For a year, the Browns have heard national commentators bring up the subject over and over.
"Jamal Lewis ran for over 500 yards in two games." "Jamal Lewis ran for over 500 yards in two games." "Jamal Lewis ran for over 500 yards in two games." "Jamal Lewis ran for over 500 yards in two games."
Now, it's 2004. And Jamal Lewis did not run for 295 yards. Or 205. Or 100.
The Browns beat the Ravens today through their defense, special teams, and the occasional long pass.
With Browns linebackers swarming all over Lewis, and the defensive line taking advantage of the absence of All-Pro left tackle Jonathon Ogden, Lewis was limited to 57 yards on 20 carries. Kenard Lang enjoyed the respite from Ogden, sacking Kyle Boller three times.
After being ineffective on both the ground and the air in the first half, Browns QB Jeff Garcia found Quincy Morgan behind the Ravens secondary with second left in the third quarter. The 46-yard touchdown strike put the Browns up 10-3.
Trailing by a touchdown, and with Jamal Lewis limited to barely over three yards a carry, pressure was placed on second-year QB Kyle Boller to carry the Ravens offense.
Boller wasn't up to the challenge.
The young Ravens QB's key mistake came early in the fourth quarter as he attempted to throw long to Kevin Johnson. The Ravens WR, released last year by the Browns, was matched step-for-step by Anthony Henry, who was in better position and picked off the ball, falling to the ground at the Browns seven.
Garcia struck back through the air quickly, finding Andre Davis five steps beyond the Ravens defensive secondary, hitting the fleet WR with a 51- yard pass. Only Davis' stumbling as he caught the ball allowed the Ravens to get bring down Davis. A short time later, Phil Dawson converted a 25-yard field goal to put the Browns ahead 13-3.
With the Ravens behind by two scores, the Browns defensive line was then freed to go after Kyle Boller. Kenard Lang's final sack of the day ripped the ball from the hands of Kyle Boller giving the Browns the ball back on the Ravens six yard line.
Following two runs by William Green, Garcia faked the handoff to the Browns tailback and ran a bootleg to the right side, squeezing into the end zone for the Browns second touchdown of the day. The Browns quarterback finished 15-24 for 180 yards and no interceptions.
A key element of the Browns victory, particularly in the first half, was the superior play of the special teams unit, which made few mistakes and was able to take advantage of the mistakes made by the Ravens return teams. With neither offense effective in the first, the Browns were able to stay out of field position trouble until the Browns offense was able to start clicking in the second half.
The Ravens probably regret choosing Dave Zastudil over Derrick Frost. The Browns punter, who was in training camp last year with the Ravens, clearly outclassed his counterpart, helping the Browns stay close.
Even though the Browns running attack was nothing like the team hopes it will be when Suggs returns, and the Browns face less capable defensive opponents, the Browns made key plays when they had to, and bottled up their demon from 2003.
With every big play, and with ever bone-jarring tackle of the Ravens running back, last year's abysmal campaign seemed further and further away.
With each roar from the Cleveland Browns Stadium crowd, the team's poor performance at home (particularly in openers) seemed to matter less and less.
As the game came to a close with the Browns dominating on the scoreboard, and fists pumped the air on the field and in the stands, the Cleveland Browns and their fans sent a clear message to both national and local pundits predicting doom and gloom in 2004.
We are the Cleveland Browns, the message went, and your predictions mean nothing.
Final Score: Browns 20, Ravens 3.