Banishing the Demons

The Browns put the past behind them thanks to a smothering defense and an opportunistic offense on Sunday, as the Browns stunned the Baltimore Ravens 20-3. Dave Carducci talks to game heroes Kenard Lang, Jeff Garcia, and Quincy Morgan to get their perspective on the Browns impressive victory...

CLEVELAND - Forget about the helmet throw, all the last-second field goals and the blowouts that spoiled five straight season openers at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Erase the memory of Jamal Lewis' emasculating 295 and 205-yard rushing performances against the Browns last season.

The Browns exorcised all those hellish demons Sunday afternoon by opening the 2004 season with a 20-3 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

"What we did a year ago, two years ago, three years ago really does not matter," said Butch Davis, who had lost three straight home, season openers as the Browns head coach. "It is all about the immediate present."

And in the immediate present, the Browns are 1-0 for the first time since their return to the NFL in 1999. For a team that hadn't won a season opener since 1994 and a home opener since 1995, Sunday was a game to savor. Even more satisfying was a defensive effort that held Lewis to a measly 57 yards on 20 carries.

"Last year he had two big games against us," said Browns cornerback Daylon McCutcheon. "We just took it to heart and we came out prepared to do anything to stop the run or the pass."

To stop the run, the Browns shuffled defensive players in and out of the game, keeping the 11 on the field fresh and ready to swarm and gang tackle the Ravens Pro Bowl running back.

Lewis could tell right from the first play that he was in for a far more difficult afternoon.

"They are a different team, and of course they were not going to let us come in and do what we did last time," said Lewis. "We played the same game as last time - They played good defense."

To stop the pass, the Browns took advantage of the absence of another Baltimore Pro Bowl talent - left tackle Jonathan Ogden, who sat out with a knee injury.

Kenard Lang made life miserable for Ogden's replacement, Ethan Brooks, beating the over-matched backup for three sacks of Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller.

On the second of back-to-back sacks late in the fourth quarter, Lang stripped the ball from Boller, causing a fumble deep in Baltimore territory that sealed the Browns win.

"I saw him as I came around the corner, and as soon as he put the ball up I thought 'oh, my goodness," said Lang. "I swatted at it and when we got the ball I thought, 'I'm so happy because I'm dog tired."

Boller had a long day, and not just because Lang spent a big chunk of the game in the Baltimore backfield. The second-year quarterback often looked like he was in over his head, especially on passes that were intercepted by Anthony Henry and Andra Davis.

The Ravens never mounted a significant threat with Boller at the helm, scoring only on a 42-yard field goal by Matt Stover that didn't seem like much after taking over a third-quarter drive near midfield.

Boller completed 22-of-38 passes for 191 of the Ravens 254 yards of total offense, and most of those numbers were piled up late in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided.

"The way our defense played was inspiring," said right tackle Ryan Tucker. "We are lucky they played the way they did, because it took us a little while to get going on offense."

The re-vamped Browns offense spent the better part of three quarters spinning their wheels before rookie tight end Kellen Winslow provided just the spark a team wants from a highly-touted No. 1 pick.

Jeff Garcia struggled in most of his Cleveland debut, but when he saw Winslow break into the open for a 21-yard seam pass, it was like a switch suddenly turned on for the veteran quarterback.

Two plays after hitting Winslow at the Ravens 47, Garcia connected with a starting wide receiver for the first time all day, finding Quincy Morgan wide open behind the Ravens defense for a 46 yard touchdown and a 10-3 lead with just 24 seconds to play in the third quarter.

"I told myself all off season to stay in every play and not drift around," said Morgan. "Now, we have Jeff at quarterback, and he is going to find the receivers because he can scramble around."

A pump fake by Garcia enticed Ravens safety Ed Reed to jump Morgan's short slant route. When Reed bit, Morgan took off for the Baltimore goal line.

"I think that happened because of where I had been going with many of my throws," said Garcia. "They were all short - and they started to look at my eyes and react to those short throws, hopefully trying to make a play."

Another pump fake by Garcia in the fourth quarter set up what should have been the longest touchdown pass in Browns history. Andre Davis had five steps on the nearest Ravens defender as he pulled in a perfectly-thrown deep ball from Garcia, but he stumbled and fell, as he crossed midfield, turning a sure 93-yard touchdown into a mere 51-yard gain.

"That would have been nice," said Davis. "I guess a sniper must have got me. But at least we scored. That's what matters."

The big play set up a 25-yard field goal by Dawson that gave the Browns their first two-possession lead.

Garcia finished his first regular-season game in a Cleveland uniform with 180 yards on 15-for-24 passing. He also sealed the victory with 4:20 remaining on a 3-yard touchdown run, seizing the opportunity provided by Lang's fourth-quarter forced fumble.

"For me, I talked about it all off-season as far as this being a rebirth for me," said Garcia. "It was so exciting for me to step out on the field today and represent the Cleveland Browns."

For Garcia's new teammates, who had never enjoyed an opening-day win in Cleveland, Sunday was even more exciting.

"This was huge," said McCutcheon. "It sets the tone for the rest of the season. It was a huge first step for us."

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