August 27, 2014

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Browns down Seahawks in an emotional overtime victory

CLEVELAND — Kellen Winslow sat at his locker Sunday night long after Phil Dawson’s 25-yard field goal had split the uprights to give the Browns a 33-30 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks.
Winslow, still wearing his sweaty, dirt-stained clothes, was too tired to get up, especially with his knee and shoulder throbbing. The media crowd had dwindled to a handful and he was all but done discussing his career game of 11 catches for 125 yards when he was asked if this was “as sweet” a game as he’s had as a pro.
Winslow put his head down and didn’t speak. When he looked up a tear was creeping down his left cheek.
“A helluva win,” he said. “I’m just proud of us. We fought as a team. We prepare. We deserve this.”
Not one of the 70,000-plus fans barking and singing their way out of Cleveland Browns Stadium would argue. The Browns (5-3) are different this year, and not just because they’ve won three in a row for the first time since 2001 and will travel to Pittsburgh (5-2) next week with first place in the AFC North on the line.
The Browns don’t give up when they fall behind early, they believe in each other and they score enough to keep them in just about any game.
And on Sunday, when it mattered most, they got a big break.
Jamal Lewis (37 yards) scored his career-best fourth touchdown of the game with 2:17 left in regulation and Joe Jurevicius outmuscled the defender on the 2-point conversion to give the Browns a 30-27 lead and complete the comeback from 21-6. But the Seahawks quickly drove to the 4-yard line and Josh Brown slipped the tying field goal inside the left upright with no time left to force overtime.
Seattle (4-4) called tails, won the toss and looked on the way to breaking the Browns’ hearts. But a Matt Hasselbeck scramble was reviewed (in overtime, an official in the pressbox calls for reviews), and referee Gene Steratore ruled that Hasselbeck’s left elbow had hit the ground and he was a half-yard short of the Cleveland 43-yard line and a first down.
“They really have to see something pretty decisive to overturn it,” Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. “That is the rule. I just don’t think you overturn if it’s close, unless they saw something that we didn’t.”
“He was definitely short,” safety Sean Jones said. “It was a good call by the ref.”
On fourth down, Jones blitzed and hit Maurice Morris behind the line. When Andra Davis and the rest of the defense arrived to help, Morris had been stopped short.
“You dig your cleats in the ground and just try to fight the force,” Davis said.
Jones and the defense did the same thing last week in a comeback win over the Rams.
“We have to be the best fourth-and-1 team in the NFL,” Winslow said. “That shows a lot of guts.”
Another replay review was called, but this time the call on the field stood.
“Replays are replays and what goes around usually comes around,” said coach Romeo Crennel, who is 0-for-4 in challenges this year. “It feels good when you get them.”
The offense wasted no time taking advantage. On the second play, the Seahawks blitzed and Derek Anderson burned them with a 34-yard screen to Lewis. Anderson ran 11 yards for a first down, and Dawson came on for the winner.
It was vindication for Dawson, who yanked an extra point in the second quarter that forced the Browns to go for two 2-point conversions in the fourth quarter. He also knocked a kickoff out of bounds to set up a Seattle field goal.
“I put us in a bad spot, but these guys kept fighting and fighting,” Dawson said.
The Browns fell behind 21-6 on a pair of Hasselbeck touchdowns and a Nate Burleson 94-yard punt return. The Seattle run game was going nowhere, thanks in part to running back Shaun Alexander spraining a knee and ankle, so Hasselbeck turned to the short throws that made the West Coast offense so popular. He went 30-for-47 for 318 yards, two touchdowns, an interception and an 88.8 rating.
But after Burleson’s return with 3:49 left in the first half, the Browns allowed only three field goals. For the second straight week, the league’s last-ranked defense kept the opposition out of the end zone in the second half.
“We bowed up,” cornerback Leigh Bodden said.
With Anderson at the helm, no deficit seems insurmountable. After a shaky first half in which the Browns couldn’t convert a third down and Anderson seemed out of sync with his receivers, the Browns scored three touchdowns on four second-half drives.
Anderson set career highs with 29 completions in 48 attempts for 364 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown for the first time this year and was intercepted once on a screen pass for a 75.3 rating. With the game on the line, he made a host of good decisions.
“Our guys fought real hard,” Crennel said. “They just kept playing. (The fans) believe like this team is beginning to believe.”
The win wasn’t just the Browns’ fourth straight at home. It came against a team that’s been to the playoffs four straight years. It put the Browns two games above .500 for the first time since the end of the 2002 season. It showed what this team’s made of.
“We really got tested today,” Winslow said. “There were a lot of tests and we stayed focused. (A loss) might’ve turned the season around. Thank God we came out with the win.”
The players have today off, but they will spend tonight watching the Steelers vs. the Ravens (4-3). No matter the outcome, the trip to Pittsburgh on Sunday has a lot more meaning after the victory.
“The next one is a big one on the road for us,” Crennel said. “We’ll see if we can do better than the last time.”
The Browns opened the season with a 34-7 home loss to Pittsburgh. But that was before Anderson replaced Charlie Frye.
“I know we’re a lot better team than they saw at the beginning of the year,” Braylon Edwards said.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.