10-0 first quarter lead, and a 9-yard scoring pass from Couch to Kevin Johnson made it a 16-3 advantage midway through the second quarter.

Jerome Bettis plunged in from the 1 to cut that lead to 16-10, but Couch capped a 9-play, 78-yard drive with a nine-yard touchdown run with 13 seconds left to give the Browns a 23-10 halftime advantage. Daylon McCutcheon’s 75-yard interception return off a Tommy Maddux pass early in the third quarter was the final nail in the Steelers’ coffin. The Browns improved to 2-3 with the win (same record as the Steelers). However, they would finish 5-11. It would be Couch’s final year in the NFL. This would also be the Browns’ last win over the Steelers for the next 12 games and six seasons.

16. Browns 45, Steelers 7 (Oct. 29, 1950): The rivalry made its first appearance on the shores of Lake Erie with the 4-2 Browns taking on the 2-4 Steelers. The Browns had beaten Pittsburgh three weeks prior, 30-17 (see No. 15 on this list) in a dominating effort, and actually were more dominant at home. Hall of Famer Marion Motley rushed for 188 yards on 11 carries and scored a 69-yard rushing touchdown and a 38-yard receiving touchdown from Otto Graham. Both scores helped the Browns open up a 24-0 lead midway through the third quarter, and a 14-yard scoring run by Don Phelps made it a 31-0 lead after three quarters.

After the Steelers scored, the Browns put the game away with an 80-yard touchdown pass from Graham to Dub Jones and a 38-yard TD pass from backup Cliff Lewis to Horace Gillom. The Browns defense forced eight turnovers in this romp, and the Cleveland offense outgained Pittsburgh, 533-349. The Browns wound wind up going 10-2 in their first NFL season and won the NFL Championship – their fifth title in their first five years of existence.

15. Browns 30, Steelers 17 (Oct. 7, 1950): This was the first-ever meeting between these two storied franchises, and the Browns – in their first year in the National Football League after dominating the All-American Football Conference from 1946-49 – quickly showed who the dominant force was.

Played at Pitt Stadium, Hall of Famer Otto Graham rushed for two one-yard touchdowns to give the Browns a 14-3 lead, followed by a Dub Jones 7-yard rush to make it a 21-3 halftime lead. Cleveland put the game away in the fourth quarter with a 48-yard touchdown run by Jones to make it a 30-10 advantage. The defense forced six Steeler turnovers, despite giving up 345 yards of total offense.

14. Browns 30, Steelers 17 (Dec. 18, 1983): This was Brian Sipe’s final game in a Cleveland Browns’ uniform, and he went out with a blaze of glory against their hated and bitter rival in this late-season showdown. With the Steelers at 10-5 and already clinched the division title, the 8-7 Browns needed to win just to get a chance at a playoff berth. Sipe completed 14-of-22 passes for 199 yards with four touchdowns

Linebacker Tom Cousineau #50 of the Cleveland Browns pursues running back Walter Abercrombie #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game at Municipal Stadium on December 18, 1983 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Linebacker Tom Cousineau #50 of the Cleveland Browns pursues running back Walter Abercrombie #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game at Municipal Stadium on December 18, 1983 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

and no interceptions to lead this minor upset. Sipe opened things up with a 64-yard touchdown pass to rookie wideout Rocky Belk, and added a two-yard scoring toss to backup tight end Harry Holt and a three-yarder to wideout Ricky Feacher to give the Browns a 23-10 halftime lead.

The Sipe-Holt connection put the game away early in the third quarter with a one-yard scoring toss and a 30-10 lead. Belk would only play that season, finishing with five receptions and two touchdowns. Franco Harris, in his final game as a Steeler, would be held to just 56 yards on 20 carries by a Browns defense that picked off quarterbacks Cliff Stoudt and Mark Malone once apiece. Alas, the 9-7 Browns finished second in the AFC Central with the win, but missed out on the playoffs by tiebreakers. It would be the last hurrah of the Kardiac Kid-era Browns — head coach Sam Rutigliano would be fired midway through the 1984 season after a 1-8 start.

13. Browns 10, Steelers 9 (Dec. 19, 1982): This one landed on my ninth birthday (it’s still the last time the Browns have won a game on my birthday). However, a closer look shows just how important this win really was. The Browns, in the strike-shortened season, were just 2-4 heading into this showdown at Cleveland Stadium with Paul McDonald at quarterback replacing an injured Brian Sipe. A loss would have essentially ended their season. However, the defense picked off Terry Bradshaw four times — three of which by rookie Hanford Dixon — and sacked him three times. The Steelers led, 7-3, at halftime on a six-yard TD pass from Bradshaw to John Stallworth.

However, McDonald, who completed 19-of-40 passes for 227 yards, led the Browns on a third-quarter scoring drive, capped by a 1-yard plunge by fullback Johnny Davis. An intentional safety taken when punter Steve Cox ran out of the end zone in the final seconds made it a one-point game, but it wasn’t enough. The win improved the Browns to 3-4 and led to a 4-5 season. It was good enough for them to make the playoffs under the expanded eight-team format, and this win propelled them to that playoff berth. It was also the last time the Browns beat a Bradshaw-led Steeler team – he retired after just one game in 1983.

12. Browns 20, Steelers 14 (Nov. 25, 2012): Prior to last year’s 31-10 win at home, this had been the most recent victory for the good guys. With the Steelers down to third-string quarterback Charlie Batch, the Browns defense forced a whopping eight turnovers – three of which occurred in the final three minutes of play. They intercepted three Batch passes, but recovered five fumbles from five different Steeler running backs. Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who had a batted pass intercepted and returned for a 53-yard touchdown by linebacker Lawrence Timmons on the fourth play from scrimmage, recovered to lead the Browns to 20 points. He threw a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Cameron late in the second quarter off of a turnover, but the Steelers led, 14-13, at halftime on a Chris Rainey 1-yard run in the final seconds of the second quarter.

Kicker Phil Dawson connected from 28 and 32 yards out in the first half. But rookie Trent Richardson’s 15-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter gave the Browns a 20-14 lead, which was good enough for the long-awaited ‘W.’ Richardson finished with 85 yards on 29 carries, while Weeden (who was knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter) threw for 153 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

11. Browns 13, Steelers 6 (Dec. 10, 2009): This one cracks our list because of how out-of-nowhere it really was. The Browns came into this Thursday Night home contest with a 1-11 record, and new coach Eric Mangini was on the hot seat with the rumored hiring of Mike Holmgren as team president earlier that week. However, instead of rolling over to the vaunted Steelers, the defending Super Bowl champions, they hit them in the mouth.

Ben Roethlisberger was sacked eight times – a season-best for the Browns’ beleaguered defense – and held them to just two field goals. Brady Quinn only threw for 90 yards and was offset a lot by receiver Josh Cribbs, who ran for a team-best 87 yards out of the Wildcat formation. But, he led two first quarter scoring drives (both Phil Dawson field goals) and another just before halftime, capped by rookie Chris Jennings’ 10-yard touchdown run to make it 13-0. The game wasn’t over until linebacker David Bowens batted away a fourth-down Roethlisberger pass with just over a minute remaining, and Santonio Holmes was leveled after a short punt return with no time remaining to cap one of the most satisfying Browns victory during the “Expansion Era.”

