CLEVELAND — Nobody even tried to hide from the reality. The Cleveland Browns were ineffective and inefficient for 57 minutes Sunday, their quarterback even saying they played "like garbage" and their coach saying they had a "freighter-load" of mistakes.
But when it mattered most, the same quarterback, the same coach and the same bumbling team came through in the best of ways, and the Browns moved to 2-1 for the first time since 2001 with a 17-16 win over the Miami Dolphins.
"I think," coach Pat Shurmur said, "the message for any player is just hang in there — because you're going to get your opportunities all the way to the final gun."
After playing poorly all game, the Browns put things together in the final 3:23. Colt McCoy led the Browns on a 13-play, 80-yard drive that ended with his picture-perfect 14-yard touchdown to Mohamed Massaquoi with 43 seconds left.
"I can't explain it," Shurmur said, "other than the fact I'm glad it happened."
The Browns then overcame 30 yards in penalties on the ensuing kickoff — one a bizarre celebration penalty when Ben Watson went to the ground to hug Massaquoi — and forced three incompletions and an interception that sealed the win.
Prior to that drive, the Dolphins had outgained the Browns 369-200 and held the ball for almost 40 minutes. But the Browns played the final three minutes light years better.
It all started when the Browns took over at their 20 with 3:23 to go.
What did Shurmur tell McCoy on the sideline?
"Get us in the end zone," Shurmur said.
What did McCoy say on the sidelines? According to wide receiver Josh Cribbs, it was: "Look, we're going to drive it all the way down the field, and we're going to celebrate at the end."
What right did McCoy have to say that, given he was a very subpar 10-for-26 for 135 yards to that point? He had no right, really — except a belief in himself and his team, and the fact that there was time left on the clock.
"You just step in the huddle and you have confidence in all of the guys that are in there, and they have confidence in me, and then we just go play," McCoy said.
On first down, McCoy threw to Massaquoi for 12 yards — the first reception by a wideout all game other than Cribbs. He followed with completions to Greg Little for five and nine yards.
Another pass to Little was good for a first down, but two incompletions and a short pass left the Browns with fourth-and-4. The Browns called a play they had run unsuccessfully earlier in the game. Montario Hardesty — subbing for Peyton Hillis (strep throat) — was the primary receiver.
McCoy saw the Dolphins blitzing up the middle and dropping Cameron Wake to cover Hardesty, so the choice was easy. Hardesty caught the ball on the run, gained 10 — and got out of bounds.
"The defensive end was behind him," McCoy said, "and it was a big play."
Two more incompletions followed, and on third down McCoy missed Cribbs streaking over the middle. McCoy said the ball sailed when someone hit his knee, but he thought Cribbs could have scored.
No matter: Jason Taylor jumped offside on the play, which turned a fourth-and-10 into a third-and-5. McCoy said that penalty was "as big as the fourth-down conversion."
"The last drive of the game, we did a couple of dumb things," said Dolphins coach Tony Sparano, whose job security has to be thinner than thin.
On third down, McCoy found Evan Moore for eight and another first down. With 48 seconds left, McCoy had completed eight of 12 and moved the Browns to the 14. There, he lined up with Massaqoui right and saw Miami in a two-deep coverage — two safeties in the middle of the field. That left the corner open, maybe.
So McCoy threw that way, except the throw had to be perfect because cornerback Jimmy Wilson was in pretty good position, in front of Massaquoi at the goal line.
But McCoy laid it into Massaquoi's hands perfectly, just over Wilson and where nobody but Massaquoi could catch it.
"That might have been my best (throw) of the day," McCoy said. "It had to be. I pumped and they were in a two-deep look, so I had to be real careful. I had to get the ball up and down. Mo did a nice job; he got that guy to bite just a little bit."
Massaquoi ran a double-move, though he declined to detail the move because the Browns might use the play again.
"He really wasn't that open," McCoy said. "But in the NFL, when it is like that you just have to make a good throw."
Nobody could explain why things started clicking on the final drive when they weren't earlier. Shurmur might have come closest when he said there's a different mentality in the two-minute offense. Miami didn't blitz a lot, but they did mix up coverages and included some tight man-to-man looks that the Browns simply beat.
"A lot of times if you go about your business and execute and stay within your game, it doesn't really matter what the other team is doing," Massaquoi said.
McCoy knows that a lot of the early part of the game will be "depressing to watch." But the ending was anything but depressing, and in the NFL all that matters is the end. Winning the way they did has to be a good thing for their coach, their team and their quarterback.
Pat McManamon appears courtesy of FoxSportsOhio.com
Browns secure win over Miami in final drive
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