The Turning Point: Browns-Packers

Yeah, it's late. Sue us. Anyway, Lane & Steve recount the game-changing play from the blowout loss to the Pack at home.

The Browns lost by a lot, 31-3, to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

But in one respect, they lost by only a few inches.

That's because the play of the game was made by that much.

We're talking about Ryan Grant's one-yard touchdown run on third-and-goal with 1:56 left in the first half that completed a three-TD second quarter for the Packers and boosted their lead to 21-3.

The quarter had started off well – and in a lucky way – for the Browns when, on the first play, Billy Cundiff's supposedly chip-shot 22-yard field goal hit the left upright and then caromed through to give them a 3-0 lead. Indeed, nothing is coming easy these days for the struggling Browns, now 1-6 and the losers of two straight.

Then the Packers struck in a span of just over four minutes on two Aaron Rodgers TD passes, 45 yards to lumbering, little-used tight end Spencer Havner and then 71 yards to streaking wide receiver Donald Driver.

Trailing 14-3, the Browns were barely in the game. For most teams, an 11-point deficit that early is something that can be overcome. But for the offensively-challenged Browns, who struggle to simply string a few first downs together, scoring twice would really be asking for a lot.

To make matters worse, the Packers got the ball back two minutes later when Fremont (Ohio) Ross High School product Charles Woodson intercepted a Derek Anderson pass and returned it 25 yards to the Cleveland 15. The Browns had their backs to the wall. They had to hold the Packers to a field goal and keep the deficit at 14 points, which was doable for the Browns – if only remotely. If Green Bay got a TD and, in essence, made it a three-score game, then the Browns were done.

In just two plays, the second of which was Grant's nine-yard run, the Packers had a first down at the 3. But that's where the Cleveland defense dug in.

Rodgers threw incomplete to wide receiver Greg Jennings on first down, then Grant ran two yards to the 1. Rodgers followed that up by misfiring to Driver on third down, but instead of having to settle for that field goal, the Packers got a break – and new life – when cornerback Brandon McDonald was called for pass interference on the play, setting up a first down at the 1.

Still, the Browns defense, realizing this was the possession of the game, wouldn't yield. First, Grant over left guard and then fullback John Kuhn over right guard were stopped for no gain.

The Packers stayed on the ground and went over left tackle with Grant on third down. He was stopped initially, but kept churning his legs as he tried to work his way over the goal line while disappearing under a pile of bodies from both teams.

The Browns' defense was playing safeties in and linebackers tight, geared to stop the run, as the Packers honed in on the end-zone.

As the Packers loaded weakside, the Browns' defense shifted gap responsibility, leaning toward the left side of the Green Bay offensive set; the setup was a pure power-versus-power display of old school football.

As Grant took the handoff from Rodgers, the Cleveland defense attacked the gaps, as the end and tackle gained low leverage against a Packers offensive line which had not shown the ability to create push at the point of attack on consecutive rushing attempts near the goal-line.

On second effort, Grant questionably churned, reaching the ball over the goal line, prior to being swarmed under the aggressive stand of the Browns' defense.

It was oh so close. The officials on the field finally signaled a touchdown, and none of the camera angles on TV either proved or disproved the call. The officials in the booth upstairs, who are in charge of all replays in the final two minutes of a half, decided not to review it.

So a touchdown it was, and with that, it became a certain loss for the Browns. There was no way – no way – that their offense was going to score 21 points, even if the game lasted until midnight.

As much as the Browns defense struggled overall, Sunday's loss was more so another case of the team suffering because its offense is so limited in a league now built largely on scoring points.


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