For the first time since our playoff season under Butch Davis, the positives far outweighed the negatives of the Cleveland Browns 2007-2008 season. There will be plenty of time to highlight those positives heading into a season with the bar set high, so let's take a look at the top five worst moments of this past season to get them out of the way already.
These are the top five moments in which the pain sunk in the deepest for me (it's a countdown to the worst moment):
5. PUSH-OUT NON-CALL IN GLENDALE
Although you could look back at a lot of moments for any team in any season and say "if only this had happened", the Browns have more of a case with their argument. Although the Browns received the benefit of the doubt against the New York Jets two seasons ago, that doesn't mean we deserved to not get the benefit of the doubt against the Cardinals. The call was wrong against the Jets, and it was also wrong against the Cardinals. Kellen Winslow made a tremendous catch with two defenders guarding him, only to see the referee rule him out of bounds almost immediately. I still believe that the referee made the mistake of looking down at Winslow's feet the whole time, preventing him from clearly seeing the defender shove Winslow out. Although the feeling after this game was more of rage than sorrow, it was still significant enough to crack the top five.
4. GAME-WINNER GOOD, THEN BLOCKED BY RAIDERS
A week after the Denver Broncos renewed the annoying trend of calling a timeout as a kicker is about to attempt a game-winner, costing the Raiders a victory, the same situation came up in our game against Oakland. This time, the Browns were trailing by two points and ready to attempt a 40-yard field goal with Phil Dawson. The snap was back, the ball was down, the kick was up and it was GOOD! Instead of building a miraculous two-game winning streak after our opening debacle against the Pittsburgh Steelers though, the referees signaled that Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin had called a timeout prior to Dawson's kick. On the second attempt, the Raiders' Thomas Kelley busted through the combination of Seth McKinney and Nat Dorsey (neither of whom will be back this season) to block Dawson's kick. Isn't it funny how the first two moments involved rule changes that need to be implemented?
3. ROETHLISBERGER'S 30-YARD SCAMPER
While not the game-winner, the Browns collapsed to the Steelers again after having a substantial first half lead. The worst part of the game came when Ben Roethlisberger dropped back to pass in the second half and then bolted 30 yards straight up the middle practically untouched for a go-ahead touchdown. It felt almost as bad as when Chris Fuamatu-ma'afala scored the game-winning touchdown against the Browns in the 2001 playoffs. Big Ben didn't need to do that to expose how poor our defensive line is -- we already know how bad it is. However, if you don't feel like explaining to others why our line is so poor, all you need to do it show them a clip of Roethlisberger's run. Although there was a questionable block by the Steelers on the play that looked like a hold, it still doesn't excuse the fact that Roethlisberger still would've had a big run to set the Steelers up for a score still.
2. SORGI'S FINAL INCOMPLETION TO AROMASHODU
It was painful to know that the Indianapolis Colts held the Browns' fate in their hands for the final game of the season. I was scared of what the outcome would be, but I tried to pump myself up for it on Dawgs By Nature as much as I could in hope that the Browns would advance to the playoffs. It was painful when Peyton Manning only put three points on the board. It was painful when Marvin Harrison played. It was painful when Reggie Wayne fumbled. It was painful when Tony Dungy failed to take a timeout at the end of the game. The one play that counts is the last one the Colts ran -- when Jim Sorgi's high pass to David Aromashodu deep down the field was easier to catch than Eli Manning's pass to David Tyree in the Super Bowl was. The pass fell incomplete, and then it sunk it -- the Browns season was officially over. Ten wins. Six Pro Bowlers. No playoffs.
1. ANDERSON PICKED OFF BY NDUKWE
The Browns controlled their own destiny, and all we had to do was beat the Cincinnati Bengals on the road. The Bengals played like crap all game -- their offense was never in sync, and their defense was pretty much the same Bengals defense that it was all season. We should've been able to win that game with the 14 points we put on the board in the second half, but it wasn't meant to be because of Derek Anderson's total meltdown in the two-minute warning of the first half. Down 6-0, a usually effective hurry-up Anderson was picked by Bengals rookie safety Chinedum Ndukwe, leading to an easy Bengals touchdown on offense. We were down 13-0, and I started kicking myself again after Anderson was picked off immediately again. Instead of heading into halftime with a six-point handicap, we were down by 19. After both picks, I was literally speechless for several minutes. I got excited when we almost rallied in the second half, but we ended up losing.
That's it -- the worst moments from the season are officially out of my system. I can't wait to see what Phil Savage has in store for this offseason, because he's delivered fairly well the past two years.
Were there any worse moments that you'd substitute into my top five from the season? If so, let me know (remember, these moments are supposed to be the worst you felt at the time, not necessarily the worst moment looking back. That's why the first game against the Steelers wasn't listed -- Charlie Frye's performance was so bad, but I was actually somewhat happy in the sense that it could lead to Romeo Crennel's departure or Brady Quinn's arrival).