It looked harmless – almost mundane.
But it wasn't.
The end of the first half of the Browns' 23-9 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium was as bizarre, odd and even historic as any in Browns history. In fact, you could go so far as to that no end to a first half has ever been quite like that one, especially in Cleveland.
Getting all their points in the first 6:46 of the game, the Browns were nursing a 10-6 lead as they took over possession at the Cleveland 7 with 1:46 left in the second quarter following a 46-yard punt by Shane Lechler.
The Browns had done basically nothing offensively since that quick opening spurt, plus quarterback Derek Anderson had been terribly inaccurate with his passing, and so it was thought that instead of risking him throwing the ball to someone in a white jersey, they would simply grind it out on the ground and hopefully get a first down to run out the clock, then go into the locker room at halftime and regroup.
That is indeed the way it started, but it's certainly not the way it ended.
Jerome Harrison took the handoff on the first play and ran four yards over left guard to the 11, after which Oakland, hoping to stop the Browns on downs and get the ball back, called its second timeout of the half with 1:40 remaining.
This is where it began getting interesting.
Harrison tried right guard for a yard to the 12 on the next play, but the Browns got pushed back to the 6 when rookie center Alex Mack was penalized half-the-distance to the goal line for unsportsmanlike conduct.
But Harrison, with the Browns facing a third-and-11 situation, bailed them out by running 17 yards on the next play before being pushed out of bounds at the 23 for a first down, stopping the clock with 1:30 left.
Then came the most unbelievable sequence of this most unbelievable series of events.
Harrison ran over left guard for two yards to the 25, and then both right guard Rex Hadnot of the Browns and defensive end Richard Seymour of the Raiders were whistled for unnecessary roughness penalties. Those infractions offset, leaving the ball at the 25.
The Browns, though, ended up getting a first down at the 40 – without running a play – because Seymour pulled the daily double by getting flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct for complaining about the previous call.
Anderson followed that up by throwing 14 yards to rookie wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi to the Oakland 46 with 55 seconds left.
Harrison rushed four yards over left guard to the 42 on the next play, but cornerback Stanford Routt was penalized 15 yards and ejected from the game for unnecessary roughness, a head butt. That took the ball to the 27 and gave Cleveland a first down.
Anderson threw incomplete to Massaquoi on first down, and then Harrison ran eight yards over left guard to the 19.
Working out of the shotgun in the no-huddle, Anderson threw his best pass of the day by far, hitting Massaquoi in stride in the end zone down the right sideline for a touchdown with 18 seconds remaining.
Four unnecessary roughness/unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on one nine-play, 93-yard drive that consumed just 1:28 off the clock – but a lot more in real time. That has to be some kind of NFL record. If not, then it should be – if only because of all the things that were packed into the march.
It what you would expect from a game involving the always wild and wooly Raiders, who were penalized 13 times overall on the day for 126 yards to the Browns' six for 64 yards.
Phil Dawson's extra point increased the Browns' lead to 17-6, but this Twilight Zone of a first half still wasn't over by a long shot.
And we need to emphasize the word "long."
The Browns then went into a brain lapse. Not wanting to risk the Raiders making a long – there's that word again – kickoff return, the Browns eschewed booting the ball deep and instead pooched it to one of the up men, linebacker Sam Williams, at the Oakland 35. He brought it back seven yards to the 42 with 14 seconds left.
Former Browns quarterback Charlie Frye passed nine yards to tight end Zach Miller to the Cleveland 49 on the first play. The Raiders hurried up and ran another play, with Frye flipping six yards to running back Darren McFadden to the Cleveland 43. The Raiders alertly called timeout with one second left and did not hesitate at all in calling on cannon-legged left-footed kicker Sebastian Janikowski to try a 61-yard field goal.
He didn't make it by much, but he made it nonetheless. It is the longest field goal ever kicked in a Browns game in Cleveland, and one of the longest in NFL history.
That made the score 17-9 as time finally expired, and left everybody – on both sides, in the stands and watching on TV – shaking their heads.
That includes Browns head coach Eric Mangini, who said he had never seen anything like it, either, and then offered some self-criticism about allowing Janikowski the chance to try the kick.
"We did not do a very good job from a coaching perspective with the kickoff," he said. "Janikowski can hit from anywhere."
And he did.
But, of course, it was just part of what occurred in those wild final two minutes of the first half.