Browns 33, Ravens 30 (OT)
NOVEMBER 18, 2007
M&T Bank Stadium
The Browns weren't actually all wet as they practiced for the Baltimore Ravens. They were just figuratively licking their wounds from the previous Sunday.
They did, however, need to recover from the loss at Pittsburgh that cost them a share of first place in the North Division. It wouldn't be easy. The Browns blew a significant lead in falling to the Steelers … again.
But this was no time to wallow in misery. The Browns were still 5-4 and a victory in Baltimore was imperative if they hoped to remain in the playoff chase.
The Ravens? Yeah, they needed it as well. A defeat would mean a 4-6 record and virtual elimination from the battle for a postseason berth.
Two linebackers – one from each team – understood the critical nature of the game that was to be played.
"We have a chance to really hurt Baltimore," Browns veteran Andra Davis told the News-Herald. "This is a must-win for us. We know we can win on the road. Two games we lost were by a field goal. The other one was New England. We played them the best until they played the Colts. When we go on the road, we focus. We'll be ready for this one."
Baltimore linebacker Bart Scott knew they would.
"Both teams need wins in the worst way to keep any hopes of the playoffs alive," he said. "They're a good team, and I think they gave one away last week. They should have won. They're not going to be feeling sorry for us, and we're not going to be feeling sorry for them. It's going to be two desperate teams."
The Ravens were actually more desperate than the Browns. Not only were they a game behind in the standings, but they were also scheduled to play Super Bowl contenders San Diego, New England and Indianapolis the following three weeks. A loss to Cleveland could realistically have them starting at a 4-9 record and complete oblivion.
What many looked forward to, however, was the game within the game. How would Browns quarterback Derek Anderson and running back Jamal Lewis perform against their former teammates? And would Willis McGahee show he was more than an adequate replacement for Lewis?
Anderson, Lewis, McGahee and Father Time would answer all those questions.
The Ravens and Browns both came back in this one.
The Ravens came back onto the field and the Browns came back to win.
The improbable 33-30 overtime victory came courtesy of kicker Phil Dawson's strong right leg and a dose of magic from Lady Luck.
The craziness began on the final play of regulation and Dawson attempting a 51-yard field goal with the Browns trailing, 30-27. His boot hit the left upright and appeared to the naked eye to have bounced off the crossbar and into the end zone.
The kick was initially called no good. But while Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel and Baltimore counterpart Brian Billick shook hands at midfield and the Ravens streamed into their locker room, several Browns were frantically pointing out that the ball had actually struck the curved support beyond the uprights, thereby making the field goal good.
Field goals are not reviewable, but the Browns' contention was confirmed justified by officials closest to the play. Soon both teams were called back onto the field for overtime. The luckless Ravens just had to know the coin flip would go against them – and it did.
The Browns couldn't celebrate yet, but momentum had certainly jumped into their corner. And soon Dawson would play hero again. The Browns drove 43 yards on nine plays, whereupon the veteran kicker nailed a 33-yard field goal (this time it hit nothing but air) for the victory.
Actually, it shouldn't have been so difficult. Cleveland dominated the first three quarters, taking a 27-14 lead on 1-yard touchdown runs by Lewis and Anderson, two Dawson field goals and what should have been the back-breaker – a 100-yard interception return into the end zone by Brodney Pool with four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
But just as they did against the Steelers the previous Sunday, the Browns let a North Division opponent back into the game. A defense that had yielded just 20 points to Baltimore in a game-and-a-half (the Ravens had scored one touchdown on a Ray Lewis interception return) became unglued in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens came out clicking on all cylinders. They shut down the high-powered Browns while a 27-yard touchdown pass from embattled quarterback Kyle Boller to Devard Darling and three Matt Stover field goals gave them a 30-27 lead. The last of those field goals came with just 26 seconds remaining in regulation.
The game appeared to be over, but Dawson's leg and Lady Luck had other ideas.
The Kardiac Kids of 1980? They had nothing on these Browns. Win or lose, the team from 27 years later was going to make it exciting.
A half-hour earlier, Anderson was congratulating Boller on a victory. Now he was discussing a victory with the media.
"It's crazy how things can go from one inch away and if we miss it, it's a loss," Anderson told the Columbus Dispatch. "It seems like every game I've been in has been like that. It's kind of weird, but it's a good feeling."
It was certainly a good feeling for Dawson, who not only "inched" that 51-yard field goal over to tie the game at the end of regulation, but also sent the 33-yarder through the uprights in overtime to win it.
The veteran placekicker, however, was not asked often about that second boot. Everyone wanted to know what was going through his mind before, during and after the first one.
"I couldn't tell for sure (if it was good)," he told espn.com. "I couldn't tell by the way it glanced off the upright. It looked like it went forward. But we had people down near the goal post who were screaming at the top of their lungs that it had hit whatever that bar you call it.
"This team, for whatever reason, thrives on adversity. The tougher the situation, the better we do. We all had a feeling when we got the ball and went into overtime, what a shame it would have been to not capitalize on it."
The mood was far less jovial in the other locker room. But Ravens receiver Derrick Mason refused to criticize the officials' ruling that forced them to recall he and his teammates back onto the field for an overtime session that was to spell their doom.
"It's crazy, it's weird," Mason exclaimed. "Just when you thought everything that had gone wrong for you had overcome it, then there's another thing. They probably made the right call."
Replays confirmed that the ball had indeed struck beyond the uprights. And in the wildness that ensued, what was lost were individual achievements such as Browns kick returner Josh Cribbs setting a single-game team record with 245 return yards, Anderson throwing for 274 yards and a touchdown and Lewis hitting his former teammates with 92 yards and a score on the ground.
None of that really mattered in the long run, however. What mattered was that the surprising Browns were 6-4 and still in the thick of the race for a playoff spot for which nobody believed they had a chance when the season began.