The numbing sensation you feel right now is either the cold or the losing.
The San Diego Chargers used opportunistic offense, a tough running attack, and several fortunate officiating calls to shut down the Cleveland Browns 21-0 at a cold and snowy Cleveland Browns Stadium this afternoon.
The teams are mirror images of each other. The game marked the Chargers eighth win in a row (11-3), as well as the eighth loss in a row for the Browns (3-11). The Browns will joust for the second selection in the 2004 draft as they go to Miami to face the 2-12 Dolphins next Sunday.
Perhaps nothing demonstrates the differing fates of the two clubs than the backgrounds of the Chargers two key offensive players. LaDanian Tomlinson, passed over in the 2001 draft for Gerard Warren, cruised to 111 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The Chargers third touchdown was on a 74-yard reception by Antonio Gates, a Kent State basketball star that the Browns decided wasn't worthy of a look-see as an undrafted free agent.
The Chargers head coach, of course, is Marty Schottenheimer, whose 1980s teams are the closest Cleveland has ever gotten to a Super Bowl. The Chargers offensive line is bookended by LT Roman Oben (an ex-Brown) an RT Shane Olivea (an OSU Buckeye picked up for a seventh round pick).
That's the crew that won the AFC West today, and is heading to the playoffs.
If you need to take a break right now for extra-strength pain killer, hard liquor, or a home cranial lobotomy, feel free to do so.
Perhaps you can save the lobotomies for the tooth-capped morons on the TV networks who are piling on the Browns right now. The difference might not be noticeable, however.
For those of you who enjoy dwelling in the team's nostalgic attempt to re-live the 2000 season, you can revel in the statistical oddities showing up for this Browns team. For example, Adimchinobe Echemandu, a seventh-round pick who threw an incomplete pass today, yet achieved a higher passer rating (39.6) than fellow rookie Luke McCown (37.3). Or how the Browns lost to a team who, discounting a 72-yard strike to an uncovered Antonio Gates, managed only 10 net yards passing.
The Browns had an opportunity to put the Chargers on their heels early, as Drayton Florence muffed Derrick Frost's initial punt, which was covered by Browns DB Dyshod Carter on the Chargers five-yard-line. The Browns blew an opportunity to capitalize, thanks to an interception by Donnie Edwards in the Browns end zone.
On the ensuring drive, LB Sherrod Coates nullified a defensive stop by being called for roughing the kicker on the Chargers punt. Given a second chance, Tomlinson reeled off 31 yards on two successive carries en route to a one-yard touchdown run with two minutes left in the first quarter. The Chargers added Gates' long-touchdown in the second and another one-yard TD run by Tomlinson early in the third quarter to finish off the Browns.
Offensively, the Browns sole bright spot was the running of Lee Suggs, who has been out for several weeks due to problems with his toe. Suggs romped for 105 yards on a day when neither team was able to throw the ball effectively.