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Browns Browns Archive The Year This Week Didn't Suck: Week 7
Written by Jonathan Knight

Jonathan Knight

browns saints 2010As 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.

Occasionally, from the outer reaches of the cosmos, there comes an NFL game so illogical it physically hurts to try to make sense of it.

Week 7 of the 2010 season provided one of these instances. And not surprisingly, the Cleveland Browns were involved.

True, there’s a high level of absurdity in any Browns’ win, but this one stands out as peculiar enough to warrant a congressional investigation. For on this particular Sunday, the Browns took a break from tumbling further into their do-it-yourself abyss to stand up and slobberknock the Super Bowl champs.

In that year, like this one, October was winding down and the Browns were going nowhere, limping toward their bye week at a pathetically typical 1-5. And Eric Mangini - like Pat Shurmur, Tom Heckert, and Mike Holmgren today - was already a dead man walking, almost assuredly to be replaced once the season was mercifully over.

So there was very little - make that zero - expectation that the Browns would march into the home of the defending world champions and even give them a game, let alone threaten to win.

Instead, not only did they win, but they controlled the contest from the outset, landing haymaker after haymaker in one of the most bizarre games in team history.

It all began with a piece of well-placed trickery. After forcing New Orleans to punt on the game’s first possession - an instance in and of itself peculiar - on the return Josh Cribbs flung a cross-field lateral to Eric Wright, and Wright galloped 62 yards downfield to set up a Phil Dawson field goal. But there were plenty of other goodies in the Browns’ bag of tricks.

Aided by a long pass-interference call on the Saints, the Browns made it 10-0 on a Peyton Hillis touchdown blast on their next possession, then linebacker Scott Fujita haunted his former bounty, intercepting Drew Brees at the Cleveland 3 to thwart a Saints scoring threat minutes later. It was only early in the second quarter, but there was already a decided strangeness about this game. And it only got stranger.

browns saints 2010 hodgesA few minutes before halftime, punter Reggie Hodges took the snap on fourth-and-eight from the Cleveland 23 and, instead of punting as punters are wont to do, sprinted untouched upfield through a pocket of empty space in the defense the size of the Gulf of Mexico for a 68-yard gain. It turned out to be the team’s longest run of the season and set up another Dawson field goal to make it 13-3.

And just when you thought you had used up all the amphetamines, Cleveland defensive lineman David Bowens intercepted Brees and rumbled 30 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-3 at the intermission. The Superdome crowd - so instrumental in creating a home-field din that propelled the Saints to the NFC title nine months before - was stunned into a thick, cajun silence. In complete disbelief, they were watching their triumphant world champions lose to a 1970s version of themselves.

browns saints 2010 bowensAfter New Orleans cut the lead to 20-10 early in the fourth, the Browns responded again, this time thanks to another playcall straight out of an episode of Romper Room. On third-and-six from the New Orleans 44, Hillis took a handoff, then stopped and looped a pass to rookie Colt McCoy - making his second career start - for a 13-yard gain and a very important first down. Dawson’s third field goal followed and the Browns led by 13 points with less than six minutes to play.

Bowens then provided the French bread with which to mop up the rest of the gumbo when he intercepted another Brees pass - the fourth of the day for Brees - and returned it 64 yards before somersaulting into the end zone for the clinching touchdown and a 30-10 lead. New Orleans tacked on a meaningless score in the final minutes, but the Browns ran out the clock to complete the stunning, completely preposterous upset.

The Saints dominated total yardage and time of possession, ran 31 more offensive plays, and Brees threw for 356 yards, yet they were never really in the game thanks to the Browns’ intelligence, cunning, creativity, and opportunism. And perhaps their selective use of voodoo.

It was the beginning of a three-game stretch that marked the high point of Eric Mangini’s brief tenure as Browns’ coach and - for the first time in years - showed the team was capable of out-thinking its opponents.

Something we hadn’t seen often before and certainly haven’t seen since.

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