10. Browns 24, Steelers 19 (Oct. 9, 1965): The Browns came into 1965 as the defending NFL champions (alas, they haven’t been able to do that since then) and picked up right where they left off, winning two of their first three games before hosting the hated Steelers (0-4) on a Saturday night. However, the underdog Steelers hung tough with the vaunted Browns, rallying from a 10-0 first quarter deficit to take a 19-17 fourth quarter lead on a Dick Hoak 15-yard run. Jim Brown (who Cleveland drafted just one pick after the Steelers selected Len Dawson in the first round of the 1957 draft) scored two touchdowns, one receiving, and gained 168 yards on the ground.

However, it was his backup Leroy Kelly (who also wound up in the Hall of Fame), who made the biggest plays of the game-winning drive, which began on their own 22 with 3:35 remaining, catching passes of 22 and 21 yards. Following a four-yard run by Brown to put the ball on the Pittsburgh 14 with less than a minute to go, Frank Ryan found Gary Collins on a post pattern in the end zone for the game-winning score. The Browns wound up going 11-3 and reaching the NFL Championship game for the second-straight year, but lost to the Green Bay Packers in what turned out to be Brown’s final game of his storied career.

9. Browns 16, Steelers 15 (Nov. 14, 1999): After three years without football, the Browns were reborn

Kevin Johnson #85 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates the touchdown during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Browns defeated the Steelers 16-15. ( Jamie Squire /Allsport)
Kevin Johnson #85 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates the touchdown during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Browns defeated the Steelers 16-15. ( Jamie Squire /Allsport)

as an expansion team in 1999, playing in a sparkling new stadium in the exact spot that the old Cleveland Stadium stood. In their first game back, the Browns were humiliated by the Steelers, 43-0, at home. Just a few weeks later, on Nov. 14, the Browns played like a totally different team, keeping themselves in the game. The Browns scored first on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Tim Couch to Kevin Johnson (both rookies), but the Steelers battled back to take a 15-7 lead on a touchdown and three field goals.

But, with 6:26 left in the game, defensive lineman John Thierry intercepted Kordell Stewart and was brought down at the Steeler 15, setting up a Couch to Mark Edwards touchdown pass a few plays later. Karim Abdul-Jabbar’s two-point conversion run was stopped, but the Browns had one more chance. Taking over with no timeouts at his own 20 with 1:51 remaining, Couch drove the Browns 58 yards in five plays. Without stopping the clock and with 18 seconds left, Chris Palmer ran the field goal team out on to the field. The Browns snapped the ball with two seconds left, and rookie Phil Dawson, into an 18 mph wind, calmly drilled a 40-yard field goal to give Cleveland the stunning upset win. It turned out to be the Browns’ second-to-last visit to Three Rivers Stadium and their first win there since 1989’s 51-0 blowout.

8. Browns 26, Steelers 24 (Nov. 19, 1972): The suddenly resurgent Steelers, after decades of ineptitude, took a 7-2 record into this contest at Cleveland Stadium, with the Browns at 6-3. The Browns jumped out to a 20-3 lead behind two TD passes from Mike Phipps, but the Steelers scored just before halftime to make it 20-10, then got two touchdown runs – the latter a 75-yard run from Franco Harris – to take a 24-23 fourth quarter lead.

Don Cockroft missed a 27-yard field goal with just under two minutes remaining, but he got another chance thanks to the defense forcing a three-and-out and a clutch drive led by Phipps. With 13 seconds remaining, Cockroft earned his redemption with a 26-yard field goal, giving the Browns a much-needed victory. Both teams made the playoffs that season, but both were defeated by the undefeated Miami Dolphins.

7. Browns 27, Steelers 26 (Oct. 16, 1980): This game virtually signaled the death of the first Steeler dynasty and helped propel the “Kardiac Kids” to their first-ever AFC Central crown and first playoff berth since 1972. Despite the Steelers missing most of their regular offensive starters, Pittsburgh jumped out to a 26-14 fourth quarter lead with backup QB Cliff Stoudt, an Oberlin native, at the helm.

But Brian Sipe and Co., despite blowing a couple of golden scoring opportunities earlier in the game, came to life in the fourth quarter. Sipe found Greg Pruitt for a 7-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 9:21 remaining (Don Cockroft missed the extra point, keeping the Steelers ahead by six). Then, with 5:38 remaining, Sipe found a streaking Ozzie Newsome wide open for an 18-yard touchdown, sending 80,000 fans at Cleveland Stadium into a frenzy. Ron Bolton prevented Stoudt from making a late rally with an interception at the two-minute warning, and the Browns were able to run out the clock on this huge victory over the defending Super Bowl champs.

6. Browns 31, Steelers 10 (Oct. 12, 2014): What does Brian Hoyer have in common with Tim Couch, Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden? They were all starting quarterbacks during the “Expansion Era” who manufactured wins over the hated Steelers. The Browns enter this Sunday’s game on a one-game winning streak over the Steelers thanks to this white-washing – the Browns biggest win over the Steelers since they went to Three Rivers and won, 51-0, in 1989. The Steelers took a 3-0 first quarter lead before Hoyer – a former Pittsburgh backup in 2012 – led three second-quarter touchdown drives to take a 21-3 halftime lead.

The biggest play was a 51-yard bomb to tight end Jordan Cameron with 9:35 left in the quarter, sandwiched between touchdown runs by rookie Isaiah Crowell and Ben Tate (who would wind up starting for Pittsburgh in a Wild Card game that year). Tate’s second touchdown of the season, a 1-yard plunge with 12:37 left in the game, made it a 31-3 lead. Hoyer went 8-for-17 for 215 yards and a touchdown, but the running game rolled up 138 yards on 38 carries. Defensively, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked just twice, but threw an interception and was thwarted on two fourth-down conversions. It snapped a four-game losing streak to the Steelers and was, arguably, the most satisfying victory for the Browns since 1999.

5. Browns 18, Steelers 16 (Oct. 10, 1976): This game is famous for Browns defensive end Joe “Turkey” Jones’ sack of Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, where Jones slammed Bradshaw right on his head and knocked him out of the game. The Steelers had won Super Bowl X the previous season and were poised to try to win it again.

They knocked out Brian Sipe early in the game, which resulted in little-used rookie Dave Mays (the Browns’ third-string QB) making his NFL debut. Mays – who was Cleveland’s first black quarterback – earned his way into Browns lore by calmly leading the Browns to two third-quarter scores – a 1-yard run by Cleo Miller and a 50-yard field goal by Don Cockroft – which gave them a 15-10 lead. Following Turkey’s sack, Cockroft added the game-clinching 40-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining.

4. Browns 27, Steelers 24 (Oct. 5, 1986): Since Three Rivers Stadium opened up in 1970, the Browns had never won there. They would always seem to lose in bizarre fashion as well, which perpetuated the local myth of the “Three Rivers Jinx.” The previous season, the Browns had the Steelers on the ropes before Gary Anderson’s last-second field goal gave Pittsburgh a 10-9 win. The Browns tried everything; staying in different hotels, busing instead of flying, bringing dirt from Cleveland Stadium and sprinkling it on the field during warm-ups, you name it. And, this one wasn’t without its bizarre moments as well.

