Browns-Raiders: Special Teams Special

The Browns special teams made key contributions throughout the team's victory over Oakland. Fred Greetham looks at the difference made by the group of often-unheralded players...

BEREA – It was three special plays that ignited the Browns in their quest for a comeback against the Raiders. All of them came from the special teams play.

After the game, the players said that coach Romeo Crennel challenged the return teams to come up big.

And they did.

Trailing 14-0, Josh Cribbs was sprung down the sideline and looked as though he had returned the kickoff 97 yards for the score, but it was ruled he had stepped out of bounds at the Raiders' 32. The Browns got their first score on the drive as Phil Dawson kicked a 28-yard field goal. Cribbs' return was officially credited as 65 yards.

The play seemed to give the Browns the spark they needed and they scored 17 of their 24 points after long returns.

"The special teams made a big contribution in the win and helped us with the field position in the game," Crennel said. "Our guys did their job. We blocked well and ran well."

On the next kickoff, Cribbs went 53 yards to the Oakland 43, where the kicker, Sebastian Janikowski tackled him. The Browns turned that return into a touchdown by Darnell Dinkins from three-yards out from Charlie Frye to make it 21-10.

Dennis Northcutt returned a punt 58 yards in the third quarter and was stopped by punter Shane Lechler at the Oakland 17. That return led to the game-winning touchdown from Frye to Joe Jurevicius from five yards out to make the score 24-21.

All in all, the Browns had 217 yards in punt and kickoff returns. They had four kickoff returns for 144 yards and three punt returns for 73 yards. Cribbs led with 118 yards on two kick returns for a 59 yard averaged and Northcutt had all 73 yards on the punt returns with a 24.3 yard average.

Other than the returns, punter Dave Zastudil had just two opportunities and averaged 39.5 yards. More importantly, he pinned the Raiders back to their 10-yard line on one of them.

Phil Dawson had two chances on field goals. He missed the first one from 48 yards out, but connected on a 28-yarder in the second quarter, which was the difference in the final score.

Mason Unck led the special teams with two tackles, including a big hit on Chris Carr on the second punt.

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