The blocked field goal that sealed the Browns’ 26-24 loss to Oakland wasn’t the unkindest kick of all. Yes, their chance to be 2-1 blew up when 6-foot-6 lineman Tommy Kelly batted down a would-be game-winning 40-yard field goal as time expired. The bigger hurt came from kicking themselves in the teeth during a timid first half in “The Black Hole.”
The blocked field goal that sealed the Browns’ 26-24 loss to Oakland wasn’t the unkindest kick of all.
Yes, their chance to be 2-1 blew up when 6-foot-6 lineman Tommy Kelly batted down a would-be game-winning 40-yard field goal as time expired.
The bigger hurt came from kicking themselves in the teeth during a timid first half in “The Black Hole.”
“We’ve got to worry about kicking tail early in the game,” wideout Joe Jurevicius said.
Instead, the Browns trailed, 16-0. After committing no offensive penalties in a 51-45 win over the Bengals, they had four on their first two series Sunday.
Quarterback Derek Anderson, cool as ice in throwing five touchdown passes last Sunday at home, cracked on the road.
He rallied big time after getting the ball on his own 9 with 1:04 and no timeouts left, passing his team 69 yards in 61 seconds to set up Phil Dawson’s ill-fated field goal try.
But in the big scheme?
“Terrible,” Anderson said “We came out flat in the first half ... didn’t move the ball. I made poor decisions. I gotta be better than that for us to win.”
Slow start, sad finish
Anderson threw for 173 yards in the second half after just 75 in the first.
The defense was shaky all day against quarterbacks Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper. The Browns allowed 186 rushing yards, 121 to LaMont Jordan.
“It’s a tough lesson,” wideout Braylon Edwards said, “but it’s one we’ll definitely eat up and swallow and – whatever – regurgitate.
“We’re upset with ourselves. We know we should have won this game.”
They would have if Dawson had made the 40-yard try from the dirt part of the combination baseball-football field.
Rookie Joe Thomas was on the right side of the Browns’ protection when Kelly lunged into the middle and stuck up his unusually long arms.
“It was one of those freak things where the guy sticks his hands up and gets lucky,” Thomas said.
Anderson, who had an Otto Graham game against Cincinnati, got off to a Spergon Wynn start.
Trailing 3-0, he gift-wrapped an interception to linebacker Thomas Howard, patrolling the underneath area in front of intended receiver Steve Heiden.
“I forced a throw to Steve,” Anderson said. “I didn’t find the linebacker. I threw it right to him. Point blank.”
That set up another field goal and a 6-0 Raider lead.
McCown’s 41-yard touchdown pass to Ronald Curry, who duped rookie Eric Wright, made it 13-0.
Needing to make a move, Anderson made two wrong ones.
First, he failed to spot Winslow open against man coverage deep down the left sideline.
Then, he took a shot at Winslow over the middle but fired to the wrong shoulder, giving middle linebacker Kirk Morrison room to make a diving interception.
That set up a field goal and a 16-0 lead.
Déjà vu all over again
Almost exactly a year earlier, on the same field, at the same time of the game, the Browns trailed, 21-3.
They rallied to win then. They made a move again.
It started with Joshua Cribbs’ 99-yard kickoff return to make it 16-7 late in the first half.
Moments later, Simon Fraser’s fumble recovery led to a Dawson field goal to make it 16-10 with 11 seconds left in the half.
Anderson dug in early in the third quarter. On second-and-10 from the 21, getting good protection, he looked right, looked middle, then looked to a third area where Edwards had broken free on a double move.
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha dove at Edwards’ feet as he hauled in his third TD pass in two weeks.
The Browns had their first lead, 17-16.
The Raiders shredded Cleveland’s defense for drives of 80 and 55 yards ending with a short Jordan TD run and a 48-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal. Oakland led, 26-17, with 8:11 left.
Anderson answered with fast-break drives of 80 and 69 yards, matching Oakland’s touchdown – his own 1-yard bootleg run – but missing out on the field goal.
The blocked kick became a nightmare, haunted by that miserable start.
“We just didn’t come out with the intensity,” Edwards said. “We let the win from last week drag over a little too long.
“We underestimated them a little bit. I think it’s safe to say that.”
Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org