The Browns took a quick 10-0 lead, but back-to-back turnovers gave Pittsburgh a 14-10 lead late in the first half. That’s when Gerald McNeil, nicknamed “The Ice Cube,” became a permanent fixture in Browns lore when he returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, giving the Browns a 17-14 halftime lead. At the time, it was the Browns’ first kickoff return touchdown in 12 years! However, the Steelers regained the lead early in the third quarter, and the two teams traded scores which resulted in Pittsburgh leading, 24-20, to start the fourth quarter. But, Mike Johnson recovered a muffed punt, and Earnest Byner’s four-yard TD run with eight minutes left gave the Browns the lead for good. It got interesting though – Matt Bahr missed a chip-shot field goal with just under five minutes to play, but Mark Malone’s pitch to Earnest Jackson on a bizarre option call from the Browns 35 was botched and the Browns recovered.

3. Browns 37, Steelers 31 OT (Nov. 23, 1986): The Browns had just ended their 16-year “Three Rivers Jinx” earlier in the season (see No. 4) and had come off a huge win over the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night at home. Bernie Kosar and Mark Malone engaged in a wild shootout. Kosar completed 28 of 46 passes for a then-career-best 414 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, just two days before his 23rd birthday. The Browns had taken a 31-28 lead with 1:51 left on a Matt Bahr field goal, but lost Bahr for the season on the ensuing kickoff when he made a game-saving tackle on the Steelers’ Lupe Sanchez at the Browns 40.

Gary Anderson made a 40-yard field goal to send the game into overtime, and the Browns did not have a healthy kicker. After both teams went three-and-out in the OT, Kosar went to work. With 6:37 remaining and the ball on the Steeler 36, Kosar pumped once and fired deep down the left sideline for rookie Webster Slaughter. Slaughter caught the ball in stride and scored the walk-off touchdown. The Browns’ 536 yards offense was the most a Pittsburgh defense had ever yielded up to that point.

2. Browns 51, Steelers 0 (Sept. 10, 1989): The Browns were in the midst of a five-season playoff streak, where they qualified for the AFC Championship game three times in a four-year span. This season

Linebacker Clay Matthews #57 of the Cleveland Browns holds the football in the air as he is congratulated by defensive lineman Michael Dean Perry #92 and other teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium circa 1989 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Linebacker Clay Matthews #57 of the Cleveland Browns holds the football in the air as he is congratulated by defensive lineman Michael Dean Perry #92 and other teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

capped off both streaks and began with question marks concerning new head coach Bud Carson. Carson, who was the architect of the famed Pittsburgh “Steel Curtain” defense in the 1970s, had never been a head coach before. But, in this season opener at Three Rivers Stadium, Carson’s attack 4-3 defense stunned Bubby Brister and the Steelers by forcing six turnovers and scoring three defensive touchdowns – two of which by linebacker David Grayson and the other by veteran Clay Matthews.

Rookie running back Tim Worley fumbled the ball at least four times, and two of them were returned for touchdowns. This rout catapulted the Browns to a 9-6-1 season and their last AFC Championship game berth. The Steelers rebounded to finish 9-7 and came within a point of meeting the Browns in that AFC Title game.

1. Browns 28, Steelers 23 (Oct. 24, 1993): Just two weeks after this game, Bill Belichick and Art Modell touched off mass furor when they released regional icon Bernie Kosar. However, all was right in the world with this game, simply remembered as the ”Eric Metcalf Game.” The Browns jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, thanks to a 62-yard touchdown pass from Vinny Testaverde to Michael Jackson and a 91-yard punt return by Metcalf, but the Steelers tied at 14 just before halftime. The Browns led again, 21-17, on a short TD pass from Testaverde to fullback Ron Wolfley, but the Steelers came back to take a 23-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

With Testaverde knocked out of the game with a separated shoulder, Kosar was poised to direct one his patented two-minute drives. However, Metcalf never gave him the chance, weaving through the Steeler special teams for a breathtaking 75-yard touchdown with 2:05 remaining. Metcalf became just the first NFL player to have two punt return TDs in the same game. Stevon Moore clinched the win by recovering a fumble with less than a minute remaining, but everyone remembers the Metcalf return as the winning play. The win improved the Browns to 5-2, but Kosar’s release deflated this team that wound up a disappointing 7-9. It was also the last time the original Browns beat the Steelers. The Steelers wound up 9-7 and reached the playoffs.

Here we go, Brownies, here we go!

Until next time, remember that Cleveland Rocks!

20 Years Later, The Move Still Stings

Do you remember what you were feeling 20 years ago this week? If you’re a Cleveland sports fan, you

 Carlos Baerga #9 of the Cleveland Indians jumps to make a double play as Ryan Klesko of the Atlanda Braves slides into the plate during game six of the World Series at the Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Otto Greule Jr. /Allsport)
Carlos Baerga #9 of the Cleveland Indians jumps to make a double play as Ryan Klesko of the Atlanda Braves slides into the plate during game six of the World Series at the Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Otto Greule Jr. /Allsport)

probably do.

The Cleveland Indians had just finished putting the finishing touches on one of the most thrilling seasons of professional sports in a generation’s history, although – in typical Cleveland fashion – they broke our hearts when they lost to the Atlanta Braves in the 1995 World Series, 4 games to 2.

Even though the loss stung, the general feeling was that the Indians were built to be contenders for many years and that they not only would get back to the World Series, but they would win it. The ’95 World Series was the first true championship game for any Cleveland team since the Browns lost in the 1969 NFL Championship Game to the Vikings (although the winner did advance to the Super Bowl), so for people my age, it was the first one we ever experienced.

And, man, it was fun.

The World Series came to an end on Saturday, Oct. 28 in Atlanta with a 1-0 loss. With Cleveland still a bit hung over from that experience, things were brewing in Berea – more specifically, a private plane in a Baltimore airport – that would make the World Series a quick afterthought.

A day after that Series loss, the Browns played the Cincinnati Bengals at the old Riverfront Stadium. Head coach Bill Belichick made the controversial decision to bench veteran Vinny Testaverde, who had taken the team to the playoffs in 1994 following an 11-5 regular season, and go with third-round rookie Eric Zeier.

Zeier completed 26-of-46 passes for 310 yards with a touchdown to much-maligned free agent signing Andre Rison – it was Rison’s first touchdown of the season and one of only three he caught that forgettable season. Despite blowing a 26-16 fourth quarter lead, Zeier led the Browns to a game-winning field goal in overtime by Matt Stover for a wild 29-26 win. That win snapped a three-game losing streak and put the Browns at 4-4 – still in contention for a winning season and a playoff berth.

A few days later, Cleveland threw a parade for the Indians, even though they lost the World Series. Cleveland fans descended upon Public Square in droves to celebrate one more time with one of the most-loved teams in the city’s history. In the meantime, while the city toasted the Indians for their first American League pennant in 41 years, their beloved Browns had been signed, sealed and delivered to a town called Baltimore in a private plane on a deserted tarmac just a week before.

The crap was about to hit the fan, and hit it quick.

Cleveland Browns fan holding up sign that reads ART LIED! in stands during game vs Houston Oilers at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Cleveland, OH 11/5/1995 CREDIT: David Liam Kyle (Photo by David Liam Kyle /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
Cleveland Browns fan holding up sign that reads ART LIED! in stands during game vs Houston Oilers at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Cleveland, OH 11/5/1995
CREDIT: David Liam Kyle (Photo by David Liam Kyle /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

As the Browns prepared for a pivotal home game against the Houston Oilers – who, ironically, would also be moving within the next two years to Nashville – rumors began to circulate that the Browns would be moving to Baltimore in the near future. Browns owner Art Modell (may he burn in eternal Hell) was in full denial mode, but as reports out of Baltimore began to come out, the Sunday game suddenly took a somber, if not an angry, tone from the fans.

