By Rich Passan
OK, it's confession time.
How many of you out there really, really felt as though the Browns would somehow find a way to lose that game Sunday in Green Bay?
C'mon now, hands up. Get 'em up real high.
Don't see many of them.
You mean to tell me that you didn't worry when the Browns' defense offered little or no resistance against the Packers in the second half?
Or when the Packers converted six straight third downs in the final 30 minutes to leave the Cleveland defense hanging on for dear life?
Sure, Trent Dilfer brought his big-play arsenal along. But when the Browns went up, 19-7, at the end of the third quarter, surely some of you had to wonder how they were going to screw this one up.
After all, the Browns have lost games in uniquely bizarre fashion over the last six years. And even though this is a new regime, maybe there are still remnants of that black cloud hovering over this franchise.
Games that appeared headed for victory in the recent past somehow got knocked off course and wound up in the wrong column through some weird set of circumstances.
Even Romeo Crennel thought so. "This is the NFL," he said after the game. "You always worry that something's going to happen."
See. Even the coach thought something could go wrong.
So when Dilfer hooked up with Braylon Edwards on that 80-yard beauty against a Green Bay blitz to make it 19-7 and the Packers came back with a field goal, you didn't worry just a little bit?
It's OK to admit it since the Browns ultimately won. There's no shame in that. Even the truest of fans understand that sinking feeling.
You mean you didn't worry when the Browns' secondary, which played well early, went soft as frozen custard? Or when the non-existent pass rush remained in that state, you weren't the least bit concerned?
Then how about when Phil Dawson's extra-point-attempt after the Edwards touchdown was blocked? Did the pessimist in you envision a one-point loss?
C'mon, it's all right to confess now.
Well, you certainly had to sweat just a little when the Browns went three and out for the first time all afternoon after the Packers climbed to within 19-10.
But when Kyle Richardson parked the Packers in the shadow of their goalpost, the sweat didn't exactly evaporate, did it? Ten minutes remained in the game. Way too much time for something to go wrong.
And when Brett Favre drove the Packers 96 yards to make it 19-17, converting three third downs along the way, your greatest fears must have resurfaced.
Still nearly four minutes left. The last series resulted in a three and out. Had the offense begun to slide or was that series an aberration? You certainly had to wonder.
And when Dilfer collaborated with Steve Heiden on a 62-yard scoring play against another Packers blitz, you were looking for a penalty flag, weren't you? You know you did because you're used to seeing yellow laundry wipe out good plays by the Browns.
You looked and all the flags were in their proper places, the officials' pockets. Holy cow!! Was this really the Browns?
Could this really be happening?
There was still a buck fifty left on the clock, though. Plenty of time for something to go wrong. After all, this was Green Bay, Brett Favre, Lambeau Field, all that tradition, that winning tradition.
Browns fans have become so inured with unhappy endings, they almost expect the worst even when victory appears assured. So don't feel bad for feeling that way.
What would go wrong this time? What could possibly go wrong?
Here comes Favre, slicing right through that soft Cleveland defense. Clock can't move fast enough, you thought. Hurry before something bad happens.
Hey, didn't Antonio Chatmon drop that pass? That ball hit the ground, you screamed at your television set. It sure did. They called it a catch. Where's the review? C'mon replay booth, you implored silently.
Good. The booth called for a review. They'll reverse this for sure, you thought. What's taking the referee so long?
What!! He called that a completed pass? No way. The officials, you think and believe, are against the Browns.
By now, you had to be flop sweating, especially after Terence Murphy scored with 14 seconds left. Wait. Two flags. Both against the Browns, you probably thought.
Maybe, just maybe, they'll win this one. But Tony Fisher scored with four seconds remaining to make it a two-point game.
Damn. And you thought bad thoughts again.
Onside kick, they recover, Favre throws a Hail Mary, the Browns get called for pass interference and Ryan Longwell kicks a game-winning field goal with no time left.
When Brodney Pool hugged the onside kick, you finally calmed down.
So after all that, you mean to say you didn't worry at all?
Neither did I. Bring on the Colts.