Not the same Kardiac Kids
Steve King, Staff Writer
There's a lot of difference between heartache/heartbreak and heart-pounding, which is why these Kardiac Kids are not quite the same yet as that bunch nearly three decades ago.
For the last two weeks, Browns games have gone right down to the wire. It worked out to their benefit two Sundays ago when, with the help of a Leigh Bodden interception at the Cleveland 27 with 20 seconds left, they held on to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals 51-45.
And it worked against them on Sunday when Phil Dawson's 40-yard field goal as time expired was blocked, preserving a 26-24 win for the Oakland Raiders.
So throw out the regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers -- no problem there, because all fans around here would like to do that after the 34-7 loss -- and the Browns have played an exciting, if not overly successful, season thus far.
But this is pretty much how it has been for the Browns ever since Romeo Crennel took over as head coach in 2005. They have played a number of close games that weren't decided until the end.
Yes, it's that way around the NFL overall, but it seems to be more prevalent in Cleveland.
In 2005, the Browns were involved in nine games where the final margin of victory was seven points or less. They went 4-5.
Then last season, there were 10 games decided by eight points or less, with the Browns posting a 4-6 record.
Add in the 1-1 mark in close games in 2007, and the Browns in the Crennel era have been 9-12 in nail-biters, a respectable record considering the team is just 11-24 in all contests during that time.
But, as Crennel -- a man with five Super Bowl rings -- will tell you, there is no joy in coming close. The NFL is a bottom-line business, and the Browns have to find a way to win these games at the end.
Maybe they'll be able to do just that on Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens come to Cleveland Browns Stadium.
ANNOUNCING THE ANNOUNCERS: Bob Harlan (play-by-play) and former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon (color analyst) will call CBS' telecast of the game, which will be shown in the Cleveland area on Channel 19 (WOIO). The contest will also be broadcast on the Browns Radio Network, with Jim Donovan (play-by-play), Doug Dieken (color analyst), Andre Knott (sideline reporter) and Mike Snyder (studio host) making up the announcing crew.
REMEMBER WHEN: It was eight years ago on Wednesday -- Sept. 26, 1999 -- when the Browns and Ravens met for the first time. Host Baltimore won 17-10, leading 10-0 at halftime and 17-3 after three quarters. The only points for the expansion Browns, returning to the field for the first time since 1995, came on a 49-yard field goal by Phil Dawson -- one of nine he would make that year in 12 tries -- and an 11-yard touchdown pass from Tim Couch to wide receiver Kevin Johnson with just 57 seconds elapsed in the fourth period to cut the deficit to 17-10. But the Browns could get no closer. Couch was 13-of-32 passing for 123 yards, one touchdown and an interception, while Terry Kirby led the Browns in rushing with 51 yards in 18 carries, and also in receiving with seven catches for 75 yards, both game highs. Baltimore's Errict Rhett, who would sign as a free agent with the Browns in the ensuing offseason, led all rushers with 133 yards in 22 attempts. The Browns lost despite intercepting quarterback Stoney Case three times and sacking him on four occasions. There were 18 punts in the game, with Cleveland's Chris Gardocki having 10 of them, averaging 44.7 yards per try.
WEATHER UPDATE: Another good game day for the Browns is on tap. The long-range forecast for Sunday calls for a high of 72 degrees and only a 10-percent chance of rain. If that happens, the Browns and Mother Nature will be on the same page for the third straight home game.
EARLY STARTS: This is the first of four straight 1 p.m. kickoffs for the Browns. Of their 13 remaining games, 10 start at 1 p.m., the only exceptions being Nov. 4 against the Seahawks at home (4:05 p.m.), Dec. 2 at the Arizona Cardinals (4:05 p.m.) and Dec. 9 at the New York Jets (4:15 p.m.).
AT A DISAVANTAGE: The Browns trail 11-5 in the series against the Ravens, standing 3-5 at home and 2-6 in Baltimore. They've dropped two in a row, four of five and six of eight.
MORE ON THE SERIES: Even though the Browns lost twice last year to the eventual AFC North champion Ravens, they played them extremely tough. In the first game Sept. 24 at Cleveland, the Browns led 14-3 through three quarters only to have Baltimore score 12 unanswered points, including a game-winning 52-year field goal by Stover with 20 seconds left, to escape with a 15-14 triumph. It was his third field goal of the day. ... In the rematch in Baltimore 11 weeks later, on Dec. 17, the Browns came back from a 17-3 deficit late in the first half to tie it at 17-17 midway through the third quarter on the second of Derek Anderson's two TD passes, a 14-yarder to wide receiver Braylon Edwards. But the Ravens broke the Browns' backs just 1:05 later when Kyle Boller, subbing for the injured Steve McNair, threw a 77-yard TD pass to wideout Demetrius Williams. Stover added his second field goal of the game, a 22-yarder with just under three minutes left, to give the Ravens their final 10-point margin, 27-17. Anderson, starting against his former team, was 23-of-32 passing for 223 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for an 85.8 rating. He was sacked five times.
AND ONE MORE THING...: The Browns and Ravens are so closely connected because the Ravens are, of course, the original Browns franchise. Even the Ravens radio announcing team has strong Browns and Ohio connections. Gerry Sandusky, who does the play-by-play, is the son of John Sandusky, who was a right tackle for the first six Browns teams in the NFL from 1950 through '55. The color analysts are former Browns (1990-95) and Ravens defensive end Rob Burnett, and Stan White, a former Baltimore Colts tight end who also played at Kent (Ohio) Roosevelt High School and Ohio State (1969-71).
QUOTABLES: "Even if we had won the game, I would have been disappointed with the way that we played." -- Crennel on his displeasure with his team's performance against the Raiders.