Modell got his family out of town in the middle of the night and was conspicuous by his absence in that Sunday game, which turned out to be a 37-10 loss. Fans hung banners all over the old Cleveland Stadium denouncing Modell and booed the Browns not just for the hap-hazard play on the field, but for what was happening off it.

That game occurred Sunday, Nov. 5. On Monday, Nov. 6, TV stations broke in with a live report from a parking lot in Baltimore that featured then-mayor Kurt Schmoke, then-Maryland Governor Parris Glendenning and Modell on a makeshift dais announcing that the Cleveland Browns would be known as the “Baltimore Browns” effective the 1996 season.

I’ll never forget watching that news conference at my house. I was a 21-year-old college student and an aspiring sportswriter, and for the first time in my life, my heart was truly broken. I was in denial. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I thought it was a ruse just to get the Sin Tax extension passed in Cuyahoga County, which it did by a landslide the next day.

Cleveland Mayor Mike White, with news cameras in tow, showed up the day after Election Day to the Browns’ Berea headquarters with an agreement in hand containing a new stadium lease with plans on remodeling the existing stadium. Of course, Modell was long gone, but White still delivered the manila envelope to a Browns employee anyway. It made for good TV, but it was a hollow gesture – Modell was gone, and soon, so would the Browns.

White and other Cleveland politicians and ex-Browns athletes urged Browns fans to call, fax and – if it was available since it was relatively new at the time – e-mail NFL headquarters to let them know this move could not happen. I’ll admit to calling the NFL at least once or twice and writing a letter, and some of my friends did as well. Cleveland called and faxed so much that the NFL’s switchboard blew up. The NFL was not prepared for the backlash that occurred from Cleveland fans.

Usually, when an NFL team moves, it is leaving a disinterested fan base behind. Sure, a handful of people

Cleveland Browns Earnest Byner (21) with fans after game vs Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Final home game before move to Baltimore. (Photo by David Liam Kyle /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
Cleveland Browns Earnest Byner (21) with fans after game vs Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Final home game before move to Baltimore. (Photo by David Liam Kyle /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

might complain, but for the most part, that community is happy that that team, or that owner, is leaving. While Cleveland’s relationship with Modell had always been a tenuous one ever since the “carpetbagger” (as the Cleveland media called him in the early 60s) from New York showed up out of nowhere as the new owner of the Browns, it wasn’t about him – it was about the team. And Cleveland LOVED its Browns.

The fans’ passion and the fact that there was litigation in place that would have blocked a move from happening made the NFL think on its feet and come up with a compromise. That compromise was that Modell could move to Baltimore with the existing coaches, players and front office, but it would be treated like an expansion team with a new nickname and a clean slate. Cleveland would retain the Browns’ nickname, team history, heritage and colors, which would be given to a new franchise within the next three years, provided Cleveland build a new stadium and drop its litigation. It’s the first time that has happened in NFL history, and it hasn’t happened since.

We’re closing in on the 20-year anniversary of that fateful day known simply as “The Move.” And, if you would have told fans back then that not only would the Browns be back, but playing in a new stadium by Lake Erie, we would have been ecstatic.

Of course, if you would have added on that the team was an absolute joke in the NFL – and, by and large, has been ever since the NFL saw fit to grant us an expansion team in 1999 – how excited would you have been about it? My guess is, probably not.

Would you have wanted to fight harder so the franchise wouldn’t leave at all, knowing that the NFL would cut corners in granting the expansion team and with the building of the new stadium? Or that the expansion draft would be full of castoffs and bums? Or that they’d give the franchise to Modell’s former silent partner Al Lerner, who would turn the franchise over to Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark – the latter who was ill-prepared to be an NFL general manager?

It was one bad domino after another from that moment 20 years ago. Add in the fact that the newly-christened Baltimore Ravens would not only reach, but win two Super Bowls during that time span just makes it worse.

Today, the current Browns are 2-6 and are undergoing more turmoil than ever. A new owner is in town from Tennessee, who was promptly indicted on federal charges of embezzlement over rebates to his trucking customers at Pilot/Flying J. That new owner has already fired two coaches, two GMs and two team presidents since he came to town just before the 2011 season and it looks like that list will grow to three coaches and three GMs when it’s all said and done. The continuity is gone and the franchise is in a perpetual state of rebuilding and “five-year plans” that never seem to come to fruition. It always seems like the head coach and GM are never on the same page and they continue to try to put square pegs in round holes when it comes to evaluating and adding talent.

The Browns have hired coaches with NFL experience, college experience, hot-shot coordinators on the offensive and defensive side, brought in the hot-shot GM candidate with the supposed “eye for talent,” brought in the respected former NFL guru to run the show as the team president, and even brought back guys who used to work for the franchise in different capacities before – but nothing has worked. NOTHING!

And, while Modell wound up going bankrupt anyway because he was a shoddy businessman both before and after he left Cleveland and his family wound up losing their beloved franchise that he felt he had to move in order to save, that franchise has been one of the model NFL franchises over the last 15 years. They’ve had one GM and two head coaches since 1999. Do we really need to recount how many of each the Browns have had during that span?

This is why, 20 years later, The Move still stings. It still cuts to the core. It still hurts. It’s also why I will always hate the Baltimore Ravens and why I will argue any chance Modell has to get in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s also why I find it funny that Baltimore fans will condescendingly tell Browns fans to “get over it,” but yet they still hate the Colts and the Irsay family and still pine for the days when their football team had white helmets with blue horseshoes on them and not black helmets with a bird.

In the span of one week 20 years ago, Cleveland lost a World Series and a storied NFL franchise, and I don’t think we’ve ever fully recovered from that.

Sure, Cleveland underwent a renaissance of sorts with the building of Jacobs (Progressive) Field and Gund (Quicken Loans) Arena, and the Indians were one of the best franchises in baseball from 1994-2001. But they never could deliver that World Championship, were sold to a local owner in 2000 who ran out of money and have been run on a shoe-string budget ever since – every winning season becomes few and far between while the front office talks about things like “bottom lines” and “Snow Days” instead of wins. Now, they can’t draw fleas despite the fact that they’ve been remotely competitive for the past three seasons, even hosting a Wild Card game in 2013.

The Cavs were an afterthought in the 90s until a set of ping-pong balls bounced their way in 2003 that allowed them to draft local high school sensation LeBron James with the first-overall pick. James took the Cavs to their first NBA Finals in 2007, where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs, then suffered three straight postseason letdowns before James decided to embarrass the city on national TV by announcing he was signing with Miami Heat. After four miserable years of James winning two NBA titles and finishing the runner-up in two more, he decided to come back to the Cavs last season. Now, suddenly, the Cavs are once again one of the premier teams in the NBA, having reached the NBA Finals last season,  and have the best shot of ending that championship drought that will pass 51 years on Dec. 28.

The Cleveland Browns scoreboard, located behind the dawg pound, dipslays a message thanking the fans after the final home game at Browns Stadium 17 December against the Cininnati Bengals. (Photo credit KIMBERLY BARTH/AFP/Getty Images
The Cleveland Browns scoreboard, located behind the dawg pound, dipslays a message thanking the fans after the final home game at Browns Stadium 17 December against the Cininnati Bengals. (Photo credit KIMBERLY BARTH/AFP/Getty Images

And the Browns … well, that 1995 season that started with such promise – Sports Illustrated and several other national publications predicted that they would win the Super Bowl – wound up being a disaster. They only won one more game after The Move was announced, an emotional 26-10 win over the Bengals in the final game ever played at the old Stadium. Because it was blacked out, I listened to that game on the radio with my late-mother and, after that game ended, we both sobbed.

