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Browns Browns Archive The Year This Week Didn't Suck: Week 6
Written by Jonathan Knight

Jonathan Knight

Browns Giants 2008As we struggle to survive another season with the new-era Browns, one way we can try to get through it (besides alcohol or heavy medication) is to look back at the best individual weeks of the Browns’ new era to remember times in recent memory when this particular week didn’t suck.

If a Browns fan of today built a time machine, there are endless possibilities of where he should go on his first trip and what he should do when he got there.

Even if he couldn’t change history (because H.G. Wells and Lost have clearly outlined that we can’t do that), he could do so much good for his fellow fans of the past by just giving them a heads-up about what was coming. Or, maybe more appropriately, what wasn’t coming.

Near the top of the list would have to be the retrospectively hysterical period leading up to the 2008 season, when many Browns fans truly, honestly, genuinely believed the team was about to blossom into a Super Bowl contender. (Somewhere, a 1980s sitcom laugh track was just activated.)

Optimism was certainly warranted after a 10-6 campaign in 2007 that saw the Browns instantly develop one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. But now, in the cold light of the four years of diseased Browns reality that have followed, the fatal flaws of that team are as obvious as the Death Star’s thermal exhaust port.

For those who had overlooked (or unconsciously ignored) those many flaws, the Browns’ 0-3 start to 2008 came as a crippling steel-toed kick to the solar plexus. After getting plowed by perennial playoff contenders Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore in succession, the Browns picked up an ugly win over an ugly Cincinnati team to avoid a fourth straight loss. But even in the afterglow of victory, there was no sense that things had gotten or were going to get better. They went into the bye week already limping from the weight of their childishly foolish preseason expectations.

But then, for some bizarre reason, they came out of the bye week as the team all the unrealistic optimists expected them to be. Actually, even better than that.

In Week 6, the Browns would host just their second Monday Night Football contest since their return. They’d face the defending Super Bowl-champion New York Giants, who’d picked up where they’d left off the year before by sprinting to a 4-0 start.

It was a game that had been circled in red marker by the enthusiasts when the schedule came out as a potential watershed moment. But when the day arrived, the excitement had died down considerably. Everybody expected the Giants to simply rinse and repeat what the Cowboys, Steelers, and Ravens had done in the weeks before.

Absolutely nobody expected what actually happened.

As is usually the case in surreal games like this one would become, the tone was set in the opening minutes. Braylon Edwards - in for the biggest game of his career - caught a 49-yard pass on the game’s third play that led to a field goal. Moments later, the Browns picked off Eli Manning to halt a promising New York drive.

After the Giants snuck into the lead with a touchdown early in the second quarter, Edwards lassoed in a 70-yard Derek Anderson pass to set up a short Jamal Lewis touchdown run that put the Browns back on top. After a Giants punt, the Cleveland lead stretched to 10 on another Anderson scoring toss, but the Cleveland defense, showing the Downy softness that had defined it all of the previous season, allowed the Giants to drive 80 yards in two minutes to make it 17-14 just before the half.

If nothing else, the game was shaping up to be exciting - which was a welcome development after the Browns’ opening quartet. But surprisingly, not only would it not be a close game for much longer, it was the Browns who were about to put it out of reach.

On the first play of the second half, Cleveland defensive back Brandon McDonald picked off Manning to set up another field goal. As the third quarter waned, the Browns embarked on a 14-play, 87-yard drive that chewed up more than eight minutes, and then pushed the lead to 27-14 when Anderson hit - guess who? - Braylon Edwards for an 11-yard score.

The Giants had one last shot to make it interesting, driving to the Cleveland 9 with just over eight minutes remaining. But for the third time on the night, Manning was intercepted, this time by DB Eric Wright, who then returned the football 94 yards for the game-clinching touchdown as the sellout crowd roared at Cleveland Browns Stadium in a way it hadn’t ever before...and certainly hasn’t since.

One final New York drive was thwarted inside the Cleveland 10, and the Browns ran out the final four minutes to wrap up one of the most stunning victories in team history. Even the Paul Brown/Otto Graham/Jim Brown teams of the 1950s never laid the smack down on a good Giants team the way Romeo Crennel’s boys did that night.

The defending champions had been outplayed in every phase of the game. The Browns rolled up an almost comical 454 total yards, and did it with a variety of heroes. Anderson threw for 310 yards and a pair of scores with no interceptions. The offensive line was nearly perfect, not allowing a sack while paving the way for 144 rushing yards for the team, 88 from Jamal Lewis. But the real star was Edwards, who caught five passes for 154 yards - an average of more than 30 yards per snag.

This is what the 2008 Browns were supposed to be: an unstoppable offense combined with an opportunistic defense to put them on par with a championship-caliber team. For the next week, those dewy-eyed optimists who’d spent all of August chanting “Super Bowl” pointed to their less-enthusiastic comrades and said, “I told you so.”

Naturally, it didn’t last. Six days later, the Browns reverted back to their pre-Giant doldrums and never again showed the promise of that electric Monday night in October, losing nine of their next 11 games to close out both the season and Romeo’s tenure as head coach. The optimists either left town or were beaten, and we haven’t heard a peep out of them since.

A warning from a time-traveling Browns fan of the future would have been nice, so we could have enjoyed the Monday-night clobbering for what it was.

Rather than trying to convince ourselves it was a turning point for a wildly overrated team, we could have simply basked in the glow of a nationally televised spanking of the defending champions and better cherished the six days that followed before reality came crashing back down.

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