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WEEK 2 IN THE NFL

Browns put own spin on this 45

September 17, 2007|Christine Daniels | Times Staff Writer

The first quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy for USC, Carson Palmer on Sunday became the first quarterback to throw for six touchdowns in an NFL game and lose to a 9-year-old expansion team notable mainly for debasing the once-proud "Cleveland Browns" brand on a weekly basis.

Palmer passed for six scores (one shy of the league record) and 401 yards (more than half of them to Chad Johnson), which was enough for 45 Cincinnati Bengals points. On most days, that would be more than enough points to beat any NFL team that doesn't play its home games in Indianapolis or focus spy-cams on opposing sidelines. On most days, that would be enough points to beat the Browns by five touchdowns, as these Browns usually need five days to score five touchdowns.

On the second Sunday of the 2007 season, however, 45 points by Palmer's Bengals meant a six-point loss to these Browns, who were quarterbacked, it should be noted, not by anyone named Otto Graham, Brian Sipe, Bernie Kosar or Vinny Testaverde. These Browns, not to be confused with those Browns (although the league record book remains a mess about that), were quarterbacked by Derek Anderson, who was a bench-warmer behind Charlie Frye before a 27-point opening-week loss to Pittsburgh prompted these Browns to punch the eject button on the Frye era.

Few backup quarterbacks have ever moved into the starting lineup amid more charmed circumstances. Anderson was presented a home game against the Bengals' make-yourself-at-home defense and had a career in a day: five touchdown passes, 328 yards and his signature on a beyond-stunning 51-45 victory.

Worth considering: The Browns hadn't scored 51 points in their previous five games combined.

Five years ago, there were more than a few draft-day skeptics who believed Palmer to Cincinnati was not a great fit, something of an anxious reach. Now we know they had it half-right. The Bengals and their traveling-circus defense must drive Palmer into regular postgame fits of anxiety. He has to wonder: What do I have to do to win with this outfit, and where were the Ravens or the Bears when I really needed them on that fateful April day in 2002?

According to the Associated Press account, this is the third time in league history that two quarterbacks each passed for five touchdowns in the same game. Every time it has happened, it has become progressively more peculiar: from George Blanda and Tom Flores in 1963 (Blanda is an AFL all-timer; Flores was no slouch) to Billy Kilmer and Charley Johnson (Kilmer could sling it a bit; Johnson was a journeyman) to Palmer and yes-it's-no-typo Derek Anderson.

The Associated Press account also noted that the game was "a historic afternoon for the Browns, who had a 300-yard passer, a 200-yard rusher and two 100-yard receivers (Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow) for the first time since joining the NFL in 1950." These sorts of sentences in stories about the NuBrowns deserve the Barry Bonds treatment: Without an asterisk, they muddle the truth. These Browns joined the NFL in 1999. The Other Browns, the Graham-Sipe-Kosar-Testaverde Browns, those Browns, joined the NFL in 1950 and moved to Baltimore in 1996 and are now known as the Ravens. And those Ravens won the Super Bowl that culminated the 2000 season, which still grinds football fans in Cleveland, which has never celebrated a Super Bowl appearance, in any incarnation.

Sunday was a big day for Super Bowl nostalgia. Two of the Big Game's first six marquee matchups were reprised in Baltimore and Miami.

Exacting not nearly enough revenge for Super Bowl III, Baltimore beat the New York Jets, 20-13. One reason: Kellen Clemens and not Joe Namath started at quarterback for the Jets. Clemens threw two interceptions in his professional debut, and Willis McGahee rushed for 97 yards for Baltimore, and Earl Morrall didn't throw any interceptions.

In the Super Bowl VI rematch, Dallas defeated Miami again, this time by a 37-20 score. Taking his shot at the role of Roger Staubach in the original was 27-year-old Tony Romo, who did not complete half of his passes but did complete two for touchdowns. More telling was the contribution of Miami quarterback Trent (Don't Call Me Bob Griese) Green, who had four passes intercepted, which was almost -- but not quite -- enough to make Dolphins fans wistful for the days of Joey Harrington.

Harrington is now in Atlanta, overseeing the completion of the demolition of that franchise. Harrington was sacked seven times in a 13-7 loss to Jacksonville one week after being sacked six times in a 24-3 loss to Minnesota. Illegal dogfighting is a horrible thing, Falcons fans are being reminded every Sunday.

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