The Browns on Sunday will try to do something they have rarely done since their rebirth in the NFL in 1999 -- win back to back games at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The Browns are 15-35 at home, including one loss and one victory this season. Since 2000, only two teams have not had at least one winning season at home -- the Browns and the Houston Texans, and the Texans didn't start playing until 2002. Cleveland will attempt to escape that club when it plays Detroit this week.
Struggling at home has resulted in ambivalent fan support. Fans start leaving in the middle of the third quarter if the Browns are behind, and often they are not in their seats when the game begins.
Players notice a difference. They were in Baltimore last week and at times the Ravens crowd was so loud Trent Dilfer had difficulty calling plays. The opposing quarterback in Cleveland isn't at the same disadvantage.
"It takes a team that performs and does things the right way to get the fans into it," Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel said. "You have to make plays. Your fans will appreciate it if you do that. Then they're on your side. If you don't perform and don't play well, then they're not on your side, even at home. It's just the nature of this business, and we have to understand that."
The Browns did win their last home game, beating the Bears 20-10 Oct. 9, but for 57 minutes, the game was boring and sloppy. The Browns rallied with two touchdowns within a 38-second span on touchdown passes from Dilfer to Antonio Bryant. By the time they rallied, many fans had left.
Former Raven Gary Baxter, now the Browns' starting right cornerback, says the fan interest exists and that Cleveland Browns Stadium is a difficult venue for visiting teams, but the problem has been by the fourth quarter hope is usually lost. Baxter said the Browns have to play hard from the beginning to keep fans in their seats and keep them screaming at the opponent.
"I got a Dawg Bone chunked at me when I was with the Ravens, so I think these fans definitely top my list of the wildest crowd," Baxter said. "It made me realize that these fans are really into the game and really love this team. I was like 'Wow, I thought the Black Hole (in Oakland) was wild.' We just have to give them reason to stay that way the whole game."