The final game of that season was held on Christmas Eve in Jacksonville. Almost fittingly, the game was lost on the final play on a Mike Hollis field goal. An expansion team literally kicked the Browns out of the NFL for three years with a 24-21 defeat. Little did we know that the way that ’95 season ended – completed with the last-second heartbreak – would serve as a mere appetizer for the way things have been here since 1999.

Hopefully the next 20 years in Cleveland sports history are better than the past 20 years have been. We can wish and hope, can’t we?

Until next time, remember that Cleveland Rocks and always will!

Excruciating Losses Continue To Haunt The Browns

One thing about the Cleveland Browns – since they’ve returned in 1999, they’ve found more inventive and heart-breaking ways to lose games than any other NFL team.

 Josh Lambo #2 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates with his teammates after hitting the game winning field goal.(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Josh Lambo #2 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates with his teammates after hitting the game winning field goal.(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Last Sunday’s last-second 30-27 loss by the Browns to the San Diego Chargers was the latest in a long line of “Only In Cleveland” improbable losses.

After the Browns tied the game with 2:09 remaining on a Josh McCown touchdown pass to Gary Barnidge and subsequent two-point conversion pass from McCown to Taylor Gabriel, the Chargers – missing three starting offensive linemen and with just two healthy wide receivers – drove down to the Browns 21 in eight plays, going 57 yards. Rookie kicker Josh Lambo lined up for a game-winning 39-yard field goal attempt with two seconds left and kicked it wide right. However, the Browns’ Tramon Williams jumped offside, giving Lambo and the Chargers one last chance five yards closer.

This time, and with no time on the clock, Lambo delivered from 34 yards out, giving San Diego an improbable win that dropped the Browns to 1-3.

Andrew Clayman from the site Waiting For Next Year compiled a list of all 41 instances in which the Browns had defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in the final minute since the franchise returned in 1999. Whatever you do, avoid being around sharp objects or listening to songs from The Cure while reading this article ( because chances are good you may feel suicidal when you are done.

What I’ve decided to do is take that list of 41 and whittle it down to the 10 most memorable (or most heartbreaking) of those last-second losses. The more unique the circumstance, the better chance it got on the list. I did not include the Browns’ 36-33 loss in the 2002 playoffs to the Pittsburgh Steelers because I wanted to limit it to regular season games (and, also, because that game is still a sore subject).

Because it’s so new, I did not include Sunday’s loss in this list. Instead, and because I feel like torturing myself and you, I found 10 others. Enjoy.

10. Dec. 2, 2007: Cardinals 27, Browns 21 – Nowadays, there is no such thing as a force out – defenders can shove a receiver out of bounds on a catch and, as long as his feet don’t touch inbounds, it’s considered an incomplete pass. But back in 2007, defenders weren’t allowed to do this maneuver. This came into question on the last play of this late-season game in Glendale. Derek Anderson, who threw for 304 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, took over at his own 18 with 1:48 remaining and began to put together a nice drive. The Browns drove to the Arizona 37 with 22 seconds left, but Anderson threw three straight incomplete passes. On fourth-and-10 with six seconds left, Anderson found tight end Kellen Winslow in the left corner of the end zone, but Winslow was shoved out of bounds before he could get his feet in. The play was not overturned by a replay review, and, in a season in which the Browns just missed the playoffs despite a 10-6 record, this loss loomed large.

9. Nov. 14, 2010: Jets 26, Browns 20 (OT) – The Browns were surging under rookie quarterback Colt McCoy after he engineered two shocking upsets over the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots. Playing with confidence in a charged up stadium that booed the returning Braylon Edwards every time a pass was thrown his way, the Browns forced overtime when McCoy found Mohamed Massaquoi for a 3-yard touchdown with 44 seconds remaining. In overtime, a Chansi Stuckey fumble at the Jets 30 after a long completion prevented the Browns from attempting a potential game-winning field goal. And, an interception by rookie Joe Haden at the 3 with 1:35 left appeared to seal a tie game. But, in typical Browns fashion, they wound up punting the ball back to the Jets, who took over at their own 37 with no timeouts and 24 seconds left. On the first play, Sanchez found Ohio State product Santonio Holmes, who broke an Eric Wright tackle and ran into the end zone for a walkoff touchdown. The Browns wound up going 5-11 and Mangini was fired.

8. Sept. 23, 2007: Raiders 26, Browns 24 – Another narrow loss in the 2007 season that loomed large because the Browns came up an eyelash short of a playoff berth. The Raiders, quarterbacked by Josh McCown – yes, THAT Josh McCown – jumped out to a 16-0 first half lead before Anderson and the Browns came battling back. A 21-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards in the third quarter gave the Browns a 17-16 lead, and a 1-yard sneak from Anderson with 3:33 left cut the deficit to 26-24. Getting the ball back at their own 9 with no timeouts and 1:04 left, Anderson drove the Browns into field goal range on a 13-yard completion to Joe Jurevicius with 3 seconds left. As Phil Dawson kicked a 40-yard game-winning field goal, rookie head coach Lane Kiffin called timeout just before the ball was snapped. Having to re-do it, Dawson’s second attempt was blocked by Oakland’s Tommy Kelly.

7. Sept. 29, 2002: Steelers 16, Browns 13 (OT) – The Browns went 0-3 against the Steelers in this playoff season, with all three losses coming by three points apiece. Other than the playoff defeat, this one was probably the most bizarre. At Heinz Field, Tommy Maddux relieved an ineffective Kordell Stewart in the fourth quarter and found Plaxico Burress for a game-tying 10-yard touchdown pass with 2:05 remaining to send the game into overtime. After Andra Davis intercepted Maddux on the first play of overtime at the Steelers 34, Dawson missed a game-winning 45-yard field goal. Given new life, Maddux and the Steelers drove inside the Browns’ 10-yard line. Pittsburgh elected to try to kick a game-winning 24-yard field goal on second down – remember that, folks. However, Todd Peterson’s kick was blocked by Alvin McKinley. Peterson recovered the kick, and his fumble was pounced on by Steelers lineman John Fiala. Because the kick did not cross the line of scrimmage, and because the kick didn’t occur on fourth down, the Steelers got another chance. This time, Peterson kicked a 31-yard field goal to give the bad guys the win.

Quarterback Tim Couch #2 of the Cleveland Browns passes against the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 10, 1999. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images
Quarterback Tim Couch #2 of the Cleveland Browns passes against the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 10, 1999. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

6. Oct. 10, 1999: Bengals 18, Browns 17 – In the 1999 NFL Draft, the two quarterbacks the Browns were torn over for the first pick were Tim Couch out of Kentucky and Akili Smith out of Oregon. Both QBs were photographed together wearing Browns jerseys with John “Big Dawg” Thompson for the cover of Sports Illustrated. Couch wound up being the pick and Smith wound up being taken third-overall by the rival Cincinnati Bengals. Both quarterbacks didn’t amount to much in the NFL, but Smith’s career was more miserable than Couch’s. However, for one afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium, Smith showed up Couch and the Browns’ braintrust who passed on him. On a day when rookie kicker Dawson scored the first – and only – rushing touchdown of his career, and the first rushing touchdown of the season for the Browns, the young hosts clung to a 17-12 lead late in the game. Smith took over at his own 20 with two timeouts and 2:04 remaining and drove his team down to the Browns’ 2 thanks to a 9-yard pass to Darnay Scott on fourth down and a pass interference penalty on Corey Fuller at the 2. On third down and with nine seconds on the clock, Smith found Carl Pickens on a fade route to rob the expansion Browns of their first win of the season. Smith only finished with five TD passes in his career and only won three games in four years, adding insult in injury.

