KANSAS CITY, Mo. — All week the Browns heard how Mike Holmgren coming to Cleveland might mean the end of coach Eric Mangini’s short, drama-filled stint with the team.
Jerome Harrison and Joshua Cribbs may have saved their coach’s job, at least for now, trying to outdo each other with record-setting games Sunday.
Harrison scored his third touchdown with 44 seconds left and rushed for a team-record 286 yards, and Cribbs returned two kickoffs for TDs to lift the Browns to a 41-34 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
“For the past two, three weeks, Josh and I have had a personal (competition) against each other,” Harrison said. “He set the tempo and set it pretty high, but I told him at halftime, ‘I’m going to get you.’ ”
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Cribbs started the Browns (3-11) off with kickoff returns of 100 and 103 yards in the first half, breaking the NFL career record and tying the single-game mark.
Harrison still got the better of him.
Running behind linebacker-busting fullback Lawrence Vickers, he scored all of his touchdowns in the second half to break Jim Brown’s team record of 237 yards, set in 1957 and ’61.
Following a tying touchdown by Kansas City, Harrison closed out Cleveland’s first winning streak in over a year with a 28-yard run off right tackle, putting him behind only Adrian Peterson and Jamal Lewis in the NFL record book.
Not bad for a running back who had 301 total yards this season and no more than 246 in any of the previous three.
“I was seeing a phenom — unbelievable,” said Brown, who congratulated Harrison after the game. “The obvious is the obvious. He did an unbelievable job.”
Jamaal Charles ran for a career-high 154 yards and scored in his sixth straight game, and Kansas City (3-11) tied the game at 34 on Matt Cassel’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Mark Bradley on a fourth-and-6 with 2:20 left.
It still wasn’t enough.
Playing in Arrowhead Stadium’s first non-sellout in 19 years, the Chiefs were plagued by more poor run defense, shoddy special teams and nine dropped passes.
The dropped passes were nothing new. The Chiefs have had some of the NFL’s worst hands all season. Same thing with the run defense: Kansas City has allowed 796 yards rushing the past three games, all at home. The problems on special teams were something new. The longest kick return the Chiefs had allowed this season was 37 yards before Cribbs.
The result gave the Chiefs a second straight 1-7 season at home.
“Disappointing outcome with very clear-cut reasons for the outcome, starting with special teams,” Chiefs coach Todd Haley said. “When you allow two returns for touchdowns, that’s generally not going to end up a good thing.”
Coming off a huge win over Pittsburgh last week, Mangini coached this game with Holmgren’s shadow looming over him. The former Seattle and Green Bay coach spent two days meeting with owner Randy Lerner about becoming the Browns’ football “czar” and even went house shopping, sparking a weeklong game of will he or won’t he.
Holmgren, who won a Super Bowl with Green Bay, turned down an offer Saturday to be Seattle’s president and has expressed interest in coaching the Browns.
“The reports, they are what they are. I’m coaching this team,” Mangini said. “I’m proud of this team. I’m proud of the things we’ve done. We’re moving forward. There’s a lot of good things happening. I’m proud of what they’re doing. I’m proud of the way they’re working. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made. That’s the only thing I’m concerned with.”
If Holmgren was at home watching this one, at least he was entertained.
Cribbs got it rolling by escaping a jam at the 40 and at least six tacklers on the way to a 100-yard touchdown. That broke the career record for kickoff returns held by five others. Later, Cribbs veered right, veered left and was gone, untouched for a 103-yard touchdown return — the eighth of his career.
“That’s a pretty good day’s work,” Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel said.
That was just the start in a wild game between two of the NFL’s worst teams.
With the Chiefs down 13-3, Cassel hit Chris Chambers, who had a crucial drop last week, on a 39-yard completion and a 9-yard touchdown on consecutive plays. Charles then burst through the line, racing 47 yards up the middle for a touchdown.
Kansas City scored another touchdown when Browns long snapper Ryan Pontbriand snapped the ball before anyone was ready and hit upback Nick Sorensen on the arm, and Andy Studebaker recovered in the end zone.
And that was just the first half.
Harrison opened the second by scoring on a 71-yard run through the gut of Kansas City’s defense, then added an 8-yard score to open the fourth quarter, putting the Browns up 34-24.
The Chiefs weren’t done, though.
Ryan Succop hit a 27-yard field goal, then Cassel took the Chiefs quickly down the field, hitting Bradley in the end zone.
Problem was, they left too much time for Harrison.
“It’s disappointing. You come into a three-game homestand trying to build some momentum and we weren’t able to get that done,” Cassel said. “We played good football at times and at other times we didn’t play that good of football.”
- Browns QB Brady Quinn threw two interceptions, breaking his string of 151 attempts without one.
- Cassel threw for 331 yards, his first 300-yard game with the Chiefs.
- Cleveland won in Kansas City for the first time since the 1988 season opener.