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For Browns, Win Really Hits Home

September 18, 2000|From Associated Press

CLEVELAND — After nearly five years, several heart-stopping seconds and a chaotic finish, the Browns finally won a home game.

"Oh, my goodness," linebacker Wali Rainer said. "We did it."

Phil Dawson kicked a 19-yard field goal with 2:45 to play and Pittsburgh couldn't get off a last-second attempt, giving the Browns a 23-20 triumph over the Steelers and their first home victory since 1995.

"When it was over I started breathing again," said owner Al Lerner, who bought the Browns for $530 million but had never experienced driving home after a win. "Before that I couldn't."

The expansion Browns (2-1) were shut out, 43-0, in their home opener by the Steelers last season and went 0-8 in the new Cleveland Browns Stadium in 1999 en route to a 2-14 season. The streak went to nine after they dropped their home opener against Jacksonville two weeks ago.

And for a while, it looked like after leading 14-0, the Browns might lose this one too.

Pittsburgh had a first-and-goal at the Browns' nine with 35 seconds left, but after two running plays, rookie defensive end Courtney Brown sacked Kent Graham with eight seconds left. Brown finished with three sacks.

The Steelers (0-2), who had to burn some early timeouts, tried to line up to try a game-tying field goal, but the clock ran out and the Browns and their fans celebrated Cleveland's first home win since Dec. 17, 1995, the final game at Cleveland Stadium.

"That clock doesn't tick fast enough," quarterback Tim Couch said. "It seemed like an eternity."

Tim Couch completed 23 of 31 passes for 316 yards and two touchdown. Brown had his first three career sacks--the final one clinching the win.

"I was on the sideline getting ready for overtime," Brown running back Errict Rhett said. "Never in a million years did I think the game would end like that."

Jerome Bettis rushed for 123 yards and one touchdown for Pittsburgh.

Dawson's 28-yard field goal with 10:49 remaining tied the score, 20-20, and the Browns found themselves backed up to their own goal line after the Steelers downed a punt at the four.

But on second down at the eight, Couch connected with Kevin Johnson on a slant pattern over the middle that resulted in a 79-yard gain, and five running plays later, Dawson's kick put the Browns up by three.

The Steelers converted on fourth and six on their final drive, with Graham completing a 29-yard pass to Bobby Shaw. Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, who replaced Richard Huntley in the second half, ran the ball 20 yards and Pittsburgh called its final timeout.

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