This team was sailing into uncharted waters after a shocking 51-45 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2.
The Browns scoring 51 points? Based on recent history, that was akin to Rosie O'Donnell winning Miss Congeniality at a beauty pageant or Simon Cowell sparing someone's feelings.
It wasn't supposed to happen.
But the lesson learned on that Sunday was that the Browns had indeed blossomed offensively. A superior line, the unveiling of quarterback Derek Anderson's upside, the bulldozing of back Jamal Lewis, and the unquestioned talent of receivers Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards all added up to a coming-out party for the offense.
It was apparent that the Raiders were going to have their hands full. After all, the Browns had scored 41 points by the end of the third quarter against Cincinnati. That was four more than they had tallied during the last four games of the 2006 season combined. But new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski was a bit leery.
"(Oakland) has an excellent defense," he told the News-Herald. "They're stout up front. They get great pass rush and push out of their front four. They've been able to stop the run. They put an extra guy in the box, and they are outstanding outside at corner.
"They can cover guys man-to-man all over the field. It's going to be a heck of a challenge for us offensively to match up and be able to execute against that kind of defense."
The Browns' defense? That was another matter entirely. They had shown no signs of improvement on that side of the ball, entering Week 3 at or near the bottom of the NFL statistically in yielding yards, first downs, passing touchdowns, passing yards and points.
The secondary had been particularly porous, surrendering eight aerial scores in the first two games. Rookie cornerback Eric Wright had already allowed two to the Steelers' Hines Ward and another to the Bengals' T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
"It's never understandable to give up that many points, that many yards," complained Browns coach Romeo Crennel to the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. "That being said, (Cincinnati and first-week opponent Pittsburgh) have been able to put up at least 30 points a game on us the last couple years.
"I'm not justifying it by any means, shape, fashion of form. We've got to play a lot better on defense if we're going to win games."
They didn't play a lot better on defense against Oakland. And they didn't win the game.
Phil Dawson approached the ball. He booted it long and straight. It flew through the uprights and the Browns had won.
Or had they? Nope. Oakland coach Lane Kiffin had called a timeout a split second before the ball was snapped.
The strategy to frustrate the kicker and his teammates paid off. Dawson's next attempt was blocked by Tommy Kelly, the Raiders had snapped an 11-game losing streak with a 26-24 victory, and the youngest coach in the NFL had secured his first win.
Kiffin figured turnabout was fair play, though the other team in question was the Broncos. Denver coach Mike Shanahan had pulled the same trick on Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski the week before. Janikowski also kicked a field goal that would have been a game-winner, but didn't count because Shanahan too had called timeout. The Raiders placekicker then missed the next one, resulting in a defeat.
Dawson now knew how Janikowski felt.
Last-second heroics would not have been required had the Browns not yielded 396 yards of total offense and fallen behind 16-0 late in the second quarter. They did get a kick-start on a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Josh Cribbs, then added a Dawson field goal with 11 seconds remaining in the first half to chop their deficit to 16-10.
They took their momentum and ran with it to open the second half. A 21-yard scoring strike from Anderson to Edwards handed the Browns a 17-16 lead, but punishing Oakland back LaMont Jordan scored on a 1-yard run to put his team ahead and a Janikowski field goal stretched it to 26-17.
The Browns had plenty of fight left. Anderson matched Jordan's 1-yard touchdown run with 3:33 remaining in the game. The defense held, then Anderson drove his team from its own 9-yard-line to the Oakland 23. That's where Dawson and Kiffin played the main characters in the last-second drama.
One could say the game was won and lost at that point. But if the Browns had done a better job running the ball and containing Jordan, who finished with 121 yards on the ground, the plane ride home would have been quite a bit more pleasant.
Then again, the plane ride home would have been a blast if Kiffin hadn't called timeout and Dawson's first field goal attempt had counted.
In fact, he did think it counted, even after it flew through the uprights
"I actually didn't hear the timeout or the whistle," Dawson told the Associated Press. "I thought we had won the game. They did a god job of waiting until the last second to call the timeout."
While the Browns lamented the loss, the Raiders celebrated a rare victory.
"They don't ask you how you get them done, they just ask did you," Oakland veteran defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "We're a ballclub that is trying to learn how to win. Last week (against Denver) we took a step closer and this week got over the hump."
The Browns appeared to have gotten over the hump themselves against Cincinnati. That's one reason why the defeat was quite disappointing to Crennel. He was not upset because the victory had been snatched away from he and his team in the last moment. He was more upset, simply, because the Browns didn't play well offensively or defensively.
"Offensively, we couldn't get untracked," he said. "Defensively, we couldn't stop them. They threw it, they ran it. We couldn't stop the run no matter what front we happened to be in. We were out of position a lot."
That proved beneficial to Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper, who shared the quarterback duties for the Raiders. Though only McCown threw a touchdown pass, both had success through the air against the Browns. And bruising running back LaMont Jordan supplemented the passing game with a tremendous performance on the ground.
All in all, it's not what Browns linebacker Kamerion Wimbley had in mind when he prepared to help his team improve defensively in Week 3. The pass defense was weak, but the run defense was downright porous.
"Our plan was to build a wall against LaMont," Wimbley told the News-Herald. "He's a great running back who's doing very well this year, and we didn't execute our game plan."
There would be another game plan every week. And eventually, at least on offense, the Browns would start getting it right.