The funny thing about the 2002 Cleveland Browns: They've got their mojo on backward. Picked early to contend in the AFC North, the Browns are teetering on the edge of contention because they simply can not win at home. The same team that has manufactured eye-popping wins in
But Browns coach Butch Davis has a plan. Friday before the game he buses the entire team out to
By the time the team bus rolls into Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sunday morning, a crowd of nearly 200 hired extras are on hand to heckle the players. Out of work actors and wannabe thespians are decked out in Colts regalia, hurling insults and boos at the players as they emerge from the bus. Team staff guides players away from the Browns locker room to a cramped, concrete storage space that has been mocked up as a visitors' locker room. The place is cold, damp, and drafty. Mouse droppings adorn the dark corners. A single, low-watt light bulb hangs from the ceiling.
Maybe it was the in-flight peanuts, or the low locker room lighting, or the fact the team stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Whatever the case, the Browns proceed to put a whooping on the Indianapolis Colts the likes of which the team hasn't seen in decades. Payton Manning throws three consecutive interceptions - all returned for touchdowns - to spot the Browns a 21 point lead with 13 minutes still to play in the first quarter.
Tim Couch - himself something of an interception machine - changes up the first play at the line of scrimmage to run the same Hail Mary that won last weeks' game against the Jaguars. Kevin Johnson gets under the ball 50 yards downfield and goes untouched for a score. A few minutes later, Quincy Morgan gathers in a 30-yard rope, sheds a tackle, and races another 25 yards for a TD.
By halftime, the Browns are up 127-0 and Butch is playing second and third stringers. To keep his team hot, the coach keeps a corps of faux Colt fan screaming and hollering behind the Browns bench. Gerard Warren has to be restrained after a vicious tongue lashing from one "fan," and Phil Dawson earns a $5,000 fine for splashing a cup of Gatorade in the face of another.
The ploy works. The Browns don't let up an inch through four quarters. By the time the gun sounds, the Browns have rolled up more than a mile of total offense.
And that's the way I see it.