Stover and out
Once again the score was 14-12, and once again the pass fluttered into the end zone in a Browns home game, and once again everyone in attendance gasped as they saw a Browns receiver stumbling around. And as the ghost of Red Right 88 possessed the body of Baltimore Ravens defensive back Chris McAllister and picked off Charlie Frye's pass, we already knew how this story would end. With the ghost of the real Cleveland Browns kicking us square in the groin.
The original Red Right 88 ended with a 14-12 score, but not this one. Not when there was still 3:21 remaining in the game. Not when the hated Baltimore Ravens were looking at 3-0 for the first time in "franchise history." (Really, just because they say they started the franchise when they moved to Baltimore doesn't mean they did!) Not when all the Ravens needed to do was move into field-goal range for one of the NFL's most accurate kickers, Matt Stover, the last man standing from when Art Modell stole the Browns off to Baltimore.
It couldn't just be a simple chip shot, though. It had to Stover's longest field goal since 1993, the third-longest of his career, and the first one of more than 50 yards that he's hit since 2002. It had to be a low-trajectory kick that knifed through the swirling winds, a kick to our collective gut as well as a game-winning field goal. And also the longest kick Stover had even TRIED since the turn of the century.
But take the combination of NFL's most devout player going up against the team that God hates, and was there any question that the Browns would collapse like Michigan State in the fourth quarter? Stover points to the sky and gives thanks to God after every field-goal attempt, make or miss. Of course he'd get to point Heavenward after a successful kick this time.
Before Sunday, Matt Stover was 33-for-36 in his career against the Browns, his best percentage against any team. Now he's 36-for-39, a 92.3 percent accuracy rate, a full 10 percent better than his overall career mark. It figures that the guy who holds Browns records for most field goals and second-most field goals in a season (29 in 1995, 26 in 1994), most field goals in a game (5, 10/29/1995, tied with Phil Dawson and Don Cockroft), and best field-goal percentage in a season (92.86 percent in 1994) would come through.
And we can't even be all that made at Matt Stover since his foundation donates $100,000 per year to Baltimore charities.
The only thing that would make Stover's winning kick acceptable for Browns' fans is if Art Modell suffered a heart attack while watching the ball sail through the uprights.
The Browns can't even win when Charlie Frye throws for nearly 300 yards, Kellen Winslow catches almost 100 yards worth of balls, and Braylon Edwards goes for almost 200 yards and a touchdown. They can't even win when (for the second time) they limit a team to just one touchdown. They can't even win when everything goes right on game day following a week where everything went wrong. Kellen Winslow runs his mouth, Daylor McCutcheon goes on IR, Gary Baxter and Reuben Droughns go on the inactive list -- seemingly no hope, right?
Oh, but there was. All the way up until the 14-12 score woke up the ghost of Red Right 88 and the original Browns and gave Charlie his own bitter Browns memory. And God another good laugh.