With the Season on the Line, Couch Delivers

David Carducci offers his thoughts as to Tim Couch's efforts in today's game against Baltimore. Dave talks to Tim after the (ho-hum) last-minute comeback, and finds out what he was thinking as he was waving to fans leaving the field.

BALTIMORE, Md. - If Tim Couch has not finally won over Cleveland's fans, he probably never will.

With his team's season on the line, Couch engineered a game-winning 92-yard drive to give the Cleveland Browns a thrilling 14-13 comeback victory over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday.

The drive-capping 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mark Campbell eliminated Art Modell's Ravens (7-8) from the playoff picture, and more importantly, kept the Browns' own playoff hopes alive. At 8-7, the Browns have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs either as the winner of the AFC North Division or as a wild card.

"Our whole season was riding on that drive," said Couch, who led his team onto the field with 2:18 remaining and his team trailing 13-7 with no timeouts. "It is either you go down and score or you go home. We are still playing next week. We are still alive."

For Couch, who was hounded and harassed by Baltimore fans yelling "go home crybaby" while feigning tears, the win was redemption for the painful memory of Oct. 6. In that loss to the Ravens, Couch was loudly booed by his hometown fans. After being knocked out of the game with a concussion in the fourth quarter, he had a hard time controlling his emotions.

After Sunday's comeback, Couch did some taunting of his own, grinning and waving goodbye to the 69,348 fans as he walked off the field at Ravens Stadium

"They were giving me a hard time, yelling things like `go home, you crybaby,' and that was my way of just saying `you all can go home and cry because we just spoiled your playoff hopes," said Couch. "It was kind of like putting it right back in their face.

"That was probably the most down I've ever been after we played Baltimore the last time. To come back and win this one the way we did is a huge high for me."

The comeback was the 10th fourth-quarter comeback engineered by Couch in his four-year career.

"That is what a quarterback wants to be known for, bringing his team back when everything is against you," said Couch, who completed 22-of-31 passes for 209 yards, one touchdown and one interception. "

On the final drive, Couch connected on 6-of-7 attempts for 78 yards. He made all the right decisions on the game-winning touchdown, looking off primary option Steve Heiden when he was covered in the corner, then considering running for the score before finding Campbell alone in the back of the endzone.

Campbell was one of five Browns receivers who caught passes during the final series. None was bigger than Jamel White's 28-yard catch and run down the right sideline. A late hit penalty on Ravens' cornerback Chris McAlister tacked on an additional 13 yards, giving the Browns a first down at the Baltimore 13-yard line with 1:05 remaining.

The final possession was the first sign of life from the Browns' offense in almost three quarters. The Browns came out of the gate like gangbusters, driving 82 yards in 15 plays on the game's first possession and taking the lead on a 3-yard touchdown run by White.

After that, the Browns' offense went into hibernation, gaining just 75 yards between the first and final drives.

In between, the Ravens worked their way into a 13-7 lead on a 31-yard, first-quarter field goal, a 17-yard, second-quarter touchdown pass from Jeff Blake to Travis Taylor and a 43-yard third-quarter field goal by Stover.

"We start out the game marching down the field for 82 yards and it was a beautiful thing," said Couch. "Then we stink the joint out until the last drive, but all that matters is that last drive."

The comeback was just the latest in an up-and-down season that has seen the Browns keep their playoff hopes alive by winning a club record six road games. Just last week, the Browns chances of making the playoffs seamed slim to none after squandering a big lead and losing at home to Indianapolis. Now, the Browns have a realistic shot at either winning the AFC North Division or reaching the playoffs with a Wild-Card berth.

Butch Davis said that is a tribute to the Browns' never-say-die attitude.

"That's what this team has been about all year long," said Davis. "They have wanted to play meaningful games in December and we certainly put ourselves in that situation."

All of the Browns' playoff hopes rest on their winning at home next week against Atlanta. To win the division and host a playoff game, the Browns would need Pittsburgh to lose tonight at Tampa Bay and then again next week at home to Baltimore.

There are several scenarios that would have the Browns make the playoffs as a wild card. The most logical scenario has the Browns getting in with a win over Atlanta combined with a New England loss at home to Miami and a Kansas City loss at Oakland next week.


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