Jimmy Haslam is paying $1.1 billion per win, but it beats the alternative. A look at the signs of life the Browns revealed to their new owner in a 34-24 win in the Battle of Ohio.
It was a good day for old men. Browns Nation felt young again.
Jimmy Haslam, 58, is paying an average of $1.1 billion per 2012 victory. But at least a victory — 34-24 in the Battle of Ohio — exists now.
“Good win ... played well,” Haslam said on the fly.
Brandon Weeden celebrated his 29th birthday with his first NFL victory.
“Tomorrow is gonna be more fun than the last five weeks,” he said before heading to a steakhouse NFL owners and quarterbacks can afford.
Phil Dawson kicked two more field goals — he is 12-for-12 in 2012 — in what he described as “close to the worst” wind conditions of his 14 years in Cleveland.
“In this kind of wind,” he said, “one field goal should count for two.
Sheldon Brown, the oldest man on the defense, turned a comeback into a victory party with a pick six.
Leave it to the 33-year-old cornerback to put a different take on win amid the misery of an 0-5 start. He looked down the locker room toward Weeden’s stall.
“A win like this,” he said, “really helps a young quarterback. In this league, quarterback play is more important than anything.”
Nothing was happening for the longest time when Joshua Cribbs, who has been on the team longer than anyone except Dawson, popped a 60-yard punt return.
The Browns trailed 14-7 and had gone dead on offense when No. 16 worked his old magic.
“My job is adding momentum,” Cribbs said.
How’s this for mo? Before the return, the Browns had punted seven straight times. After it, they scored four straight times, twice on Dawson’s kicks, twice on Weeden-led touchdown marches of 60-some yards.
The defense gave up 438 yards but forced seven Cincinnati punts. It intercepted Andy Dalton three times, ruining his 381-yard passing day.
“This is huge,” linebacker Kaluka Maiava said. “We’ve been in every one of our games, but we came out with losses. Everybody dogged us. ‘We’re worth nothing.’
“We knew we’re a solid team. But if a team is 0-6 ... that tears it up a little bit.”
Instead, the Browns head to Indianapolis with a chance to be 2-5.
“You kind of don’t want to say it,” Cribbs said, “but I think we’re on to something. This is the start.”
At 3:30 on a Sunday afternoon, The storm clouds rolled in from Bay Village, and Browns Stadium was rocking after Brown’s pick six.
He knifed in front of wideout Brandon Tate at the Cincinnati 12, stole the ball on the run and sprinted with it all the way to the Dawg Pound.
“Man, I was so excited,” said 23-year-old cornerback Joe Haden.
Page 2 of 2 - Brown’s big play provided a 34-17 with 7:50 left, but Haden, returning from a four-game suspension, got smoked by A.J. Green for a 57-yard touchdown moments later.
The Bengals quickly got the ball back, stirring thoughts of the ultimate bummer of a loss.
Making sure it wasn’t a bad day for young men, second-year pro Emmanuel Stephens clobbered Dalton for a strip sack, and rookie defensive tackle Billy Winn scooped up the ball and ran 35 yards.
“I saw Emmanuel flying off the edge,” Winn said. “I saw him hit Dalton. Immediately, I heard the crowd roar, which told me the ball had come out.
“I looked to the ground, and there it was.”
It was one of those magical days when the stars are aligned.
A win? A start?
The happy ending came after a same-old-Browns beginning.
The Bengals took over on a punt with 3:33 left in the first quarter.
No. 33, Trent Richardson and No. 3 Weeden were unable to get the crowd in the game.
The Browns’ first series ended when a Weeden pass was tipped at the line and picked off. The second series ended on a punt. Coach Pat Shurmur was trying to ride Richardson — the rookie touched the ball on the first four snaps of the Browns’ first two series — to no avail. The Bengals nursed a 7-0 lead for a while.
No. 13 changed the Browns’ luck. Rookie wideout Josh Gordon got wide open on the right side, and Weeden hung out a bomb that Gordon turned into a one-handed catch and a 71-yard touchdown.
The defense made a stop.
Then the Browns did what they do best: Find a way to lose.
A breakdown in punt coverage led to a long return, setting up a Bengals touchdown and 14-7 halftime lead.
In the second half, Weeden came out throwing — poorly. Three quick incomplete passes set up a punt.
The Browns got the ball again and fed Richardson twice. Stuff, stuff, third-and-nine dink pass to Owen Marecic for his second drop of the game, punt.
It was hard to watch what the Browns were doing on the field, but then. As Haslam gazed from the owner’s booth the grandstand wall behind the Browns bench, he saw thousands of empty seats.
It wasn’t a bad crowd at all, given how bad the team is, but the faces in the house weren’t really close to the announced “paid attendance,” 67,060.
Maybe the “60” was good luck. Cribbs brought back that punt 60 yards to re-energize the crowd.
It turned into a big win. At least, it felt like a big win afterward in a town where losing has gotten so old.