It was supposed to be the game that brought the upstart Browns back to Earth. The Oakland Raiders, armed with a punishing pass rush, a mobile quarterback, and talented skill players, looked like more than the Browns could handle. Perhaps most important, the Raiders were coming off a bitter defeat to the mutually-hated Denver Broncos. The Oakland Raiders were talented, experienced, and pissed off.
Maybe too pissed off. On the second play from scrimmage, Tim Couch drops back and zips a quick 17 yard completion to Darrin Chiaverini. A full three seconds later, notorious DE Regan Upshaw and DT mainstay Darrell Russell crash into Couch, sending the second-year QB to the turf. Couch is out cold. It takes the Browns medical crew 10 minutes to revive Tim and help him off the field after the late hit. Upshaw and Russell are off the field a lot quicker than that, booted by the refs for the most blatant late shot since Charles Martin tipped Jim McMahon on his ear in 1986.
In a surprise move, rookie QB Spurgon Wynn trots onto the field. With the Oakland defensive front weakened by the double ejection, Wynn guides the Browns on the first of several long TD drives. Amazingly, Palmer doesn't call a single pass play. Rhett and Prentice combine for 73 yards on the drive. Three series later, the Browns are up 17-0 and the Oakland defensive backfield is fast asleep. Charles Woodson practices Heisman Trophy poses while Marquez Pope dreams up new ways to sabotage his understudy, Johnnie Harris.
And then, Palmer pulls the trigger. First and 10 from the Browns 13 yard line, Wynn drops back and rifles a pass 93 yards through the air to a waiting David Patten in the end zone. The ball is thrown so hard that it creates a sonic boom that deafens Charles Woodson and shatters the glass windows in Al Davis' luxury box. Patten nearly dislocates two fingers catching the ball and plays the rest of the game with his right hand heavily taped. Exasperated, Raiders coach Jon Gruden resorts to his trademark bug-eyed look, frightening children and prompting TV color commentators to make nervous jokes.
Things are even worse for the Raiders on offense. QB Rich Gannon may be yesterday's darling, but today he's just Rich Gannon. Most of his passes are off target, and the rest are dropped by first-round bust TE Ricky Dudley. By the third quarter, Gannon is gone, lost to a hamstring pull during an ill-advised scramble that loses 22 yards. Enter Bobby Hoying. For the second time in two weeks, the Browns feast on a former Ohio State QB. McCutcheon gets two picks, Fuller one. Even alleged ballhawk Percy Ellsworth gets in on the act, nabbing a wobbly goblin at the Oakland 30 that he runs back for a quick TD.
The fourth quarter has hardly begun, but the Raiders already trail by 150 points. The coliseum crowd consists of exactly six guys in Halloween masks drinking brake fluid and throwing military surplus hand grenades into the end zone. The Goodyear Blimp is seen sinking into the bay, punctured by gunfire from the upper deck seats. The teams play on at the far end of the field as local National Guard units fire tear gas grenades and rubber bullets at the Raider faithful.
Across the country, a light bulb goes on for XFL kingpin Vince McMahon. A quick ten minute cell phone call later, and the deal is done. The Oakland Raiders jump leagues and emerge as the flagship franchise of the new XFL football league. The mid-game defection forces a merciful end to the game. Three days later, Browns on-again, off-again DT Bill Duff is seen trying out for the XFL Raiders club.
Final score? Browns 238, Raiders -27
And that's the way I see it. GMD