The only thing missing from Brian Hoyer's performance was the number 17 on his jersey.
The play of the Browns quarterback in a comeback 31-27 win over the Minnesota Vikings was reminiscent of Brian Sipe's moxie and swagger for the "Kardiac Kids" of 1980. All that was missing was the flowing hair, black moustache and groupies that used to gravitate towards Sipe.
That could change with a couple more outings similar to the 321-yard, three-touchdown effort Hoyer put forth Sunday in Minneapolis. For at least this week Hoyer might have people willing to pump gas for him at self-service pumps.
Hoyer's play was a reminder of Sipe not simply because of the game-winning drive he orchestrated that culminated with a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Cameron, but because of the three interceptions he threw. That was Sipe in all his wonderful essence. He'd break your heart with multiple interceptions (he once threw six against the Steelers), but then he'd win you over with a game-winning touchdown pass.
Hoyer was nearly perfect for most of the first half, completing touchdown passes of 47 yards to Josh Gordon and 19 yards to Cameron. His first mistake came when he didn't see Vikings defender Harrison Smith, who intercepted a pass intended for Cameron in the first half.
Hoyer was out of sync in the third quarter, resulting in interceptions by linebackers Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson. If you closed your eyes, you could almost see a Sipe pass being picked off by Steelers cornerback Mel Blount.
Then, like old number 17, Hoyer got it back just in time. On a 55-yard drive late in the fourth quarter the hometown kid from Cleveland St. Ignatius breathed some life back into a season many fans believed had been tossed in when running back Trent Richardson was traded last Wednesday.
The touchdown throw on the fade route to Cameron was placed where only Cameron could make the catch. Hoyer then played the role of holder for punter Spencer Lanning, who had to kick an important extra point because of a quadriceps injury suffered by kicker Billy Cundiff.
The biggest throw on the winning drive went for 12 yards to Gordon, whose first game back from a two-game suspension could be termed spectacular (10 receptions for 146 yards). The completion came on third-and-10.
Two plays later, Hoyer tossed a swing pass to Chris Ogbonnaya, who went 11 yards to the Vikings' 30. That was followed by a 13-yard completion to Cameron and a 7-yard toss to Gordon on a slant to the 7.
This was all being done with former starting quarterback Brandon Weeden standing on the sideline in street clothes and wearing a headset. "Forlorn" wouldn't accurately describe the look on Weeden's face. It was more a look of resignation that Hoyer will remain the starter.
There's no way coach Rob Chudzinski can go back to Weeden, who could be available this week after missing the start with a sprained right thumb. All indications pointed to the belief that Chudzinski wasn't considering Weeden an option next week, healthy or not.
Hoyer brings a winning feel that permeates throughout the team. Not just the offense, but each of the other 52 players. The offensive line, which was so bad in the first two games, suddenly pass protected better. The receivers suddenly appeared to get more separation.
Equally as important was that the defense, which looks legit, didn't fold on a couple of late Minnesota possessions. There was a reason to get the Vikings off the field, and it was the belief that Hoyer might make it worthwhile.
Weeden doesn't bring that confidence level to the table. It might happen at some point in the future, but perhaps with another team.
For now it's Hoyer's offense to run, just like it was for Sipe when he replaced Mike Phipps in 1976.