The Titans scored a maddening win to win the final AFC playoff spot Cleveland could have had. Beating San Francisco, 20-7, gave the Browns a record of 10-6. They were 10-22 over Romeo Crennel’s previous two years. The Browns were 7-1 at home, a Cleveland best in the NFL’s 16-game era that began in 1978.
The hay is in the barn. The bins are so fat with harvest, it’s a wonder the siding doesn’t blow off.
Yet, there was that glaring, steaming cow pile in the middle of the floor.
It would have taken Tennessee losing at Indianapolis on Sunday night to clean it up.
That didn’t happen. The Titans scored a maddening win to win the final AFC playoff spot Cleveland could have had. Yet, now that the cleanup work must wait until 2008, there is much to take to market.
“It’s not where we wanted to be,” tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. said. “But it’s a stepping stone. We’ve grown.”
Beating San Francisco, 20-7, gave the Browns a record of 10-6. They were 10-22 over Romeo Crennel’s previous two years. The Browns were 7-1 at home, a Cleveland best in the NFL’s 16-game era that began in 1978.
“This is what I came home for,” said second-year Brown Joe Jurevicius, a native Clevelander who helped the Giants, Buccaneers and Seahawks reach Super Bowls. “The atmopshere was unbelievable.
“I’ve had as much fun as I’ve ever had.”
As winter dawns, the individual achievements are stacked like autumn straw.
The regular season ended with:
- Braylon Edwards setting franchise receiving records with 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns, including a 45-yarder Sunday.
- Jamal Lewis rushing for 1,304 yards, including 128 Sunday. Jim Brown was the last Cleveland back to surpass 1,300, in 1965.
- Tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. setting a franchise record for receiving yards by a tight end, 1,106.
- Quarterback Derek Anderson throwing his 29th touchdown pass, seven more than in Bernie Kosar’s best season. His 3,787 pasing yards are an expansion-era high by nearly 1,000 yards.
- Kicker Phil Dawson stockpiling 120 points, most by a Brown in the 16-game era.
Then there’s the kick returner. San Francisco became the first team in a while to kick and punt straight to Joshua Cribbs.
His 76-yard punt return for a touchdown got Sunday moving. A penalty on what would have been a kick-return TD seemed bogus.
Cribbs finished with superb averages of 30.7 on kick returns and 13.5 on punt returns.
“That guy is not human,” Winslow said. “He’s the best I’ve ever seen at returning ... anything.
“I wouldn’t kick it to him.”
Even the defense came around. Granted, the opponent was emergency quarterback Chris Weinke, but the 49ers gained just 185 yards. The Browns racked up 358.
“There is a momenum that continues to build,” running back Jason Wright said. “We were able to capitalize in what everybody was calling a meaningless game. It showed something about our team.”
The game meant something to Brady Quinn, who logged his first NFL series, driving the Browns to a field goal.
The win fell into place before Quinn’s cameo, when Edwards’ latest touchdown produced a 14-0 lead.
Edwards lined up left along the numbers on third and 8 from the 49ers’ 45-yard line. Nate Clements, the $80 million cornerback from Ohio State, played man coverage.
“From the numbers,” Edwards said, “we usually run corner routes. I made a stick move outside. (Clements) probably thought it was an out or a deep seven.
“I ran it to the post.”
Clements was beaten badly. Edwards scored easily. The hard part came later.
The Browns dispersed to watch the Titans-Colts game, needing a Tennessee loss to reach the playoffs.
“I’ll turn it on at 11,” Jurevicius said. “Watching the whole thing would drive me nuts.”
“Film at 11” turned into a horror story.
Fans were getting crazy about the Browns again, but what now, with no more games until September?
Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org