I've played in Cleveland 12 or so times during my playing career. In all those games, only one that I remember was played in sunshine. Most of those games were played in nasty weather. Sunday's was no different. And here's what I saw:
Pre-game stretch brought Joey Porter and Kellen Winslow together for a smack talk 20 yards apart. Every time Joey would step a half-foot over the 40, the officials would hustle him back. Then moments later, right along the 50-yard line, Chris Gardocki, Jeff Reed, and Greg Warren strolled casually toward the sideline. The officials moved quickly to hustle them back to the 40. Jeff Reed looked at the official and said, "Dude, seriously, we'd be the last ones to start anything."
Hank Fraley, the Cleve Brownie C, had a tough task: block Casey Hampton. Hank's a fine player, but there's no way Cleveland could hope to match-up Hank and Hamp one on one. They didn't. Every pass had Hank backed up by a G or FB Terrell Smith. Same thing happened with the run. Cleveland might have picked up some run yardage, but it wasn't because Big Snack got blocked. The cutback actually worked a couple of times because Casey got so far into the backfield, the backside got caught because the separation was so great laterally and vertically.
I can't tell you how hard it is to put into words how much havoc Casey creates in the pits. Try to picture "Running with the Bulls" in Spain. Casey's the bull and he's coming from the opposite direction, running at the people, not chasing them.
Fraley also got smoked by James Farrior on an okie-doke. James would move into the line of scrimmage during the cadence, then start to drop back and then blitz. Potsie got home three times in the first half alone on that move. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. But three times?
Anytime there's an interception, for an offensive player, it's like the inmates taking over the asylum. On the third INT of Big Ben, Kendall Simmons moved into coverage mode. An unidentified Browns player delivered the meaning of the phrase, "Keep your head on a swivel." I once got blasted into the future in a game against the Oilers. Todd Blackledge threw an interception, and I went after the interceptor. I got ear-holed by a big old grudge-carrying DT with a 10-yard run at me from the blind side. I learned how to speak Spanish in one easy lesson. Just put on blinders during an INT return.
Clark Haggans muttered to me at halftime, "That's one slippery sonuva _____!" I saw Clark's point when he almost missed a sack on Charlie Frye in the second half. Frye ducked as Clark came over the top. Haggans wrestled Frye to the ground in a wrestling move that Bruno Sammartino would've loved.
I knew the temperature was dropping during the game. I had a candy bar in my pocket, and by the second half it was hard as a rock. Almost cracked a tooth.
Aaron Smith is another guy that is hard to describe just how good he is. On a stretch play run towards me, Smith played across the face of an attempted down block of 320 lb OT Ryan Tucker. Following that came 300 plus Cosey Coleman, who pulled around Tucker and was on a search and destroy mission for either Foote or Farrior. Aaron knocker-ated him, left him in his wake. Now reaching the outside containment point, Smith, having just punked-out Coleman and Tucker, took on the explosive FB Terrelle Smith. Aaron blasted him and pinned him to the ground on his back as the play came to a no gain. Four to five seconds of high intensity marauding, three Browns bodies bagged, and no gain, AWESOME.
Déjà vu all over again part two. There I am walking up the player's tunnel to the Pittsburgh Steelers' locker room after the game with Aaron Smith. Aaron says to me, "You know what keeps you sane? The next 24 hours." Twenty-two years ago, after a tight game that ended in a win for us with a forgotten opponent, Mike Webster uttered those exact same words to me as we walked off the field at Three Rivers.