What's scarier: Halloween or the Browns' season?
The recent Browns meltdown against the Patriots – a mistake-prone atrocity which none of us thought was even possible given the "advantage" of the bye week, making the results even more mind-numbing – left me searching for something good to ponder in the aftermath. Obviously, the level of play was so poor that it took me quite a while to find something to grab onto, but eventually it did bring a smile to my face – and a big smile, at that.
My daughter Leah was married 9 years ago this past August, and as her way of saying thanks to me for participating in her wedding (I should state for the record that it wasn't like my wife and I were going to pull a "no-show" or anything) Leah got tickets for her and I to attend the Browns versus Patriots match-up on Nov. 7 that same year.
The Browns, under second-year head coach Eric Mangini, had been horrible from the start in 2009, going 1-11 before winning their last 4 games, to finish 5-11. 2010 didn't begin particularly well either, as the Browns played tough, but were still 1-5 heading into consecutive games with the previous year's Super Bowl participants, New Orleans and – guess who – New England.
The Browns shocked the entire football world by smoking the Saints in New Orleans, 30-17, so no one (at least no one who was sober) thought the Browns could repeat their success of the previous week against another premium opponent on consecutive weeks. I mean, this was the Browns, for Pete's sake.
Well, Leah had gotten us great seats, the weather was excellent for an early November day (around 60 degrees if memory serves) and I'd never had the pleasure of Leah's company at a Browns game before, so we were both pretty excited going in. But with a team that was only 2-5 and had presumably used all of their ammo the previous week against the Saints, we never expected to witness what we did.
What we did see was a well-oiled machine rip its opponent to shreds. Browns QB Colt McCoy played the best game of his otherwise obscure career as starting quarterback of the Browns, completing 14-of-19 passes for 174 perhaps modest, but efficient, yards. The hero was running back Peyton Hillis, who also had his best game as a Brown, gaining 184 yards on 29 carries. The defense came to play, too, holding the powerful Patriots to 14 points while the Browns rolled up 34. It was virtually mistake-free and turnover-free from the Browns' side of the ball, proving that it is possible in Cleveland – for at least one game. Leah and I spent most of the game high-fiving other fans there; we really had a great time. I even remember telling another fan, "We finally found a quarterback," perhaps somewhat prematurely.
While the loss dropped the Patriots to 6-2, they (of course) rebounded and went on to another highly successful season. The Browns improved their record to 3-5, but alas, they reverted to the "same old Browns," going 2-6 after that and making Eric Mangini another trivia question on the Browns' long list of failed head coaches. That's the thing about Cleveland football "greatness" over the last generation or so ... if you blink, you'll probably miss it.
But for one day – one glorious day in the sun – my daughter and I witnessed football greatness, Cleveland style.
Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!