5. Dec. 8, 2013: Patriots 27, Browns 26 – The Browns really had no business being in this game. But, thanks to receiver Josh Gordon’s 151 receiving yards and quarterback Jason Campbell – who wasn’t cleared to start until two days prior to kickoff – and his 391 passing yards and 3 touchdowns, Cleveland led throughout and took a 26-14 lead with 2:39 left on a four-yard pass from Campbell to tight end Jordan Cameron. At that point, the Patriots’ win probability was 0.1 percent. But that doesn’t factor in the team they were playing. Tom Brady threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman with 1:01 remaining to cut the deficit to 26-21. An unnecessary roughness penalty on Jordan Poyer on the touchdown allowed the Patriots to kickoff 15 yards closer than normal. Then, Fozzy Whitaker fumbled the ensuing onside kick, which was recovered by kicker Stephen Gostkowski at the Cleveland 30. A pass interference penalty on rookie Leon McFadden in the end zone put the ball on the 1, where Brady found Danny Amendola for what turned out to be the improbable game-winning touchdown with 31 seconds remaining. Amazingly, the Browns had a chance to win on the last play of the game. But Billy Cundiff’s 58-yard field goal fell just short.

4. Nov. 4, 2001: Bears 27, Browns 21 (OT) – After winning just five games in the two previous years, the Browns were 4-2 under first-year coach Butch Davis heading into this showdown at Soldier Field. And, a 25-yard fumble recovery by former No. 1 overall pick Courtney Brown just 55 seconds into the game gave the Browns an early 7-0 lead. A 55-yard touchdown pass from Couch to Kevin Johnson late in the third quarter gave the Browns a 21-7 lead, and, with less than a minute remaining, that lead appeared to be safe. But that’s when things got really weird. Bears quarterback Shane Matthews, the regular backup, found Marty Booker on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 28 seconds left to cut the deficit to 21-14. Then, Chicago recovered an onside kick at the Browns 47. After two short completions, Matthews flung a Hail Mary pass that was tipped in the air and caught in the back of the end zone by running back James Allen for a stunning 34-yard touchdown with no time remaining. Then, before anyone realized what was truly happening, the game was over. After the Browns stopped the Bears in overtime, a Couch pass on their third offensive play was batted at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by safety Mike Brown, who returned the gift 23 yards for a game-winning touchdown.

3.  Nov. 22, 2009: Lions 38, Browns 37 – Former first-round pick Brady Quinn had, by far, his best game as a pro on this afternoon at Ford Field, throwing for 304 yards with four touchdowns. It was a shootout with rookie top-overall pick Matthew Stafford, who wound up throwing for 422 yards and five touchdowns. The Browns blew a 24-3 first-quarter lead, but a two-yard touchdown pass to backup tight end Michael Gaines – and a two-point conversion from Jamal Lewis – gave Cleveland a 37-31 lead with five minutes remaining. A Brodney Pool interception in the end zone with 3:40 remaining appeared to be enough to get the Browns just their second win of the season, and, when Detroit got the ball back, it had to drive 88 yards in 1:46 without any timeouts. With eight seconds left and the ball on the Cleveland 32, Stafford threw a Hail Mary into the end zone that was picked off by Pool with no time on the clock. However, officials flagged Hank Poteat for pass interference – officials rarely flag defenders for interference on a jump ball, but they did on this day. Because coach Eric Mangini called a timeout, Stafford – who separated his shoulder on the throw – was able to reenter the game and find Brandon Pettigrew for the game-winning touchdown. Typical Browns.

2. Sept. 8, 2002: Chiefs 40, Browns 39 – Browns backup quarterback Kelly Holcomb, starting for an injured Couch, burst on the scene with a 329-yard, three-touchdown performance in the season opener. Holcomb completed 27-of-39 passes in his first start as a Brown, and the Browns threw four touchdown passes in the game (one from receiver Kevin Johnson). A 41-yard field goal from Dawson with 29 seconds remaining appeared to give the Browns a wild 39-37 win. However, as Trent Green tried to throw a Hail Mary pass with no time remaining, linebacker Dwayne Rudd got to him and appeared to sack him. Green was able to pitch the ball to lineman John Tait just before he went down, but that didn’t stop Rudd from running to midfield and flinging his helmet off in celebration. In the meantime, the 320-pound Tait was rumbling down the sideline, and the officials flagged Rudd for unsportsmanlike conduct for removing his helmet on the field of play. That gave the Chiefs one last play with no time remaining, and veteran Morten Andersen made a 30-yard field goal to give the visitors an improbable win. Rudd will always be remembered in Cleveland for this boneheaded maneuver.

1. Dec. 16, 2001: Jaguars 15, Browns 10 – This game will forever be known simply as “Bottlegate.”

Bottles and debris litter the field at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, as frustrated Brown fans defy a referee call during the Cleveland Browns-Jacksonville Jaguars NFL game 16 December, 2001. (Photo credit DAVID MAXWELL/AFP/Getty Images)
Bottles and debris litter the field at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, as frustrated Brown fans defy a referee call during the Cleveland Browns-Jacksonville Jaguars NFL game 16 December, 2001. (Photo credit DAVID MAXWELL/AFP/Getty Images)

Trailing by five with under a minute to go, Couch drove the Browns deep into Jacksonville territory. Believe it not, the 6-6 Browns still had a chance to make the playoffs, but needed a win. On fourth-and-2 from the Jacksonville 10, Couch connected with Quincy Morgan for three yards and a first down. After Couch spiked the ball to stop the clock on first down, referee Terry McAuley decided to have another look at the Morgan catch – which is forbidden by NFL rules. When McAuley decided to reverse the catch, giving Jacksonville possession with no timeouts remaining, confused and angry Browns fans decided to let the refs know they weren’t happy by throwing whatever they had available onto the playing field. That was mostly hundreds of plastic beer bottles that were, at the time, served at the games. McAuley further broke more NFL rules by deciding to call the game with 48 seconds remaining, but was forced to return to the field, along with both teams, to run two more plays 30 minutes after the game was initially called. The riot from fans makes this one more memorable, but overshadows the fact that McAuley and his officials broke an NFL rule. The Browns wound up finishing 7-9. It’s still the only time that play has been reviewed after another play had already been run.

As you can see, the Browns found 10 very inventive ways to lose a game in this list. It’s not uncommon for a franchise to fall victim to one of these types of losses. Maybe two or three. But 10? And when you realize this is only the tip of the 41 last-second loss iceberg, it only gets more nauseating. I don’t know what forces are at work when it comes to the Cleveland Browns, but I think they’ve made their point by now, don’t you?

Until next time, remember that Cleveland Rocks!

Browns Bring Home A Complete Victory

Well, that one certainly went better than expected.

Not many people expected the Cleveland Browns to win Sunday’s home opener against the Tennessee Titans. There were a few you didn’t expect the Browns to even be COMPETITIVE, especially when starting quarterback Josh McCown wasn’t cleared from the NFL’s concussion protocol by Friday.

