Bold Predictions: Browns vs. Ratbirds

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Add Kyle Boller's name to the long and illustrious list of quarterbacks groomed by offensive master mind Brian Billick. After Sunday's sparkling performance, Boller's name will forever be enshrined alongside such towering greats as Stoney Case, Elvis Grbac, Chris Redman, Anthony Wright, and Jeff Blake.

In fact, it was Billick's astute coaching and offensive genius that enabled the young signal caller to complete seven straight passes—two for touchdowns—in the first quarter. Never mind that those throws were completed to Browns defenders and that the two scores were actually long interception returns by Browns rookie defensive backs Chris Crocker and Michael Lehan. After all, Boller also racked up yards on the ground, managing to rush for 137 yards… in reverse.

How bad was Boller? So bad, that in less than two quarters of play Boller managed to eclipse every milestone of futility and failure established by Raven quarterbacks since Billick's arrival in 1999. And that's saying something. Lowest QB rating? Check. Most INTs? Check. Most fumbles? Check. Most safeties? Check.

And yet, for some reason, Billick kept Boller in the game. As halftime approached, the rookie QB had been sacked more times in 30 minutes of play than he had all season as a senior at Cal. Billick finally got the message with just under a minute to play in the half, when Courtney Brown sprinted past a surprised Ethan Brooks, grabbed Boller by the back of the shoulder pads, and flung him backward with such force that the QB flew 15 yards through the air before landing in the end zone for a safety. The video of that sack would become the signature clip for ESPN SportsCenter, enshrined alongside the Agony of Defeat clip from ABC Sports in the memory of TV viewers.

By the time Billick finally wakes up and puts the slow-footed Chris Redman behind center, his starting QB is gone. Quit. Retired. Out of football. Years later, Boller would figure prominently in a special Sports Illustrated "Where Are They Now" feature focusing on former Ravens QBs. Clearly unhinged by his experience with the Browns defense, Boller is found by SI writers living in a cardboard box on Geary Street in San Francisco.

Offensively, the Browns take advantage of a weak Baltimore line and banged up secondary. On the third play from scrimmage, Browns center Jeff Faine plows into Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis so hard that he cracks Lewis' helmet in two. Green steps right over Lewis' inert body to race 54 yards for a touchdown.

Holcomb, meanwhile, is doing his level best to keep all his receivers happy. To open the second half, Holcomb tosses three consecutive strikes to Kevin Johnson, a pair of long outs to Quincy Morgan, and an electric end-around pitch to Dennis Northcutt that yields 30 yards. Andre Davis ends the day with seven catches, two touchdowns, and a kick return for a score. Ravens cornerback Corey Fuller is so focused on talking trash that he spends most of the game winded. On the day, Fuller gives up four long touchdowns, commits two personal fouls, and notches the obligatory pass interference penalty.

By the end of the third quarter, stadium sponsor M&T Bank is so repulsed that it rescinds its name from the stadium. Ravens owner Art Modell, desperate for cash on the eve of his departure, can't find a single, respectable corporation willing to take on the ugly, purple edifice as a marketing tool. Modell is finally forced to ink a deal with Larry Flynt, who turns the stadium into the crown jewel of his porn empire. It's a fitting end for a classy guy.

Final score?

Browns 744, Raven -21

And that's the way I see it.

GMD


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