Usually Cleveland Browns fans will shudder any time Bill Belichick’s time with the team is referenced. This time it’s OK.
The Browns are 4-1 and the last time that happened was 1994, when Belichick was their coach and University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban was their defensive coordinator. Belichick and Saban have won enough rings since then to start a jewelry store. The Browns became a running joke in the NFL.
Regardless of what happens over the rest of the season, the Browns and their fans should feel great about the way this season has started. They won their fourth in a row with a 32-23 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, who came in at 3-1, as well.
The Colts are a quality team and seen as a potential division winner. Maybe the Browns are on a playoff path, as well.
The Browns trailed 7-3 early but got hot in the second quarter. Baker Mayfield threw a couple of touchdown passes and Cleveland led 20-10 at halftime. In the third quarter, Colts quarterback Philip Rivers telegraphed a pass that was picked off by Browns safety Ronnie Harrison and returned 47 yards for a touchdown, and that gave Cleveland a 27-10 lead.
Because the Browns can’t make anything easy, they gave up a kickoff-return touchdown right after Harrison’s score. A 27-10 lead became 27-20. But Myles Garrett’s pressure on Rivers in the end zone caused an intentional grounding, which is a safety when it comes in the end zone.
The Colts cut Cleveland’s lead to 29-23 after Mayfield’s second interception, and the Browns got the ball with less than three minutes remaining, needing some first downs to ice the game. D’Ernest Johnson, who is getting extra playing time with Nick Chubb out due to a knee injury, came up with a huge 28-yard run on third-and-9 just before the two-minute warning, and that put the Browns into field goal range. Cody Parkey hit a field goal with 21 seconds that bounced off the left upright and in to seal the win. The Browns usually don’t catch breaks like that.
In 1994, the Browns used that 4-1 start to make the playoffs. In 1995, things started to fall apart. Art Modell decided to move the team to Baltimore after the season.
A good team went 5-11 amid all the distractions. Belichick was fired and went on to become the greatest coach in NFL history with the New England Patriots. The Browns didn’t return to the NFL until 1999, and they’ve yet to win a playoff game since. They’ve been to the playoffs only once. There haven’t been all that many bright days for the Browns since 1994.
It has been a long wait, but maybe the Browns are writing some new history this season.
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