That meant that beleaguered second-year quarterback Johnny Manziel – he of the dismal two starts as a rookie and the stay in substance-abuse rehab this past winter and the tendonitis in his throwing elbow that had him splitting first-team reps in practice this week – was going to make his first start of the regular season. And, after an up-and-down performance in relief during the Browns’ season-opening 31-10 loss to the New York Jets last Sunday, you really didn’t know what you were going to get.

With fellow Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, who threw four touchdown passes in his first half of NFL football (which was three more than Manziel had thrown in his entire NFL career) and compiled a perfect passer rating last Sunday, coming to town with the 1-0 Tennessee Titans, the story line looked to be how much better one Heisman winner would be than the other.

Well, not many people – except maybe the most diehard of “Johnny Football Fan” – expected that the Heisman Trophy winner who would be better – albeit not by much – was Manziel, and that Manziel’s team would wind up higher on the scoreboard than Mariota’s. But that’s what happened.

Despite going just 8 of 15 for 157 yards, two long touchdown passes to Travis Benjamin, a defense that

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 20: Wide receiver Travis Benjamin #11 of the Cleveland Browns catches a touchdown reception during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.The Browns defeated the Titans 28-14. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 20: Wide receiver Travis Benjamin #11 of the Cleveland Browns catches a touchdown reception during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.The Browns defeated the Titans 28-14. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

sacked Mariota seven times, and a running attack that carried the ball 30 times for 116 yards was enough for Manziel and the Browns to defeat the Titans, 28-14. It was the Browns’ second-straight win in a home opener, marking the first time that had happened since 1989-90.

What happened? Well, here are a few thoughts and observations from a guy who obsesses over everything Cleveland Browns:

1.       Travis Benjamin was ‘The Man’: Benjamin came into this season with his spot on the Browns firmly on the bubble. Coming back from a torn ACL, he lost his punt returning job last season due to muffed kicks, fumbles and poor decisions. But he made enough plays during training camp and the preseason to keep his job, and, through two games, he’s made that decision a wise one. He made a great fingertip catch on the Browns’ second play from scrimmage for a 60-yard touchdown, ripped off a 78-yard punt return touchdown during the second quarter that also involved him hurdling the Titans’ punter, and improvised on a route that led to a game-clinching 50-yard touchdown catch with just under three minute remaining. Benjamin has scored four of the Browns’ five touchdowns this season and has caught every single one of Manziel’s TD passes – of 54, 60 and 50 yards, respectively. If Benjamin isn’t the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week at the very least, it’s a crime. On a team desperately seeking a playmaker, Benjamin has emerged as one through two games.

2.       Manziel looked better, but had his moments: Forgive me if I’m not one of the several in the local media who are now clamoring for the Browns to turn the quarterback job over to Manziel. While it was clearly the best game of Manziel’s young career – and a victory, to boot – it wasn’t “outstanding.” Like the Jets game and the Bills game when he made his first rookie relief appearance, Manziel came out of the gate looking great. He hit Benjamin in stride for a 60-yard touchdown pass on the second play from scrimmage, but then looked mortal. He had trouble sustaining any semblance of a long drive all game. His fumbling problems continued, putting two more on the ground that, fortunately, his linemen were able to recover. The offensive gameplan seemed very conservative – calling twice as many run plays as passes. He failed to pick up a foot on a fourth-and-short inside the red zone during the second quarter that could have put the Browns up by three scores. And, after Mariota led a fourth-quarter scoring drive that cut the deficit to seven, things didn’t look good. But Manziel ended the game like he began it, hitting Benjamin for a long touchdown pass that seemed to catch the Titans off guard. His quarterback rating of 133.9 was the highest for a Browns quarterback since Derek Anderson on Oct. 28, 2007 (140.3). The bottom line is he won, which he did for the first time in his NFL career.  But keep in mind that fans wanted the team to “Fail for Cardale” just days before this game.

3.       Mariota looked better: Mariota struggled in his second pro start. The Browns put pressure on him all game, sacking him seven times and hurrying a lot of throws. He made some head-scratching decisions at times. However, in the second half, Mariota looked like the better quarterback. He led two long touchdown drives that turned a 21-0 halftime deficit into a 21-14 deficit. And, many fans feared that Mariota would gash the suddenly tired Browns defense for a third scoring drive if Manziel couldn’t get anything going. Fortunately, Manziel and Benjamin came through, preventing the unthinkable from happening. Mariota wound up 21 of 37 for 257 yards and two touchdowns. But he tasted defeat for the first time in his young career. He’s now lost to both Ohio State and the Browns in the same calendar year, just sayin’.

4.       THAT’S our defense: The Browns came into this season expecting to be one of the NFL’s best defenses. After the hapless Jets tore them apart last week, many believed that the unit was overrated. However, for the most part Sunday, the Browns’ defense looked better than Dick LeBeau’s Titans defense. The Browns forced three turnovers and held Mariota scoreless in the first half a week after he erupted for four first-half touchdowns against the Buccaneers. They put the rookie on the ground seven times for sacks, harassed him into several hurried throws and into some mistakes that looked, dare I say it, Manziel-like. They were running out of gas in the second half, and Joe Haden was burned for a big touchdown by a rookie receiver late in the game, which was concerning. And, Dexter McCluster gashed the team for 98 rushing yards on just 10 carries. But it was a marked improvement from a week before.

5.       West isn’t the best: Terrence West was literally given away to the Titans just days after the NFL’s final cut day due to what have been called attitude problems when he was with the Browns. Everyone knew that the Browns’ leading rusher from a year ago would be licking his chops at his first crack at his former team, and would nothing more than to do well against Mike Pettine and the team’s other decision makers who cast him aside so quickly. But it turned into a forgettable game for the Towson product. West fumbled on his first carry of the game, which led to the Browns’ second touchdown (scored by Isiah Crowell, to add insult to injury), and he finished with just three carries for 10 yards. Vindication, thy name is Pettine.

6.       The kicking game looked awesome … again: Andy Lee may be one of the highest-paid punters in the NFL, and he deserves every single penny. Lee punted six times for a 53.2-yard average and put two inside the 20. He kept field position tipped in the Browns’ favor most of the day. Travis Coons didn’t attempt any field goals, but converted all three of his 33-yard extra points. And, Benjamin’s punt-return touchdown and 154 return yards certainly didn’t help a banner day for the special teams.

7.       Feed The Crow: There were questions about Crowell heading into the season, and the second-year man out of Alabama State did little to answer those questions last Sunday. However, against the Titans, Crowell gained a team-best 72 yards on 15 carries (4.8 average) with a touchdown. His 15-yard run from the 20 on the first play following the Titans’ fourth quarter touchdown may have helped set up the big 50-yard touchdown pass six plays later.

It always feels good to be a fan after a victory Sunday. All of those “Fail for Cardale” cries and the fears of an 0-16 season are a distant memory. A lot of what was concerning last week was rectified this week. With an Oakland Raiders team coming to town riding high on their upset of the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, next Sunday’s game won’t be easy. Expect a week full of quarterback questions – with McCown expected to come off the NFL’s concussion protocol, the annual Browns QB controversy is about to return. Does McCown get his job back, or do the Browns give Manziel another look? We’ll see, but you already feel more optimistic about our chances next week no matter what the answer is.

New Season But Same Old Browns

Coming into Sunday’s opener against the New York Jets, the Cleveland Browns were hit with all kinds of media distractions … then played like a team that had to deal with those distractions.

