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Old 09-15-2008, 03:27 AM   #1
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Default History doesn't lie in Browns-Steelers matchups

History doesn't lie in Browns-Steelers matchups
Monday, September 15, 2008
By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


CLEVELAND -- The drive that Cleveland spent all night looking as though it couldn't possibly manage started with a little screen pass to little Jerome Harrison, the suspect 5-foot-9, third-down solution who chugged it 23 manic yards through a Steelers defense that had been, to that point, virtually impenetrable.

But you knew something was up, something untoward was cooking, when Derek Anderson's short pass to Kellen Winslow got tipped straight up in a collision with Troy Polamalu, and on the instantly ensuing jump-ball, Winslow came down with it for 11 more yards to the Pittsburgh 46.

And when Anderson, who couldn't seem to find a clutch throw anywhere in his shaggy trick bag, converted a third-and-7 to Syndric Steptoe and a second third-and-7 to Braylon Edwards right in front of Steelers corner Ike Taylor, it began to look as though the Browns could not only score without porfolio, but score twice.

All this late in a desperate fourth quarter.

Three plays later, Anderson tried a third-down strike to Edwards again, but Bryant McFadden busted it up to give Browns coach Romeo Crennel something to think about with three and half minutes remaining last night and his rickety offense trailing by a touchdown.

Crennel didn't think long.

"I just felt I needed to get some points on the board there," Crennel said in the losing interview room -- you'll excuse the redundancy. "I wanted to give my defense a chance to get the ball back."

So he sent Phil Dawson onto the soggy lawn at Cleveland Browns Stadium to whump a resoundingly unpopular field goal that merely sliced Pittsburgh's lead to 10-6.

Yeah, the Browns had all their timeouts left, and yeah, Ben Roethlisberger and his offensive teammates maybe weren't playing the best game of their lives, but hadn't Crennel already seen a half-dozen of these Steelers-Browns pantomimes?

Could he ignore all this history?

He was 0-6 in 'em, and somehow he thought the Browns had a last-second touchdown in them?

That's a triumph of human confidence right there, but more likely on Cleveland yak-radio it'll get portrayed as a evidence of galloping lunacy.

"If they score seven there, that's a difference maker," McFadden said. "If they take a field goal, we feel that field goals can't beat us. It's gratifying to hold a great offensive team like this without a touchdown."

It had only taken an hour and 25 minutes after the national anthem ended for the Browns to cross midfield last night, a stirring accomplishment for Northern Ohio that coincided with the news that Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel would not be back on the field after a first-quarter calf injury.

So with Keisel out most of the night, McFadden sitting in at left corner for Deshea Townsend and the Cleveland offense operating in the second and fourth quarters with a wind gusting up to 60 miles per hour at its back, the Browns soared to all of ... six points.

McFadden set up the only Steelers touchdown with an interception late in the second quarter, the first of the game's nine possessions to that point that did not end in a punt. The fourth-year corner from Florida State went stride-for-stride with Braylon Edwards down the right sideline, turned at precisely the right instant and sent the Steelers the other way.

"They were running a lot of comeback routes," McFadden explained, "but with Braylon, if he's running deep, you know they're looking for him. I just got my head around in time."

With meteorological elements portending a low-scoring game in this freshest re-enactment of an ancient NFL rivalry, the Steelers defense had something more dramatic in mind: the no-scoring game.

That idea got vetoed by, of all people, defensive captain James Farrior, whose inexplicably uncharacteristic taunting penalty set the Browns up at Steelers' 11 late in the third quarter. From that point, the Browns drove smartly backward to the 13, from where Dawson plunked home the field goal that put his awful offense on the board for the first time in almost 44 minutes of game clock.

No matter.

McFadden picked off one Derek Anderson pass, Polamalu intercepted another three yards from his own end zone just before the half and Pittsburgh's consistently superb defense strangled the tormented Browns to take a two-game lead in the AFC North after exactly, uh, two games.

Polamalu made a violent opening statement for the national TV audience and a wind-slashed, rain-pelted crowd of Clevelanders when he torpedoed Jamal Lewis in his own backfield on the game's first play from scrimmage. That appeared to plunge the Browns into a rut that included three consecutive three-and-outs, during which a couple of themes had their origination.

First, safety Ryan Clark began to abuse Kellen Winslow, banging into him on a crossing route that seemed to discourage similar route-taking in the later stages. Further, Larry Foote slammed into Lewis in the open field to the right of Cleveland's formation, turning what looked like a potential breakaway into a pratfall of a 2-yard-gain for the veteran running back.

Keisel got hurt on the first Browns possession that resulted in an actual first down and was capably replaced thereafter by Travis Kirschke and Nick Eason.

The Browns, with one final chance with 26 second left, couldn't move an inch.

A lone voice in the mist screamed, "Kick a field goal

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08259/912338-66.stm
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Old 09-15-2008, 03:51 AM   #2
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Default Re: History doesn't lie in Browns-Steelers matchups

I still don't understand why Crennel went for the field goal instead of the first down they still had to get a touchdown no matter what.
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