The feel-good story of the NFL season is playing out right in front of our eyes. Feel free to blink because it’s not a dream, nor is it likely to turn into a nightmare anytime soon.
For the first time in five years, the Browns are a legitimate playoff contender — and they’re headed to Pittsburgh to play for first place in the AFC North.
“You better believe it. This feels good,” coach Romeo Crennel said Sunday after Cleveland’s 33-30 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks. “Anytime you win, it feels good, but I was impressed with the way the kids fought. They hung in there and just wouldn’t give up.
“This means that the home-field advantage that people talk about, we now have it.”
To the surprise of just about everyone in the country, Crennel’s club has turned into a juggernaut at Cleveland Browns Stadium, winning four of its five games there this season.
The Browns’ previous home victories over Cincinnati, Baltimore and Miami, however, don’t hold a candle to their come-from-behind triumph over Seattle.
Cleveland fell behind 21-6 to a solid Seahawks team just two years removed from an appearance in Super Bowl XL. But instead of calling it a day, this new generation of Browns sucked it up and battled back.
Tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. fought through intense pain in his knees, shoulder and ribs to put the team on his back and repeatedly carry it downfield.
Wide receiver Joe Jurevicius put aside the difficult week that his family had and made crafty catches at key times.
And quarterback Derek Anderson, who wasn’t good enough to outplay Kyle Boller or Charlie Frye in seasons past, made just enough big plays to put Cleveland over the top.
The dramatic triumph was nothing short of a statement game by one of the league’s perennial losers.
“I think they beat us one-on-one (position by position),” Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said. “They are a very explosive offensive football team. Romeo and his staff did a nice job and they won a real close game.”
By virtue of the win, the Browns put themselves back on the football map and earned an opportunity to take over first place in their division the next time they take the field.
Even better, that opportunity will come against the Steelers, who handed Cleveland a 34-7 season-opening smackdown eight weeks ago.
Heinz Field could be a one-stop shop for redemption, revenge and anything else the Browns envision along those lines.
“It’s not going to be hard to shift our focus to next week,” kicker Phil Dawson said. “We’ve got a team full of guys who have taken ownership of what’s going on and want to be held accountable.”
Linebacker Andra Davis was even more direct, saying, “We watched every (Pittsburgh) game last year and every game this year. We watch everything about them. We’ll be ready to play.”
Six days and counting until kickoff.
Dulik may be reached at 330-721-4059 or BRISports@hotmail.com.