Browns vs. Jets: Overtime Thriller
The Cleveland Browns, long-time cellar dwellers have made national waves in the past few weeks after dominating the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots. The Saints, of course, are the defending SuperBowl Champions and the Patriots at the time, were considered the best team in the NFL. So how did the Browns, who have been mostly a joke since their return to the NFL in 1999 turn their season around? It’s obviously not due to just one thing, but one big reason is Colt McCoy.
McCoy, Mike Holmgren‘s handpicked third round QB got his first start at Pittsburgh due to injuries to Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace. McCoy immediately showed incredible poise, confidence, and accuracy and while the Browns lost to the Steelers, they were certainly in the game and McCoy gave the team reason for hope. Going into the SuperDome to face the Saints, McCoy was unspectacular, but again demonstrated incredible poise. And while the defense was the story, picking Drew Brees off 4 times and returning 2 for TD’s, McCoy’s presence gave the offense just enough and he managed the game effectively enough to escape with a great win.
Then, facing his third straight SuperBowl winning QB in Tom Brady, McCoy actually outplayed the Golden Boy as the Browns manhandled the Patriots. For the first time in years, there was a real buzz around northeast Ohio going into the game against the Jets. And with all the national attention, it honestly felt like a playoff game as we approached gameday.
Then you had more subplots than I recall in any single game. We had Mangini vs. his former team who fired him. We had several former Jets going against their former team, and you had a couple former Browns going against their former team. Specifically, Braylon Edwards who was shipped out of town last year due to his constant poor play, big mouth, and divisive behavior. Braylon was sure to stir things up after the Jets squeaked out a win last week in overtime against the Lions. Almost immediately following the game, Braylon tweeted (
) directly to Cleveland fans that he would be coming back and advised fans to “get their damn popcorn ready, I’m going to put on a show”.
Braylon always likes to talk, but it would have been nice if he could have at least come up with something original. Braylon kept it going all week as he told reporters how he hated Cleveland (
) and how he wanted to dance in Mangini’s office when he was told of the trade to New York. But as we know, we should’ve expected nothing less from Edwards.
Finally, and most entertaining, we had the Ryan brothers. Rex Ryan, the Jets Head Coach and Rob Ryan, the Browns Defensive Coordinator are twin brothers whose father is the defensive legend, Buddy Ryan. The two joked back and forth all week and the highlight included Rex dressing up like Rob (
) and putting a “Bounty” on his brother’s head.
Going into the game, the Browns were yet again an underdog as they faced their 4th straight top level team, but it was evident early on that the Browns were not intimidated. From the beginning of the game, the Browns played physical, tough football and the Jets and the Browns traded blows as the Jets took a 17-14 lead into the half. Yet again, Peyton Hillis was spectacular in the first half and Colt McCoy played very good football against the incredible Jets defense.
One of the first half highlights, or lowlights depending on your perspective is when Braylon Edwards caught a short pass and was met by Sheldon Brown and then T.J. Ward and other Browns. Sheldon Brown injured his shoulder on the play and Braylon was apparently upset that he was tackled. As he got up he threw a semi-punch at Eric Wright and could be heard screaming at the injured Sheldon Brown to “Get yo ass up” (
Also of note, after the Browns opened up a 10-3 lead following a Peyton Hillis TD run, they tried to fool the Jets and attempted an onside kick. It appeared to catch everyone off-guard, including some of the Browns special teams players and it was ultimately unsuccessful.
The Jets received the ball to start the 3rd quarter and it was a LONG, ugly 3rd quarter for the Browns. The Jets drove the ball down the field, controlling the ball for 19 plays and what felt like 10 minutes. Fortunately for the Browns, however, Nick Folk missed the FG and the Jets walked away with no points to show for their efforts. Colt McCoy and the Browns then went 3 and out as the Jets made some 2nd half defensive adjustments and the Jets held the ball for a long, impressive drive yet again. The Jets would convert on a FG to bring the score to 20-13.
