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Cleveland Browns

A return for the ages

By Marla Ridenour Published: November 15, 2007

The Browns are still buzzing about Joshua Cribbs' kickoff returns of 100 and 90 yards at Pittsburgh, which led to 14 points in a 31-28 loss.¶

''I'm happy for him. He came a long ways,'' said Browns defensive back and special teamer Mike Adams. He was speaking more in reference to Cribbs being an undrafted free agent quarterback from Kent State than the distance Cribbs has covered on the field.¶

''Now he's turning into a potential Pro Bowl player,'' Adams said. ''I tip my hat to him. Somebody gives him a crease, he's gone.''¶

Cleveland hasn't had a Pro Bowl selection since linebacker Jamir Miller in 2002.¶

With his fourth career kickoff return for a score, Cribbs became Cleveland's all-time leader in that category. But surprisingly Cribbs' 100-yarder merely tied for the fourth-longest kickoff return in Browns' history. Above him are Carl Ward (104 vs. Washington, 1967), Leroy Bolden (102 vs. Chicago, 1958) and Eric Metcalf (101 at Houston, 1990). Cribbs tied Gerald ''Ice Cube'' McNeil (100 at Pittsburgh, 1986).¶

But Cribbs' 100-yarder may go down as the most unusual after he mufffed a squib kick. It rolled nearly to the goal line before he fielded it.¶

''It was on the inch line,'' Adams said. ''It was one of those, 'Don't, don't, yes, good play.'''

Tight end Darnell Dinkins said, ''Once I heard the crowd cheering, I thought he fumbled the ball. When I looked back he got past three guys, I had to side-step him. It was an amazing play.''¶

Center Hank Fraley didn't mind seeing Cribbs' pluck it nearly off the line.¶

''Even if he does get stopped, most of the time it's still to the 20,'' Fraley said. ''Rarely does he get stopped inside the 20. The 10 guys blocking in front of him do a great job. They've been all on the same page lately.''¶

Cribbs said he didn't see daylight until linebacker Chaun Thompson took out kicker Jeff Reed around midfield.¶

''Before that I saw a lot of black jerseys running at me full speed,'' Cribbs said. ''It felt like a
punt return, a lot of guys were on me real quick.''¶

Quarterback Derek Anderson wasn't surprised that Cribbs scored his second TD of the season on a kickoff.¶

''When he grabbed it, those things happen sometimes, they get out of their lanes and guys start freelancing,'' Anderson said. ''You see that happen more often than the guy getting stuck on the 1-yard line.''¶

But Cribbs did not spike the ball after he scored, and it wasn't because he was too tired. The play survived a Pittsburgh challenge that looked to see if he stepped out of bounds. It gave Cleveland a 28-24 lead with 11:14 remaining.¶

''I didn't want to show too much celebration because of the point of the game,'' he said. ''I didn't want to make it seem like giving me too much credit. I cut that celebration thing out.''¶

Cribbs ranks second in the league in kickoffs with a 32.4 average, trailing the New York Jets' Leon Washington (33.5). Cribbs has also helped Cleveland achieve the best average drive start in the league following kickoffs at the 33.9 yard line.¶

''Our defense is excited on one hand, but upset because they've got to go right back out there,'' Fraley said. ''We're pretty excited, we're just going to run down and kick (an extra point) and block for about a second or a second and a half. ¶

''We get real excited when Josh does that even if he doesn't return it (for a score). The field position he gives us, whenever you get the ball at the 50 you're more than likely going to score three or seven. When you're back up at the 20 or farther, the stats aren't there of scoring, most of the time you punt the ball. When you get it at the 50 your opportunity goes way up.''¶

But Cribbs brings more than that, Anderson said.¶

''I think Josh brings energy to our offense,'' he said.¶

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