KING / BLADE Enlarge
KING / BLADE Enlarge
CLEVELAND - He beat them with his arm all day, but it wasn't enough.
So Donovan McNabb of Philadelphia took care of the Cleveland Browns, as he has taken care of so many teams through the years, with his legs.
McNabb broke loose for a 28-yard scramble in overtime yesterday, sparking the drive that produced a 50-yard field goal by David Akers that in turn produced a 34-31 victory over the Browns.
McNabb started the game by putting 14 points on the board in just six plays. He was 8-of-8 for 163 yards before his first misfire. He finished with 376 yards and four touchdown passes.
But that was, in part, the price the run-conscious Browns defense paid for containing the shifty McNabb, who ran only one other time, for zero yardage.
In overtime, however, after the Browns opted not to go for it and instead punted on fourth-and-one from their 48-yard line, McNabb broke containment and took the starch out of the Cleveland defense with that 28-yard run from his 22-yard line to midfield.
A couple of runs by Dorsey Levens and a pass from McNabb to Reno Mahe moved the ball to the Browns' 32 and Akers was able to barely coax it over the crossbar as Philadelphia stayed unbeaten in six games.
"The scramble was a back-breaker," said Cleveland coach Butch Davis, whose team lost for the first time this season at home and dipped to 3-4 overall. "We worked so hard to take away all their threats downfield, but it's hard to take everything away."
Or, as linebacker Andra Davis said: "We contained him all day. Except for one play. And it was a big play."
The underdog Browns would like to think - and will tell you - that they merit respect from NFL upper-echelon teams like the Eagles.
"We're not about proving that we can play with the best," defensive tackle Gerard Warren said. "We've proved that. Now, it's about being the best."
Still, with everything to gain and with nearly 400 yards of offense under their belts, the Browns chose to play it by the book when facing fourth-and-one on their lone possession in overtime. Davis had his offense line up in an attempt to draw the Eagles offside, but then called time out and punted, setting the stage for McNabb's big run.
"They are definitely among the elite [teams] and we stood toe-to-toe with them," Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia said of the Eagles. "It is a situation where you have to think, what do we have to lose? We battled hard throughout this game, [so] let's see if we can go out and win it with this play."
How did offensive tackle Ryan Tucker think it would have turned out?
"I thought we could have won that battle," he said.
No one will ever know.
Cleveland had won a number of battles after falling into an early hole against the red-hot McNabb.
The Eagles' star hit Todd Pinkston for a 65-yard gain over Browns cornerback Daylon McCutcheon on the first play of the game, then followed with a 10-yard touchdown strike to tight end Chad Lewis on the next play. He added touchdown passes of 39 and 40 yards to Terrell Owens, burning left corner Anthony Henry both times, as the Eagles opened up a quick 21-10 lead.
"We gave up some plays early," McCutcheon said. "They have a lot of playmakers, sure, but it's frustrating because we just gave them stuff. As bad as we started, as hard as we made it on ourselves, our offense kept us in the game and we finally settled down and played defense the way we're supposed to."
Indeed, the Browns fought back behind Garcia, who threw for 236 yards, and a potent running attack that produced 123 yards in the first half and 165 for the game. William Green had 50 yards after his first six carries and Lee Suggs had 49 after five rushes.
Suggs' 13-yard cutback TD run just before the half pulled Cleveland to within 21-17 and the Browns took a 24-21 lead early in the third quarter when Garcia found tight end Steve Heiden, freed by a pick block, wide open for a 21-yard score.
"They gave us everything we could handle," Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said.
Reid's troops recovered, though, and were able to go up by seven points early in the fourth quarter when Frisman Jackson's fumble on a kickoff return set the Eagles up for a 38-yard field goal by Akers.
"I let us down," said Jackson, who had three catches and was pressed into kick return duty because of injuries to Andre King and James Jackson. "Losing that football gave them three points."
It also meant that when Garcia capped an 11-play, 54-yard drive with a four-yard scramble with 30 seconds to play, it was for a tie and not a victory.
It meant overtime, which turned out to mean McNabb.
"I prefer not to run," he said. "But it was open and if the opportunity is there I'm going to take it."
It was open, McNabb took it and the Browns were soon left to swallow another bitter disappointment.
"Moral victory?" Warren said, repeating a question. "No such thing. They don't hand out Super Bowl rings for moral victories."
Contact Dave Hackenberg at: email@example.com or 419-724-6398.41.50436 -81.69046