The Browns went 3 and out yet again, but were able to ultimately hold the Jets and get the ball back with just over 2 minutes to go. While the Browns had a chance, needing a TD with your rookie QB against the Jets defense was going to be a tall order. McCoy came through, however, driving the team down the field and eventually hooking up with Mohammed Massaquoi for a TD. During the drive McCoy made 2 incredibly gutsy throws. One where he fit a pass in between two Jets into Ben Watson. The second, McCoy went right after the great Darrelle Revis and threw a strike to Evan Moore, setting them up for the TD pass.
Both teams were content going into overtime and the Jets ran out the clock in regulation. The Jets won the coin toss and received the ball but were forced to punt. McCoy drove the Browns against the Jets defense and were on the edge of Phil Dawson‘s FG range. Just as McCoy hit Chansi Stuckey inside of FG range, Stuckey fought for extra yards and fumbled, squandering a golden opportunity.
The Browns defense played tough and came extremely close to sacking Sanchez as Shaun Rogers had a great shot at him, but he seemed to escape each and every time. Sanchez ultimately lead the Jets into FG range and gave his struggling kicker a 48 yard attempt to win the game. Folk, however, missed his 3rd FG of the day and the Browns, again, had life.
McCoy moved the ball and the Browns were yet again on the edge of FG range, but after JUST missing on a deep ball, the Browns were forced to punt it away. The Jets were backed up deep in their own territory and the Browns again just missed a sack on Sanchez. He somehow escaped almost EVERY time the Browns got a hand on him. He hit Ladanian Tomlinson for a 21 yard gain to get them out of trouble and then Sanchez connected on a pass over the middle to Dustin Keller bringing them out to midfield.
The Jets then committed a holding penalty as the clock ticked below 2 minutes. The overtime rules dictate that if there is not a winner at the end of the overtime period, the game will result in a tie. The two teams that have been so evenly matched all day, were still deadlocked and it appeared that there was a legitimate chance that it would result in a tie.
On 3rd & 14, Sanchez dropped back against a 2 man rush, threw it deep to Braylon Edwards and Joe Haden came away with an interception inside the 5. It was basically a 50/50 ball and had the same results as a great punt.
The Browns took over on their own 4 with 1:35 left. McCoy dropped back and just missed an open Ben Watson over the middle. Peyton Hillis carried the ball out over the 5 yard line on 2nd down as the clock ticked below 1 minute left. On 3rd and 8, the McCoy was forced to take their first timeout as the play didn’t make it in. As McCoy dropped back on 3rd down, he was nearly sacked by Jason Taylor which would’ve ended the game.
The Browns now needed to get off a punt out of their own endzone and stop the Jets from getting into FG range with 35 seconds left. Reggie Hodges got off a great punt, but the Jets were able to return it to the Browns 37 yard line. On the first play, Santonio Holmes beat the Browns cornerback and broke a quick slant for a touchdown with only 16 seconds left. Eric Wright, yet again, was completely dusted and this time it lead directly to a Browns loss.
It was a great effort and a hard fought game for the Browns, but I cannot comprehend why Rob Ryan had Eric Wright matched up on Santionio Holmes, the Jets best WR, all day. Wright has struggled mightily all season as he was absolutely abused by Anquan Boldin and just about every WR he faced this season. Holmes abused Wright earlier in the game as Wright was called for a pass interference play where he was beat badly. Now, with the game on the line, Wright lets Santonio Holmes waltz right into the endzone.
The Browns have made great strides over the past few weeks, but today’s game shows us that there are still some massive holes in the team. They are well coached, they’re a tough, physical team with a lot of talent, but they’re not quite good enough to make those type of mistakes and win. They had that game won a couple times and at the very least, they should’ve come away with a tie. And as bad as Eric Wright has been this year and today and on that play, I can’t put the loss entirely on his shoulders. The Browns had opportunities to win and Rob Ryan should never have put him in that position in the first place. Rob Ryan’s hand was forced, however, as Sheldon Brown was out with an injury and Brown would likely have been on Holmes if not for the injury.
I realize Ryan didn’t have his full arsenal, but after watching Eric Wright get beat like a mouthy hooker all year, you have to try something other than leaving him to cover a former SuperBowl MVP in Santonio Holmes.