These game notes are composed live and posted during the brief break between quarters. Please excuse typos or misspellings not corrected in the name of internet speed...
The Browns and Cowboys kicked off at Cleveland Browns Stadium in front of a full house of fans enjoying a sunny, pleasant day for football. The Browns left Josh Cribbs, Brodney Pool, Kris Griffin, Rex Hadnot, Ahtyba Rubin, Ryan Tucker and Martin Rucker in active and Ken Dorsey was, per usual, the third quarterback. Seth McKinney was in the starting lineup for the Browns at RG, with Mike Adams starting at free safety for Brodney Pool. With Cribbs out, Syndric Steptoe got the chance to return kicks.
The Cowboys had Sam Hurd, Miles Austin, S Courtney Brown, CB Terrence Newman, OG Kyle Kosier, OG Montrae Holland, OT Doug Free, and LB Anthony Spencer on their inactive list. Adam "Pac-Man" Jones started at CB for Newman, and Cory Proctor started at LG for Kosier.
Browns fans have not always had the stadium filled at kick-off. Whether because of the late start or the importance of the game, today was an exception. The stands were more full at kick-off than I've ever seen them.
As the ball was placed on the tee, it was announced in the press box that Donte Stallworth was "questionable" for the game due to a groin injury.
FIRST DRIVE (Browns): Steptoe returned the ball to the Browns 29. Mixing the run and pass, the Browns took the ball to the Cowboys 45 before the drive stalled.
Big plays: Anderson tossed a short pass to Jamal Lewis, which the running
back took fourteen yards in a nice group of blockers on the left-side.
Jamal Lewis was stuffed up the middle on third-and-one.
SECOND DRIVE (Cowboys): Drive started on the 20 after Dave Zastudil's punt was touched back. The Browns did an effective job of shutting down the run following an an initial scamper by Barber, but pass pressure failed to materialize in crucial situations. Witten vs. Adams and the Browns linebackers is clearly a mismatch for the ages, and the Cowboys are fully exploiting it. Ten plays, 80 yards, 5:15 burned off the clock. Cowboys 7, Browns 0
Big plays: Marion Barber, fifteen yard run to the right side. Romo-to-Witten for 19 yards on a key third down, and again for 22 yards to take the Cowboys to the Browns 11.
THIRD DRIVE (Browns): The Browns started at the 22 after Steptoe's kickoff return. The team seemed to begin to find its groove through the air, as Anderson started to home in on his favorite wide receiver, Braylon Edwards, and his tight ends. The quarter ended with the Browns on the Cowboys nine yard line.
Big Plays: Anderson to Kellen Winslow for 14 yards. Face mask call on Orlando Scandrick on third down, which allowed the Browns to escape from a blocked Anderson throw and keep the drive going. Seventeen-yard third-down throw to Kellen Winslow in the middle of the field to take the ball to the Cowboys 33. Third-and-one pass to Steve Heiden as Anderson rolled out to his right.