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Browns Browns Archive The Year This Week Didn't Suck: Week 9
Written by Jonathan Knight

Jonathan Knight

browns patriots 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.

The vast majority of those of us able to access this type of column via the internet has absolutely no first-hand memory of seeing man land on the moon for the first time. We were either unborn, too young to remember it, or simply too young to fully appreciate its massive significance.

Consequently, we tend to take landing on the moon for granted, ranking it behind other, slightly more relatable generation-altering achievements like the internet or parachute pants.

Fortunately, the Browns’ blowout victory over the mighty New England Patriots two years ago gave the subset of that moon-landing-deprived group who are also Cleveland sports fans a general idea of what it must have been like to see Neil Armstrong do-si-doe across the sea of tranquility back in ’69.

By Week 9 of 2010, the Browns had already done a nice job of firmly establishing themselves as absolutely nothing for any opponent to worry about. They stood at 2-5 coming out of their bye week and loomed as anything but a threat to the Patriots, who strutted into town with a 6-1 mark  and had easily dispatched the Browns the previous four times they’d played since becoming the NFL’s elite franchise a decade earlier.

The only real appeal to watch the game was the whole Bill Belichick/Eric Mangini fiasco that still hadn’t quite blown over, leaving that chance that one of them would stick a shank in the other at some point during the game.

As it turned out, there was a shanking that day, but not between the coaches. And there was blood. Thick, rich, red-white-and-blue Patriot blood.

Scientists still can’t come up with a believable explanation for what happened that sunshiny November Sunday. The Browns not only won, they - let’s just go ahead and say it - completely butchered the New England Patriots.

It started out innocently enough, with the Browns taking the opening kickoff and marching right down the Patriots’ throats for a field goal. Then, after New England fumbled the ensuing kickoff, the Browns cashed in on a short touchdown run by Peyton Hillis - who in one afternoon would go from a player of interest to a Super Joe Charboneau-caliber matinee idol.

When New England cut the margin to 10-7 midway through the second quarter, it appeared common sense had finally arrived to the ballpark late, mumbling “Excuse me,” as it clumsily carried a cardboard tray with hot dogs and beers down the aisle past folks awkwardly rising halfway out of their seats to allow it through.

But no. As it happened, common sense stayed far, far away from Cleveland on this day.

With Colt McCoy looking more like Tom Brady than Tom Brady did, the Browns responded with an impressive drive to the New England 11, where they scored on a play straight out of a Little Rascals one-reeler.

Deliberately looking disorganized (something that today comes naturally), the Browns lined up Josh Cribbs at quarterback with players haphazardly stacked around him. Cribbs took the snap and backward-handed the football to wide receiver Chansi Stuckey, who had been cleverly hidden behind right guard when he got the ball. Stuckey then scampered around left end and through the surprised New England defense for another Cleveland touchdown.

Put simply, more creativity and energy was put into that playcall than the two years of Browns offense that have followed.

Thanks to a key fumble recovery by the Browns at their own 3 with the Patriots poised to score just seconds before the half, the 10-point advantage held up until the third quarter, when things got positively silly.

With the New England offense continually stymied by a suddenly resurgent Cleveland defense - using quirky alignments dreamed up by long-haired wild man Rob Ryan - continual handoffs to Hillis resulted in a continual battering of overmatched defenders as the Browns pounded deep into New England territory.

From the 16, McCoy scrambled over, around, and through a broken defense and - aided by a crushing block by Josh Cribbs - dove into the end zone for a touchdown and a 24-7 Browns’ lead.

At this point, it became clear that common sense not only wasn’t going to show up, but that it had been killed execution-style and buried in a shallow grave in Rahway, New Jersey.

Looking uncharacteristically frazzled (and who could blame them?), the Patriots narrowed the margin to 27-14 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Browns saddled up Hillis one more time to deliver the knockout blow. After spending the afternoon plowing through and leaping over would-be tacklers, he blasted around the line from the New England 35 and cruised into the end zone as a deliriously disbelieving crowd shook the foundation of CBS.

Unlike several of the Browns’ other nice victories over clearly superior teams in the expansion era, this wasn’t one of those hey-they’re-not-looking-so-quick-take-their-wallet deals. This was complete domination. Not only was the score lopsided, but the Browns dominated total yardage (404 to 283), rushing yards (230 to 68), and time of possession (38:08 to 21:52) against the best team, best coach, and best quarterback in professional football. 

And while the Patriots may have been flat, this was not a case of the superior team committing countless mistakes and handing over the game to its opponent. They committed three turnovers to the Browns’ one, allowed one sack, and actually had less penalty yards than the Browns.

There were no excuses. Just bloodstains.

McCoy outplayed Brady, and Peyton Hillis turned in one of the finest individual performances in franchise history, rushing for 184 yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding another 36 yards receiving. And offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, forgetting everything he knew about physics, got pancaked by Joe Thomas on an ill-advised airborne chest bump. Which was hilarious.

It was the Browns’ finest performance of the expansion era as they delivered a victory over the best team they’d faced in more than 40 years. These Patriots would not lose again in the regular season, finishing with an NFL-best 14-2 record.

For that day at least, Eric Mangini truly did look like the “Man-Genius” he was supposed to be, and the Browns looked like a team that was going somewhere.

But just like Neil Armstrong, once the Browns walked on the moon, they never went back.

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