CLEVELAND - Butch Davis never used the word "skittish" during the Cleveland Browns' post-game press conference following a 34-17 victory over Cincinnati yesterday afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
A week after the Browns coach offered up the word to describe Cleveland quarterback Jeff Garcia's play in a loss at Pittsburgh, Davis' post-game summary of the Browns' victory before 73,263 focused on positives.
"One of the players wrote on the bulletin board, 'Smile, laugh and let's have fun.' When you play like that you can do that," Davis said.
Frankly, there were plenty of positives to speak about as Garcia and the rest of the Browns offense showed flashes of how potent they can be when the passing game and running attack are feeding off one another. The Browns defense all but shut down the Bengals offense after halftime to ensure the win.
Garcia, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who was acquired during the offseason,
did not just produce his best passing day wearing a Browns uniform, he came through with an NFL record when he found Andre Davis for a 99-yard touchdown pass that gave the Browns (3-3) a 7-0 lead with 7:39 remaining in the first quarter.
Garcia went on to throw for four touchdowns while completing 16 of 23 passes for 310 yards to help the Browns win their first three home games of a season since 1973. Garcia became the first Browns quarterback to throw for four touchdowns in a game since Bernie Kosar had four against Cincinnati on Dec. 13, 1987.
"It was a big day for our offense," said Garcia, sharing the credit for 449 total yards. "I was fortunate to have an opportunity to throw the ball down field and guys made plays. It comes down to guys having an opportunity to make plays and guys made plays."
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The Browns backfield also clicked as William Green finished with 115 yards rushing on 25 carries while Lee Suggs accounted for 119 total yards, including 100 yards receiving on five catches. Suggs hauled in a 59-yard touchdown pass from Garcia early in the fourth quarter that gave the Browns a 31-17 edge.
"My read was the linebacker and how he played me. I just took it up the field against him," said Suggs of his touchdown play.
Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis could only express disappointment about the outcome. The Bengals (1-4), capitalizing on three turnovers by the Browns in the first half, overcame an early 14-0 deficit and led 17-14 when Shayne Graham kicked a 32-yard field goal with 6:10 to play in the second quarter.
However, Garcia would lead the Browns on an impressive 13-play scoring drive that covered 79 yards to regain the lead and close out the half with a 21-17 advantage.
He lobbed a five-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Shea with no time left on the clock to put Cleveland in front for good.
"It was not a very good football game on our part today," Lewis said. "We allowed the big plays defensively. We did not play well enough to overcome the three big pass plays on defense.
"We are disappointed when we lose. We are not disappointed in our effort. We are disappointed in our execution of things. Our effort is there."
Cleveland's coach considered the final drive of the first half the most significant of the day.
"The two-minute drive at the end of the half that Jeff engineered was just absolutely enormous," Butch Davis said. "That got us back into the lead and got us the momentum back.
"In the second half, the ability to run the ball was good. We created some big-play opportunities and made some big plays."
Cleveland's defense held strong in the second half and only gave the Bengals 189 total yards for the game.
Cincinnati's Carson Palmer was held to 148 passing yards while completing 20 of 36 passes. The Bengals had 58 yards rushing on 18 carries.
"The defense was spectacular," Davis said. "They got put into some horrible field positions and bad situations and fought their guts out."
Palmer expressed the Bengals' frustrations: "I am shocked. Not to take anything away from the Browns, but I think that they are a team we can beat."
The afternoon didn't exactly start out on a high note for the Browns, particularly Garcia.
Cincinnati's Tory James intercepted Garcia's first pass attempt of the day. It drew boos from the partisan Cleveland crowd.
But the booing didn't last too long and changed to cheers when Garcia connected with Andre Davis on the record-setting touchdown completion. The hook-up between Garcia and Davis ranks as the longest in Browns history, and the feat was accomplished for the 10th time in NFL history.
Contact Donald Emmons at: email@example.com or 419-724-6302.41.50436 -81.69046