BEREA - Browns coach Romeo Crennel would rather be good than lucky. But for one game, he`ll take lucky.
Less than 24 hours after the unlikeliest of wins, Crennel smiled and laughed more than ever in a half-hour news conference. He had reason, as the Browns improved to 6-4 with a 33-30 overtime win over the Ravens on Sunday.
"We just got lucky," he said Monday. "Sometimes you have to be lucky. But we`ve got to play better."
Crennel said the Browns were lucky to escape with a victory after a second half in which they were outgained 330 yards to 101. He also knows they were fortunate the officials changed the call on Phil Dawson`s 51-yard field goal as time expired in regulation.
The kick hit the left upright, bounced off the curved support that extends from the crossbar to the ground and somehow kicked backward into the end zone. Field judge Jim Saracino, who was standing under the left upright, immediately pointed to the ground and signaled no good. But back judge Keith Ferguson, standing under the right upright, disagreed and didn`t make a signal.
The Jumbotron at M&T Bank Stadium read: Final score, Baltimore 30, Cleveland 27. The players and coaches shook hands and many retreated to the locker rooms. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis started removing tape from his body.
"We were up, down, back up," receiver Braylon Edwards said Sunday. "It feels real good. I can`t imagine how the Ravens feel."
Referee Pete Morelli wasn`t sure Saracino`s call was right and huddled with the officials. Ferguson was "very emphatic" the kick had cleared the plane of the crossbar and was therefore good, Morelli said Sunday.
"If two officials disagree on a call, it is up to the referee to sort it out and make the decision," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello replied in an e-mail after consulting with Mike Pereira, supervisor of officials.
Morelli consulted through a headset with replay assistant Howard Slavin in the pressbox.
"Pete Morelli went to the headset to make absolutely sure that the play was not reviewable," Aiello said. "That was the extent of the discussion."
Because field goals aren`t reviewable by replay under league rules - "It is impossible to determine from the video whether kicks that sail over the uprights are good," Aiello said - Morelli met with the officials again and decided Ferguson was correct, the field goal was good and overtime was necessary. (Ferguson will never have to pay for a drink in Cleveland again.)
A kick hitting off the extension and bouncing back into play is such an improbability that the replay guidelines don`t cover it. Aiello said the scenario will be reviewed by the competition committee in the offseason.
The league`s explanation did little to placate Ravens coach Brian Billick.
"I`ll be honest with you, we talk many times in training camp about preparing your team for the inevitable things â€“ the loss of a key player, a rash of injuries, a change in the quarterback position, the losing streak, the winning streak," he said Monday. "I was remiss in (not) covering what we do when we`ve won a game, go into the locker room and are told to come back out again. So I don`t know that I had them adequately prepared for that."
Crennel giggled when asked if he`d like to see the rule changed so it`s reviewable.
"If it goes your way, then you say yeah," he said. "If you end up losing, then you say no."
The final decision was the right one, but for years that wouldn`t have mattered. The Browns were a losing team that couldn`t catch a break.
This year is different. They`ve matched or exceeded their win totals from the last four seasons and are in prime position for the playoff chase.
Crennel was asked whether the team has good karma.
"Not good enough," he said. "If we play better, then we`ll have good karma."
Despite their defensive shortcomings, the Browns have had success in close games this year. They are 4-2 in games decided by seven points or less, with the losses coming on a blocked field goal in Oakland and a 52-yard tying attempt that fell just short in Pittsburgh.
"We`re making plays at the end as a result of better players and some continuity in the system," Crennel said. "That says the team`s maturing."
"This team can fight through anything," Edwards said. "We never give up. We believe in each other."
As relieved and pleased as Crennel was, he refused to get carried away when asked if a win like the one Sunday makes him think this is the Browns` year.
"No," he said. "That was our day â€“ yesterday."
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or email@example.com.