Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Dramatic finish buzzes Browns
Cleveland's playoff hopes are alive after the overtime victory in Baltimore.
BEREA (AP) Browns punter Dave Zastudil held the ball for Phil Dawson and then held his breath.
Standing near midfield in Baltimore, Zastudil watched helplessly Sunday as Dawson's potential tying 51-yard field goal as time expired in regulation sailed toward the uprights. Then, boink, boink, it hit the left upright and appeared to strike the crossbar and fall back onto the field.
"It was bouncing, bouncing, bouncing," Zastudil recalled. "We were like, 'Go, Go, Go!' He hit it solid and the football gods were on our side."
Seemingly cursed since their expansion return to the NFL in 1999, the ball finally bounced the right way for the Browns (6-4).
Dawson's kick, initially ruled no good before officials conferred and changed their call without the help of instant replay, allowed Cleveland to force overtime. The Browns eventually won 33-30 over the Ravens on a 33-yard field goal by Dawson with 9:10 left in OT that was straight down the middle.
But it was Dawson's pinball shot that deflected off the upright and hit the goal post's curved crossbar stanchion that provided a scenario as strange as any Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel could remember.
"Never seen anything like that," said Crennel, a 27-year pro coaching veteran. "That's why the ball isn't round. Things like that happen. ... There's always something new."
The improbable win was welcome relief to the Browns, who have endured more than their share of bizarre plays, bad luck and overall misfortune in recent years. But this season has been different.
The Browns, defensive warts and all, are winning.
Tough guy offensive tackle Ryan Tucker admitted to tearing up when the Browns, who have lost at least 10 games in each of the past four seasons, had won.
"Finally," said Tucker, with Cleveland since 2002. "It was one of the ugliest games. We screwed up over and over, but hung in there."
Cleveland squandered a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter and many of the Browns had already left the field for the locker room after Dawson's kick was waved off by field judge Jim Saracino.
Back judge Keith Ferguson, who was standing under the uprights alongside Saracino, seemed to have a different view and did not make a signal. Moments later, he and Saracino were huddling with referee Pete Morelli, who then put on his headset to consult in the press box with replay assistant Howard Slavin.
Network TV replays, when slowed to almost stop action, clearly showed the ball striking the support stanchion behind the crossbar.
If you're the Browns, the officials got it correct. However, upon further, further review, Ravens coach Brian Billick wasn't so sure the officials handled things properly.
Billick, with more than a touch of sarcasm, noted that the finish, with its wild emotional swings, was nothing he could have readied his team for during training camp.
"I was remiss in not covering what we do when we've won a game, go into the locker room and are told to come back out again," he said. "That's not one scenario I've covered."
Crennel, too, wasn't prepared to handle a game the Browns lost, then won.
"We just got lucky," he said, "and sometimes you have to be lucky."
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