CLEVELAND - So far so good in 2006, as the Browns are undefeated in the New Year.
With a lot more going on off of the field than the game, the Browns were able to overcome a slow start and finish the season on a positive note with a come from behind 20-16 win over the Ravens to close out Romeo Crennel's first season at the helm at 6-10.
"I told the team this was the last game of the 2005 season, but we won our first game in 2006," Crennel said. "That's what we're working for and I feel we're heading in the right direction."
With rumors swirling of the departure of General Manager Phil Savage, the Browns were able to overcome a 13-0 deficit and rally for a 20-16 win and avoid a winless record within the division.
Brian Russell's second interception of the game with a minute to play sealed the win as the Browns held off the Ravens.
The Ravens put 13 points up in the second quarter before the Browns were able to get on the board on a 21-yard field goal by Phil Dawson.
The Ravens got on the board first on a 21-yard field goal by former Browns kicker Matt Stover with 14:21 to make it 3-0. The big play was a 31-yard pass from Kyle Boller to Derrick Mason that took the ball to the Browns' five.
After the kickoff, Terrell Suggs beat Paul Irons and hit Charlie Frye's arm as he was trying to throw and Tommy Polley intercepted the ball at the Browns' nine. The Ravens couldn't get a touchdown and settled for a field goal try, but a bad snap aborted the attempt and the Browns dodged a bullet.
The Ravens got the ball back and added another field goal, this time from 43-yards out by Stover to make it 6-0 with 8:16 left in the second quarter.
The Browns finally got a little offense going late in the first half but settled for a 21-yard field goal by Phil Dawson to make it 13-3 with 2:43 to play. The Browns got their first first downs as they went nine plays and 66 yards in 4:18. Frye was 5-of-7 for 64 yards on the drive and he hit Antonio Bryant on two passes for 37 yards, including a 26-yarder.
Near the end of the first half, Russell made his third interception of the season and returned it 37 yards to the Browns' 42 to thwart a possible Ravens' score. Frye moved the team down to the 21 and Dawson kicked a 39-yard field goal to end the first half and make it 13-6 at the half.
Stover added another field goal from 31-yards out to make it 16-6 at 8:35 of the third quarter after an Ed Reed interception.
The turning point of the game might have been when Joshua Cribbs returned the ensuing kickoff 54 yards after the kickoff, but fumbled it and Sean Jones picked it up and advanced the ball 11 more yards to the Ravens' 24. After Frye hit Bryant on an 18-yard slant, Frye found Bryant for the touchdown from six-yards out for the score to make it 16-13 with 7:27 left in the third quarter.
After an intentional grounding by Kyle Boller on pressure from Kenard Lang, the Ravens punted and Dennis Northcutt returned it 62-yards for a touchdown to give the Browns their first lead of the game at 20-13 with 6:05 left in the third quarter. Northcutt appeared to be trapped, but reversed his field and had good blocks by several Browns to spring him.
Phil's Century Mark: K Phil Dawson hit 100 points on the season with two field goals and two PAT's to tie his career high. He had 100 points in two other seasons.
Return Day: Two of the big plays that brought the Browns back were returns by Cribbs and Northcutt. Cribbs had a 54-yard return on a kickoff that set up a touchdown and Northcutt had a 62-yard return for a touchdown. Cribbs had five returns for a 25.6 average and Northcutt had six returns for a 15.2 avergae. Northcutt's touchdown was the third of his career on punts.
Frye Day: QB Charlie Frye was 22-of-38 for 199 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked four times. He had a 16-yard scramble for a first down on the Browns scoring drive just prior to the half.
Go to Guy: RB Reuben Droughns came into the game needing 15 carries to match Jim Brown for the most rushing attempts in a season at 305. Droughns had 19 rushes for 40 yards and finished the season with 1,232 yards on 306 carries.
Antonio's Day: WR Antonio Bryant needed 114 yards receiving to reach the 1,000-yard mark. He had nine receptions for 123 yards, including a touchdown. He finished with 69 receptions for 1,009 yards. He is the fifth receiver in Browns' history to reach 1,000 yards. RB Reuben Droughns and Bryant teamed to be only the third pair in team history to accomplish the feat. RB Leroy Kelly and WR Paul Warfield accomplished the feat as did TE Ozzie Newsome and RB Mike Pruitt. It was Bryant's fourth career 100-yard game.
Not a Challenge: Crennel hasn't been very successful on challenging replays. In essence, the Browns lost two timeouts on one play on a pass ruled incomplete to Bryant. Crennel called timeout and then challenged the call. The officials upheld the call and the Browns were charged with their second timeout. The Browns had just one timeout left with over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Some Play: With the Browns driving in the third quarter, Frye overthrew Dennis Northcutt and S Ed Reed picked it off. On the return, Reed tossed the ball to CB Samari Rolle, who it turn pitched it to S Chad Williams, who looked as though he fumbled the ball and OL Joe Andruzzi recovered it for the Browns. However, the official ruled that Williams was down by contact and Crennel's challenge was negated.
Iron Man: Rookie TE Paul Irons caught his first NFL pass in the first quarter for a two-yard gain. Irons caught a 14-yard reception later.
Thompson Attack: LB Chaun Thompson had a big sack on Boller on a blitz up the middle. Thompson had nine tackles, including the sack. LB Andra Davis led the team with 11 tackles. DL Orpheus Roye had the Browns other sack.
Back to the Future: The Browns looked as though they were picking up where they left off last week against Pittsburgh in their ineptitude on offense. Against the Steelers, the Browns had one yard in the first quarter. They had minus two yards late in the first quarter against the Ravens and ended up with nine for the quarter. They did not have a first down until 6:54 to play in the first half when Frye hit Bryant for 11 yards.