OAKLAND, CALIF.: With their backs pinned against the infamous Black Hole, the Browns conquered adversity and two suffocating streaks.
Led by rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, the Browns produced a 14-play, 94-yard touchdown drive with the game on the line. Rookie running back Trent Richardson put the finishing touches on the march by rushing up the middle for a 3-yard touchdown with 3:27 left in the fourth quarter.
“That was kind of a statement,” Weeden said. “We strung together a lot of really good plays. That’s encouraging.”
The Browns went ahead by 10 points and parlayed their offense’s most clutch moment of the season into a 20-17 victory over the host Oakland Raiders on Sunday at O.co Coliseum. They reversed their trend of failing to win consecutive games by establishing their first winning streak since September of last year. They also snapped their 12-game road losing streak that began Oct. 16, 2011, in Oakland.
“It’s big,” said Weeden, who completed 25-of-36 passes for 364 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions and finished with a passer rating of 88.2. “You kind of get the monkey off your back. We’ve been close a couple times on the road. The travel out here, the three-hour time difference, the weather, everything, we were able to find a way to get it done. It’ll give us confidence moving forward.”
“Beating [the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-14] last week and then coming on the road and beating a really good team this week, it kind of shows the maturity of this team is moving forward. That’s exciting to be a part of that, and we’re not satisfied.”
With their lead whittled down to three points, the Browns (4-8) took possession at their own 6-yard line with 9:31 remaining. On fourth-and-1 at the Raiders’ 45, coach Pat Shurmur elected to go for it, and Weeden gained 3 yards on a sneak. The next play, tight end Jordan Cameron broke an attempted tackle by linebacker Miles Burris and turned a short reception into a 23-yard completion. The Raiders (3-9) were penalized for a neutral-zone infraction on third-and-1 at their 10, and Richardson scored his touchdown two plays later.
“It was probably a defining drive of the season,” cornerback Sheldon Brown said. “I think we had an opportunity to see the character of that offense. Coach wasn’t scared to go for it on fourth down, and those guys believed in one another and they executed. So I think it was a defining moment in a lot of those young guys’ careers on that side of the ball.”
The Raiders trimmed their deficit to 20-17 during the ensuing drive when quarterback Carson Palmer and tight end Brandon Myers connected for a 17-yard touchdown pass with one second remaining. The Raiders then attempted an onside kick, but it went out of bounds. Weeden then took a knee to make the Browns’ victory official.
Brown gave the Browns a much-needed shot of momentum when he intercepted Palmer’s pass intended for wide receiver Juron Criner at the Raiders’ 6 with 9:31 left.
The Raiders capped their previous possession by cutting the Browns’ lead to 13-10 with 17 seconds left in the third quarter, when Palmer connected with wide receiver Rod Streater for a 64-yard touchdown. Cornerback Buster Skrine mistimed his jump for the ball while covering Streater, who grabbed the pass near the 30, and the Browns seemed to be headed for a major letdown.
The Browns led 10-3 at halftime thanks to Phil Dawson’s 41-yard field goal, Weeden’s 44-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon and the Raiders’ failure to capitalize on two interceptions. Dawson made another field goal, a 35-yard attempt, to cap the first drive of the second half.
But Dawson’s streak of 29 consecutive successful attempts was snapped during the Browns’ next possession. After the Browns stalled at the Raiders’ 10, Dawson’s 28-yard field goal missed after Raiders defensive tackle Desmond Bryant deflected it. Heavy rain that stopped by the time the game started created soggy spots on the field, and the Browns were pushed back as they tried to block for Dawson.
“Our guys up front couldn’t get their cleats in the ground,” Dawson said. “There’s really nothing you can do when the footing’s that bad. The advantage goes to the defense, and they were able to get a little push and there you go.”
The crowd awakened, Streater burned Skrine for a touchdown and the Raiders appeared to be on the verge of taking control to avoid a five-game losing streak.
However, the Browns’ offense came through.
“It was a great job by them to finish and grind it out,” middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “That’s what we needed.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj