Two 3-11 teams with little at stake beyond draft day positioning clashed in Miami on Sunday night, with the Dolphins getting the win thanks to a 51-yard field goal by kicker Olinde Mare with seven seconds left in the game.
While Miami plays somewhat more-inspired football under interim head coach Jim Bates, the Browns continued their 2004 death spiral, losing their 12th game, and ninth game in a row. The team's offense, manned by rookie Luke McCown, continued to sputter as the season winds down.
Head Coach Terry Robiskie, having suffered through McCown's struggles against the Patriots and Chargers, kept the Browns on a very conservative offensive course, handing the ball off a team-record 38 times to running back Lee Suggs. Suggs managed to churn for 138 yards against the Dolphins, but also was responsible for a key fumble at the Dolphins two-yard line with 10:29 remaining in the second quarter.
Robiskie's conservative strategy worked, for the most part, as the Browns and Dolphins matched up evenly on the scoreboard (until the waning seconds) and statistically (the Browns gained five yards more than the Dolphins 285-280).
Unfortunately, the Browns running attack wasn't able to overcome the team's four turnovers, as Luke McCown threw two interceptions to go with his running back's two fumbles. The Browns starting running back was also unable to break any long runs as the Dolphins began stacking up against the run and limited Suggs' longest run to 13 yards.
The loss, however, moves the Browns upward in the draft order. Miami was previously perched at the #2 slot, but back-to-back wins moves the Browns into position to draft second. The Browns trail the 2-14 San Francisco 49ers for the first draft pick, and head to Houston next weekend. The 49ers travel to New England to face the Patriots.
More coverage (photo galleries, stats, etc) coming tonight and tomorrow morning...