Giants no longer perfect
Posted: Tuesday, October 14, 2008 5:51 pm
By: By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — With the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, the sellout crowd didn’t chant for backup quarterback Brady Quinn or coach Romeo Crennel’s head.
Instead, Cleveland fans directed their taunts at the unbeaten Super Bowl champions, who rolled into town touted as the best team in pro football.
“Overrated,” they screamed at the New York Giants team on the field.
Playing one of their most-complete games in the past decade, the Browns breathed new life into a season that was quickly slipping away Monday night by stunning the previously unbeaten Giants 35-14 and ending New York’s 11-game road winning streak.
The Giants, so dominant through four games, were no match for the Browns (2-3). Cleveland rolled up 454 total yards of offense, intercepted three Eli Manning passes and never punted.
“We turned the ball over, we didn’t stop the run and we weren’t very good on third down,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “Our offense wasn’t very good when we got down there to put the ball in the end zone. There were outstanding plays from Cleveland. Let’s not take anything away from them.”
Through weeks of frustration, injuries and a near-quarterback change by Crennel, the Browns never lost hope in this season. They may have saved it.
With quarterback Derek Anderson outplaying Manning, Braylon Edwards making big catches and Eric Wright returning an interception 94 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Browns won on Monday night for the first time since 1993 and won some much-needed credibility.
Anderson, whose job was in serious jeopardy just a few weeks ago and may have been down to one more loss, threw a 22-yard TD to Darnell Dinkins and an 11-yarder to Edwards, who announced his team’s return to the NFL’s prime-time weekday slot by performing a cartwheel into a back flip during pregame introductions.
In their first four games, the Browns had shown no signs of living up to high expectations following a 10-6 season.
They had dropped their first two games at home, lost three in a row overall and had only a victory over winless Cincinnati to show so far in 2008.
Now, they’ve got something to brag about.
“This is us,” Anderson said. “These are the same guys who made plays all last season. I never doubted it.”
Anderson finished 18-for-29 for 310 yards, Edwards caught five passes for a career-high 154 yards and Jamal Lewis scored on a four-yard run in the first half for the Browns, who handed the Giants (4-1) their first loss and left Tennessee as the NFL’s only unbeaten team.
Aside from 10 penalties, several of them for false starts, the Browns were superior in ever phase over the Giants, who had reeled off 11 straight wins — 12 counting the Super Bowl — outside of New Jersey since Week 1 last season. But Manning was not himself and New York, which embarrassed Cleveland during the exhibition season, missed an opportunity to open a two-game lead in the brutal NFC East.
“I threw three interceptions,” Manning said. “That’s unacceptable. That’s not the way we win games. You’re going to lose a game every once in a while, but we don’t like the way we played. That’s what’s disappointing.”
Edwards’ 11-yard TD reception on the first play of the fourth quarter gave the Browns a 27-14 lead, and he punctuated it with a reverse dunk over the goal post. The score capped a painstaking 87-yard drive that was bogged down by five Cleveland penalties. In all, the Browns went 117 yards before scoring.
“Forward, backward, forward, backward,” said tight end Steve Heiden, who had five catches while starting for injured Pro Bowler Kellen Winslow. “At least we got in there.”
The Giants then drove to the Cleveland 9, but on second-and-4, Manning locked onto wide receiver Amani Toomer, allowing Wright time to dart in front, make the interception and tiptoe down the sideline to the end zone. It was a satisfying turn for Wright, who was burned twice by the Giants during the Aug. 18 matchup.
“He held the ball a little longer and that allowed me to make a play,” Wright said. “I tried to give myself some room so I could stay in bounds and I lucked out.”
While Browns fans danced in the aisles, Anderson hit Edwards for the two-point conversion to put the Browns ahead by 21.
“This springboards us into our second season,” Edwards said. “The first three losses are over. We have 11 games left to play like we did tonight.”
Manning went 18-of-28 for 196 yards and threw a 22-yard TD pass to Plaxico Burress, who was back after serving a one-game suspension for violating team rules.
Notes: It was the first time Cleveland did not punt since Nov. 5, 1995 against Houston. … Lewis (9,428) had 88 yards and passed Hall of Famer Earl Campbell for 25th on the career rushing list. … Giants LB Antonio Pierce injured his quadriceps in the first quarter but returned. … The Browns improved to 13-13 on Monday night. … Winslow was inactive after being hospitalized for several days with an undisclosed illness. … Burress had four catches for 58 yards.