- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Former New York Giant quarterback Jeff Hostetler is the Raiders' man now, and at the start of this game he helped fans forget all those rudderless years since Jim Plunkett retired in 1986. He guided L.A. to a 13-0 lead by throwing a two-yard scoring pass to tight end Andrew Glover and by engineering two drives that resulted in field goals of 24 and 27 yards by Jeff Jaeger. Since then, however, he has done nothing, figuring no doubt that the defense could take over.
At Friday's practice 13-year veteran defensive tackle Howie Long, the only Raider left from the old Oakland days, felt good about the off-season acquisition of Hostetler and the remodeling of the rickety Coliseum. "Now we have showers that work and a quarterback that works," Long said. "He came along just in time."
However, with the Cleveland defense battering Hostetler, the Raider offense has stopped in the second half. Still, the Browns need more to complete their comeback—they need the Raiders to give up the ball quickly, and L.A. proceeds to do just that. Taking the towering kickoff backward two yards to their own six, the Raiders maintain possession for only 45 seconds, during which Glover, who caught a first-quarter TD, drops a third-down Hostetler pass. Then the Raiders have punter Jeff Gossett take an intentional safety by running out of the end zone. With 1:41 left L.A. leads 16-12.
On the ensuing free kick Cleveland needs a good return, which it gets from Metcalf, who rips off a 37-yarder to the Raider 45. Suddenly it's Vinny's World, and a whole lot is riding on his shoulders. Winning this game not only would show that the lowly Browns (nobody picked them to do anything this year) are overachievers but also would ease the pressure on the sometimes bellicose Belichick, whose record with Cleveland coming into this season was 13-19. If trying to beat opponents isn't enough, Belichick has to confront the expectations of a wildly enthusiastic owner. Last season, after the Browns failed to make the playoffs for the third year in a row, Modell said, "I'm so positive of Bill Belichick's future here...that if we don't get the job done by the end of his contract , I will get out of football and leave Cleveland." Yikes! Who wants displacement of a family on his conscience? Come on, Vinny!
Brown fullback Tommy Vardell blasts up the middle for eight yards on the first play, and there's 1:17 remaining. Vardell will finish the day with a game-high 104 yards rushing on 14 carries, proving his worth as part of the new-look Browns, who include rookie center Steve Everitt and veterans like cornerback Everson Walls, defensive tackle Jerry Ball and linebacker Pepper Johnson. The Johnsons of Cleveland are a special force in this game. Together—Pepper, defensive end Bill and middle linebacker Mike—they will have 18 tackles (including two sacks), two special-team tackles and a pass broken up.
Also part of Cleveland's new agenda is the regular appearance in the locker room of former NFL star and current businessman/motivational speaker/social worker Jim Brown. Belichick wants all the old-timers to come around and impart wisdom to the current players, to show, as he says, "once you're a Brown, you're always a Brown."
Which is twice true for old number 32. Jim Brown, 57, is the man Belichick believes can inspire the troops just by standing there and being, well, Jim Brown. His speeches are gravy. "He's not rah-rah," says Kosar. "But he has a precise focus—on confidence, effort and enjoying the position you're in at the moment."
Whether speaking to middle managers, gang members or NFL players, Brown says it's "all pretty much the same. A human being is a human being." It's interesting to watch this former angry young man try on the role of elder statesman.
Out on the field Testaverde is still trying on the role of comeback king. He hits Carrier for 18 yards to the L.A. 16. He spikes the ball to stop the clock with 26 seconds to go. He hooks up with Carrier again for 17 yards to the L.A. one and calls Cleveland's last timeout. Eleven seconds are showing on the clock.
Testaverde lofts a ball into the left corner of the end zone. The 6'4" Jackson leaps to snare it, and does, but he can't stay inbounds. Six seconds left. Will the Browns have another chance like that? Jackson hopes so. He played the season opener as Michael Dyson, taking his father's surname and avoiding the silliness of having the same name as the world's most famous entertainer. Now Dyson is Jackson again, hoping even to capitalize on the accident of nomenclature. "I want to meet him," he says of the singer, "and do a poster. Man in the Mirror—he looks in the mirror and he sees...me!"