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Recap | Box Score | This Week's Scoreboard
Cleveland 21, New Orleans 16
Posted: Monday November 01, 1999 10:53 AM
Cleveland Browns
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New Orleans Saints
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NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- The Cleveland Browns needed a "Hail Mary" pass from Tim Couch to fellow rookie Kevin Johnson to earn their first win. Naturally, it came against the New Orleans Saints.

Couch heaved a 56-yard touchdown pass to Johnson on the final play of the game, lifting the Browns to a 21-16 victory over the Saints.

"Probably not another yard," responded Couch when asked how far he could throw the ball. "I put everything into it and threw it as high as I could. I got flushed out of the pocket. Their defensive end came free and I had to throw it extra high to give them time to run under the ball. That's probably as high as I could throw it."

Couch, the first overall selection in the draft, took the snap on the last play with two seconds remaining. He rolled out to the right and his pass from the Cleveland 41-yard line was tipped by Saints safety Sammy Knight at the goal line into Johnson's hands at the front right corner of the end zone.

"I'm the guy who is supposed to tip the ball," Johnson said. "It didn't work out like we planned it. I was looking at the screen to see where the ball was going and to put myself in position to catch the football. Those guys tipped it. I was like a yard in the end zone next to the sideline and it came down right in my hands."

New Orleans (1-6), which has made the playoffs just four times in 32 seasons, was the team that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earned their first win against in 1977 after 26 losses.

Cleveland (1-7), which was the last winless team in the NFL, had scored more than 10 points in only one of its previous games, an 18-17 loss at Cincinnati in Week Five.

"Obviously I'm very, very pleased," said Browns coach Chris Palmer. "The fact that our football team didn't quit and had an opportunity to be in the game with two seconds left; the fact that our guys played for 60 minutes and fought their butts off and hung in there, I'm very very proud of them."

New Orleans has blown fourth-quarter leads in five of its last six games. Last week the Saints allowed a "Hail Mary" touchdown pass to Joe Jurevicius as time ran out in the first half in a 31-3 loss to the New York Giants.

"It's embarrassing, it's certainly wonderful for them because it's exciting for them to get their first win," said New Orleans coach Mike Ditka. "It's not good for us. It's our sixth loss, but if I look back and I look at the way our guys played, I can't say anything. What am I going to say? They played their hearts out."

Rookie Ricky Williams rushed 40 times for a career-high 179 yards for the Saints, who have lost six straight since defeating the Carolina Panthers in their opener.

"Life goes on. We've still got to bounce back," Williams said. "There's no use sitting back feeling sorry for ourselves. We've just got to bounce back and come back next week and be ready to play Tampa Bay."

Williams, who surpassed the 100-yard mark for the first time last week, lost two fumbles in the fourth quarter. The first one was recovered by Browns cornerback Corey Fuller at the Saints 36, but three plays later Phil Dawson hooked a 46-yard field goal attempt. The second halted a potential scoring drive as linebacker James Williams recovered on the Browns 14.

Despite the two turnovers, New Orleans took a 16-14 lead when Doug Brien kicked a 46-yard field goal with 26 seconds left. Quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver called a timeout after Lamar Smith rushed for eight yards on 3rd-and-11.

"The quarterback calle a timeout, he also got us into position to kick the field goal," Ditka said. "He made a mistake. He should have waited."

The Browns began their final possession from their own 25 with 15 seconds left. Couch threw an incomplete pass before Leslie Shepherd had a 19-yard reception and got out of bounds to stop the clock with two seconds remaining.

Couch completed 11-of-19 passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson, his roommate, had four receptions for 96 yards. The pair hooked up on a 24-yard TD that gave the Browns a 14-10 advantage 6:07 into the third quarter. That score was set up by defensive tackle Darius Holland's 14-yard fumble return.

Tolliver, who had three interceptions in last week's loss, was 9-of-20 for 92 yards and was intercepted once. He replaced Billy Joe Hobert, who left with a neck injury, in the second quarter.

Hobert gave the Saints a 7-0 lead with a five-yard pass to Keith Poole with 3:59 to go in the first quarter.

Defensive end Roy Barker had a 14-yard interception return and on the following play Couch tossed a 22-yard pass to fullback Marc Edwards to tie the score, 7-7, with 7:37 to go in the second quarter.

Brien kicked a 49-yard field goal nine seconds before halftime to give New Orleans a 10-7 lead. He added a 24-yard field goal 8:53 left in the third to cut Cleveland's lead to 14-13.

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