From trading Terrance West and Billy Winn for conditional late-round draft picks to the whole Terrelle Pryor saga (keeping him over the clubhouse popular Josh Lenz and then cutting him for injured running back Robert Turbin) to the suspension of offensive line coach Andy Moeller over a domestic violence incident to the road-rage incident from maligned second-year cornerback Justin Gilbert – and that doesn’t even include the fact that general manager Ray Farmer began his league-imposed four-game suspension for texting coaches during games last season – the Browns were in the news for all the wrong reasons this past week.

All of that intensified following a dismal 31-10 loss to the Jets at MetLife Stadium – the Browns’ 11th

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 13: Travis Benjamin #11 of the Cleveland Browns is congratulated by teammate Joel Bitonio #75 after he caught a touchdown pass during the second quarter of a game at MetLife Stadium on September 13, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won 31-10. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – SEPTEMBER 13: Travis Benjamin #11 of the Cleveland Browns is congratulated by teammate Joel Bitonio #75 after he caught a touchdown pass during the second quarter of a game at MetLife Stadium on September 13, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won 31-10. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

straight loss on opening day and dropping them to 1-16 in openers since they returned in 1999. And, despite playing with a backup quarterback who spent most of his offseason in substance-abuse rehab in Johnny Manziel, the Browns actually led 10-7 midway through the second quarter and looked like the better team up to that point.

But the wheels came off in a hurry, and when they did, the game tilted decidedly to the Jets’ favor. And let’s not forget the Jets went 4-12 last season, were being coached by a first-time head coach in Todd Bowles and playing with supposed backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. It was the Jets who looked like the team that went 7-9 last season while the Browns looked like the perennial 4-12 team they were before last season.

What happened? Well, here are a few thoughts and observations from a guy who obsesses over everything Cleveland Browns:

1.       The Browns missed Josh McCown: McCown, the 36-year-old veteran journeyman signed to replace Brian Hoyer in the offseason, looked more like the guy who stood out for the Bears two years ago and not the guy who struggled for the Buccaneers last season in his only drive with the Browns. McCown drove the Browns 90 yards in 17 plays, completing 5-of-8 passes for 49 yards, and melted almost 10 minutes off the clock before disaster struck. On a third-and-goal play, McCown took off toward the end zone and attempted to dive in for a touchdown. However, he was hit by two Jet defenders, was helicoptered and fumbled the ball just before he crossed the plane. He was taken to the locker room for concussion protocol and was ruled out for the game. I will not fault McCown for trying for the touchdown – had he slid down at the 2, I’m sure all the Manziel-honks would have been screaming about how he should have went for the touchdown and how they need to take him out. He’s a competitive player and that’s what competitive players do. Unfortunately, it not only cost the Browns a touchdown, but cost them their starting quarterback. While Manziel did OK in relief, one could imagine how much better the Browns’ offense would have looked with the steady McCown under center, considering how well he moved the team in his only possession.

2.       Manziel faded fast: Those who know me know that I’m one of the biggest Manziel critics in Cleveland. And his play Sunday did little to make me ease up on that criticism. Sure, he came in and hit Travis Benjamin for a big 54-yard touchdown pass – the first of his career – and then led another scoring drive. However, Manziel quickly reverted to the guy we saw flounder in two starts against the Bengals and Panthers last year. He threw a costly interception on the first possession of the second half, which was turned into a Jets’ touchdown and helped switch momentum firmly to the hosts. He later lost two key fumbles on two ill-advised scrambles and took some big hits. The stats look decent – 13-of-24 for 182 yards and 35 more on five carries – but Manziel looked like a guy who is too small and too undisciplined to be a standout NFL quarterback. If anything, he did little to answer the questions folks may have had after his dismal rookie season and looks more like yet another first-round Browns quarterback bust than the potential savior. Some, like the Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot, tried to use his lack of first-team reps as an excuse, but I refuse to do that. I’d rather see Austin Davis next week if McCown isn’t cleared.

3.       Running struggles: The Browns were a team that wanted to rely on the running game on offense and felt they would be better at stopping the run after the drafting of Danny Shelton in the first round last April, among other free agent signing. Instead, the run defense looked like the 32nd-ranked unit from last season, getting gashed by Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell en route to 154 yards allowed on the ground. And the Browns’ rushing offense? When your top two ground gainers are quarterbacks, that is inexcusable. Isaiah Crowell only averaged 1.7 yards-per-carry, which will not fly out of a No. 1 running back, and backups Duke Johnson and Shaun Draughn only had eight carries for 26 yards combined. If this running game is non-existent and we’re relying on McCown, Manziel or Davis to win games with their arms, it’s gonna be a long season.

4.       Where’s the line?: Maybe getting their position coach suspended just days before the season opener led to their struggles. But the offensive line was dominated by the Jets’ defensive front all day long. Right guard John Greco was lost due to injury, pushing rookie first-rounder Cameron Erving into action, but the line struggled before this happened. Many false start and holding penalties did little to offset their struggles. Both McCown and Manziel had to run more than they intended due to the poor protection provided. For a line that boasts two perennial Pro Bowlers, three first-round picks (including Erving) and two second-rounders, including an All-Rookie selection, this performance is unacceptable.

5.       Haden Island: Joe Haden has a reputation as one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks and has become a perennial Pro Bowler. However, the taller Brandon Marshall – a receiver viewed on the downside of his career – abused Haden all game long Sunday. The touchdown reception by Marshall over Haden was the highlight play. The secondary, as a whole, struggled mightily. Even when things went right, like Tashaun Gipson’s interception, it turned into a negative when Gipson allowed himself to get stripped by Marshall. The Browns defense allowed four touchdowns to the Jets. Imagine what a team with a good offense could do against them – scary thought. Titans’ rookie QB Marcus Mariota, who torched Tampa Bay for four first-half touchdown passes, is probably licking his chops for next Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

6.       The kicking game looked awesome: If there ever was a bright spot from Sunday’s game, it is Browns veteran punter Andy Lee and rookie kicker Travis Coons. Coons’ first NFL point was the league’s longest extra point ever – 48 yards – thanks to two stupid penalties and he later drilled a 26-yard field goal. Lee, obtained for a seventh-round choice from the 49ers, only punted twice, but averaged 60.5 yards on the two kicks. The guy will likely be the AFC Pro Bowl punter this year, so at least the Browns will have one Pro Bowler this year.

7.       Coach ‘em up: Mike Pettine blamed himself and his coaching staff for the loss following the game, and he won’t find many people disagreeing with him. The Browns looked undisciplined thanks to 12 penalties for 109 yards and four lost fumbles and five total turnovers. You can’t blame the officiating for these penalties – the Browns made mistake after mistake after mistake. They looked unorganized at times. The defense was atrocious and the offense wasn’t much better. The Jets looked like the better coached team, and that’s just sad. Their decision to roll with two QBs almost bit them in the butt on Sunday – Manziel took some tough shots, and that’s to be expected for the remainder of his career. I respect Pettine greatly and believe he is the man to coach this team over the hump. However, he and his coaches need to do a better job if they want to hold on to their jobs.

Hopefully, the week leading into the home opener against the Titans will not be rife with off-the-field distractions, but I doubt it. With McCown hurt, the QB controversy questions won’t go away, and surely the focus will go to veteran receiver Dwayne Bowe, who was deactivated for Sunday’s game and leaving a unit heavy on possession receivers to try to make plays against the Jets. Unlike last year’s season opener, which was a loss to the hated Steelers but included a dramatic second-half turnaround, there is not much optimism going forward