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Browns escape from trouble to get dramatic win

November 21, 2011
Ed Puskas , Tribune Chronicle |


CHRIS Ogbonnaya couldn't watch. The Browns running back was more than happy to let the crowd's reaction tell the story.

Colt McCoy was on one knee with his head in his hands. The Browns quarterback was at the opposite end of the field, about as far away from the final frantic plays as he could get without being in the Cleveland Browns Stadium parking lot.

McCoy hinted that he might have been calling on a higher authority as the Jacksonville Jaguars inched closer to the end zone and a possible winning touchdown.

"There's nothing wrong with praying," McCoy said.

The prayers of the Browns and their long-suffering fans were answered for once as Cleveland's defense held Jacksonville on four plays in the shadow of the end zone before escaping with a 14-10 victory Sunday.

The win wasn't secured until linebacker D'Qwell Jackson swatted away Blaine Gabbert's pass to Mike Thomas in the middle of the end zone as time ran out.

It was just another Sunday of fits, starts and high drama on the shores of Lake Erie as the Browns (4-6) tried to end a three-game losing streak. But in the typical fashion of this star-crossed franchise, nothing came easy.

"I almost had a heart attack out there," Jackson said.

He wasn't alone.

The Browns, leading 14-10, seemed poised to put the finishing touches on a victory when they lined up for a 38-yard field goal with 2:53 to play. But Phil Dawson, whose short miss punctuated a bitter defeat at the other end of Cleveland Browns Stadium after a botched snap a week ago, missed again.

Or did he? The officials ruled it no good as Dawson's high, floating kick soared somewhere above the right upright. The veteran kicker raced downfield to plead his case, and Browns coach Pat Shurmur went for his challenge flag, but the officials shot him down.

By rule, field goals and extra-point kicks are not subject to review if they pass above the height of the uprights.

So the Jaguars took over with 2:49 to play as another worst-case scenario began to take shape in the minds of Browns fans. Jacksonville almost made it happen as Gabbert led the Jaguars from their 29-yard line to a first-and-goal at the Browns' 2 with 13 seconds to play. Two penalties - an encroachment call on defensive tackle Phil Taylor on fourth-and-1 from the Browns' 34 and a pass interference call on cornerback Joe Haden moments later on third-and-10 from the 29.

The penalty on Haden gave Jacksonville (3-7) a first down at the Browns' 14 with 52 seconds to play.

This was shaping up as another excruciating defeat of the type that only happens in Cleveland.

But after an incompletion, Gabbert found Chastin West for a 9-yard gain to the 5 and then the Jaguars' hurt themselves with some curious strategy. On third-and-1, running back Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 3 yards and a first down before Taylor stopped him. Jacksonville then let another 22 seconds run off the click before the next snap -- another running play -- with 13 seconds to play. This time, Taylor and linebacker Chris Gocong stopped Jones-Drew after a 1-yard gain.

After a timeout with eight seconds to play, Haden broke up Gabbert's lob to Jason Hill in the left corner of the end zone.

That left just 3 seconds, time for only one more play. This time, it was Jackson's turn to break up a pass in the end zone as the Browns won exactly the kind of game they all too often lose.

"I honestly tried not to look," said Ogbonnaya, who rushed for a career-best 115 yards and his first NFL touchdown on 21 carries. "I tried to listen to the reaction of the crowd. On the final play, the defense held them. That's their job, to keep them out of the end zone, and they did that."

There was good reason to celebrate even beyond the game-clinching defensive stand.

The offense, which had produced just two touchdowns in the previous three games -- none in last week's 13-12 loss to the St. Louis Rams -- found the end zone twice.

Ogbonnaya scored on a 1-yard run after the Browns caught an apparent break when a pass interference call against the Jaguars was upheld. Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio challenged, arguing the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage and therefore safety Dawan Landry should not have been flagged for interference in the end zone against Ogbonnaya.

McCoy, who had earlier thrown an interception in the red zone and was battling a shoulder injury, provided the other score -- a 3-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Cribbs. McCoy rolled to his right, checked down to Joshua Cribbs and delivered a strike in the right front of the end zone. Cribbs did a nice job of getting both feet inbounds before his momentum carried him out of the end zone.

And then there was the way the defense overcame the adversity of the missed -- or not missed -- field goal.

"It doesn't matter where or when you stop them, as long as you stop them," Shurmur said.

It's the Browns. Was there ever any doubt it was going to come down the very end? The only question -- the one the Browns and their fans seem so used to now -- was Cleveland was going to lose.

But this time, the Browns found a way to win instead of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

"I was down at the far end," McCoy said. "It was a pretty good picture. I could see everything that was going on. ... As dramatic as it was, we still won. I am so thankful for those guys (on defense). They played their hearts out and we deserved this one. Our team deserved this one."



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