EDITOR'S NOTE: It's
Tim Couch took a step towards immortality in the annals of Cleveland Browns football history Sunday by rallying his team not only from a 14-point deficit for the second year in a row at Tennessee, but for doing so while under the heavy spotlight of public scrutiny.
Couch not only slammed the door on fishhead critics, he sealed up the doorframe with brick and mortar. Clearly, this team belongs to Timothy Scott Couch. His courage, sweat and blood were the price.
How he plays this Sunday at
The Browns, thanks to scheduling quirks, have the opportunity to forge a 3-game lead in the AFC North by beating the Steelers. If they can pull off the upset, it would take another monumental collapse for the Browns not to win the division.
The Judas-goat degenerates who thought coach Butch Davis wrong for benching backup Kelly were shamefaced this week. They'll meekly seek room on the bandwagon. Swine! Ye of little faith, back off. Couch closed the door on critics. Will he open it for opportunity?
His wide receivers, if they continue their stellar play for a fourth consecutive week, will give the
A victory on the strength of Couch's battered arm will elevate him into the national spotlight.
If the Steelers tumble again, they're done. The Browns' scheduled lightens a bit with home games against the Ravens and Texans in a span of three weeks. It's almost too good to think about, so let's get back to bragging about the quarterback.
Couch is making a habit of rallying his team in very tough situations. Last year, he pulled out victories over
Although the season situation was not nearly as critical, Couch's effort Sunday was very reminiscent of perhaps the greatest rally in team history – the 23-20 double-overtime playoff victory against the New York Jets in 1986. That was a win-or-go-home game, and the Browns trailed by 10 with about four minutest left. Bernie Kosar rallied the team to tie before a Mark Moseley straight-on style field goal won the game and turned old Municipal Stadium into a madhouse.
Other rallies come to mind … Vinny Testaverde at Los Angeles in 1993, when he pitched the ball to Eric Metcalf for the winning score … Mike Pagel's overtime fake field goal pass to Van Waiters against the Vikings in 1989 …Don Strock against Houston in the 1988 season finale with a Wild Card berth on the line … Mike Tomczak tossing a scoring pass to Scott Galbraith as timed expired at New England in 1992 (Huh? Where'd that one come from?).
All this history talk has me thinking. After three weeks of the 2002 season, veteran Browns watchers are quickly beginning to see shades of a different era of team history.
Uh, oh. The light's hit me. For better or worse, the 2002 Cleveland Browns are the Kardiac Kids, V. 2.0.
Strap your helmet on (and leave it on!), and grab a six-pack because this promises to be a wild ride.
See you in
GUS WATCH: Capping off an excellent and most satisfying weekend of football was the ESPN matchup of the Atlanta Falcons and the Gus Frerotte-led Cincinnati Bengals. Truly Must-See TV. I'd hoped to make this spot a weekly roundup of Gusicle's Gaffes, but he was benched after starting the game by going 0-7 passing with an interception. The almost-equally goofy Jon Kitna took over, and finished with a pedestrian 136 yards on 18-of-36 passing. Of course, he was also intercepted in the 30-3 defeat. I can't recall who said it, or wrote it, but in the preseason someone said the Browns were not even the best team in
THOUGHTS OF THE WEEK: Am I wrong, or does
Here's my report card:
They let Couch throw. They showed faith in Fumblin' Willie. They didn't castrate Diamond Dennis Northcutt. Patience and trust. Called a ballsy reverse onsides kick. Won two challenges when most needed. ‘Nuff said.
Only the boneheaded second-quarter attempt to force a pass to a double-covered Kevin Johnson lowered this grade, and then only slightly. Under siege behind a sagging offensive line all day, Couch stood in there like a man and took a pounding yet never wavered. Any doubts about his ailing right arm were erased with a career-high 50 pass attempts and 36 completions. In three drives running the 2-minute offense, the Kentucky Wonder connected on 18 passes in 22 attempts, including a trio of touchdowns, for nearly 200 yards. More than enough to get me my first victory in my other Yahoo fantasy football league, and that's really all that matters, right?
RUNNING BACKS: D+
Things ain't so hot down in Dogpatch. Ol' Willie G. can't seem to hang onto the dang ball. Team's got too much invested in him to not play him. Yet Jamel White shows a burst every game. White did it again in crunch-time Sunday. Something has to be done. I certainly don't have the answers. It's far too early to call Green a bust. Every NFL veteran says they eventually reached a point that first season where the light finally went on. They played instead of thinking. Willie is thinking. And it's still pretty dark in William Green's world. When the switch is flipped, people will forget those fumbles. If only the fans could show the patience of Davis and Co. Besides, this team doesn't need to run the ball
WIDE RECEIVERS: A
Remember when we all complained the Browns were silly for taking wide receivers with their No. 2 pick in the last four college drafts? Perhaps we'd best shut our pie holes now. Three out of four ain't bad. Kevin Johnson, Andre Davis, Quincy Morgan (and Dennis Northcutt!) have put on a helluva show. The Stillers can't be too thrilled at the thought of this Wild Bunch riding into town Sunday. They all seem to be on the same page as Couch, and that's made all the difference in the world. Couch has the weapons, they've got their quarterback. Bruce Arians, take this Porsche out of the garage Sunday.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C-
A difficult unit to grade. The team is biding its time until center Dave Wohlabaugh and right tackle Ryan Tucker are healthy. In the meantime, the team's done a nice job with its protection scheme to mask the deficiencies that the subs don't yet have the experience to make up for. If Tucker and Wohly can't go Sunday, it will take a max effort to keep Couch alive because the Steelers will be coming. Against
DEFENSIVE LINE: B
Any time you limit Eddie George to under 60 yards rushing, it's a victory. Even hobbled, George is dangerous and has made a feast of the Browns in the past. Not Sunday. He did score, but that came after a turnover on a short field. No sacks, but the line did pressure
DEFENSIVE BACKS: B
The Titans' wide receivers just didn't want to catch the ball in the first half. Even when erratic McNair's passes were on target, the wideouts seemed more concerned as to where the Browns' corners and safeties were. McNair completed just 15-of-23 passes for 107 yards. Robert Griffith is not-so-quietly amassing another Pro Bowl season. He hits somethin' fierce, I tell ya. Smart, too. Thane Gash ain't got nothin' on him! Hell, after watching the Buckeyes' corners look mystified and stupid against the Bearcats, anything would be an improvement on Sunday.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Mr. Automatic had his streak of 21 consecutive field goals made come to a screeching halt with a wide-right effort Sunday. Phil Dawson should be P-O'd at the coaching staff for asking him to try it. The team just didn't seem to have the emotion or momentum at that moment. There are Greater Forces at work on NFL Sundays, and it's silly for the team to challenge them. Case in point: the onsides kick. That was a tidbit from the Football Gods, who finally quit chuckling over Rudd's Dud in Week No. 1. Northcutt muffed a punt that the Titans recovered inside the 10 inside the fourth quarter, and the gaffe nearly cost the Browns the game. Yikes.
Doc Gonzo is a former Ohio newspaper reporter and editor that lived for several years in that Xanadu known as Pittsburgh while an elementary school pupil, where he learned such vernacular oddities as "gumband" and "worsh." He now lives in