The 2002 Season
Coming off a surprising 7-9 season, a lot was expected from the 2002 Cleveland Browns. At the time, the best American sportsbooks expected the Browns’ record to improve marginally, setting their win total over/under at 8. In the draft, the Browns addressed a weakness they had since their return, when they drafted running back William Green, out of Boston College. Green was considered a top player in the draft, but multiple drug suspensions hurt his draft stock and he fell to the Browns at the 16th pick. In the second round the Browns continued to beef up their offense when they drafted speedster wide receiver Andre Davis, out of Virginia Tech. The Browns offense looked to be the team’s strong suit going into the season, with Tim Couch still possessing potential, top pick William Green at running back, and they added Andre Davis to a receiving core that already featured Kevin Johnson and Quincy Morgan. In the 5th round of the draft the Browns decided to draft another Andra Davis, instead this one was a linebacker out of Florida.
The season started in classic Cleveland fashion. With Tim Couch unable to suit up in the season opener, Kelly Holcomb became the 5th quarterback in 4 years to start for the Browns, and performed extremely well, throwing for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns, to help the Browns get out to a 30-17 lead over the Kansas City Chiefs, early in the 4th quarter. That lead was quickly vanquished as Priest Holmes ran for two touchdowns in a one minute span that gave the Chiefs a 31-30 lead. Later in the quarter the Browns retook the lead when Kelly Holcomb threw a 44 yard touchdown pass to Quincy Morgan; however the Browns failed on their 2-point conversion, which left them with a 36-31 lead. The Chiefs were able to score on the following drive, when Priest ran for his fourth touchdown of the game, giving the Chiefs the lead at 37-36. The ensuing Browns drive resulted in a Phil Dawson field goal, which gave the Browns a 39-37 lead with 29 seconds left in the game. Then, on what would have been the last play of the game, well let’s have the ESPN NFL Primetime group take this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOfUBG0pKjk The loss would mark the 4th straight year the Browns would start the season off with a loss.
In week 2, the Browns got in the win column when Kelly Holcomb led the Browns to a 20-7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Tim Couch returned in week 3 with a 31-28 overtime win over the Tennessee Titans. In his first game back, Couch threw for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns. In week 4, the Browns went to overtime with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but couldn’t pull the win out in this game, losing 16-13. The Browns would drop their next two games and through six games they sported a record of 2-4. The Browns got back on track in week 7, when they racked up 8 sacks in a 34-17 win over the Houston Texans. In week 11, the Browns finally got the running game going in a 27-20 win over the Bengals. The Browns as a team ran for 140 yards on 35 carries, William Green led the way with 96 yards on 26 carries as the Browns improved to 5-5. William Green continued his hot streak when he recorded his first 100 yard game in a 24-15 win over the New Orleans Saints. Green ran for 114 yards on 28 carries, and scored a touchdown. Green continued to carry the Browns offense in week 14, when he accumulated 119 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, in a 21-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The win though, had to be credited to Tim Couch and Quincy Morgan, who connected on a 50 yard touchdown pass as time expired to give the Browns the win. The win pushed the Browns above .500 with a 7-6 record. Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison proved too much for the Browns in week 15, as Manning and Harrison connected for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns, in a 28-23 win over the Browns.
The season would come down to the last game for the Browns, as they needed a win against the Atlanta Falcons to go to the playoffs. The game went into the 4th quarter, with the Falcons holding a 16-10 lead. With Tim Couch having been knocked out of the game, Kelly Holcomb entered the game in the 2nd quarter, but it was in the 4th quarter when he made the difference. Holcomb gave the Browns a 17-16 lead with a 15 yard touchdown pass to Kevin Johnson. Then with 4:05 left in the game, well I think Jim Donovan said it best, Run William Run: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s74eTr8VOxM The 64 yard run gave the Browns a 24-16 lead, one that would hold, as the win sent them to the playoffs with a 9-7 record. Green finished with 178 yards and 2 touchdowns on 27 carries. Over their final 7 games the Browns went 5-2 as Green led the way with 726 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns. One surprising stat the Browns had on the season was that the team had 27 passing touchdowns, good enough for 3rd in the league.
The Browns were heading to the playoffs for the first time since the 1994 season. The task wouldn’t be an easy one, as the Browns were to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh. Kelly Holcomb was forced into the start, with Tim Couch still injured from the Atlanta game. The game couldn’t have started off any better for the Browns, when on the fourth play of the game; Kelly Holcomb hooked up with Kevin Johnson for an 83 yard pass, setting the Browns up at the Steelers 1-yard line. William Green was able to punch it in for the score giving the Browns a 7-0 lead. The Browns added to the lead early in the 2nd quarter when Kelly Holcomb and Dennis Northcutt connected on a 32 yard touchdown pass giving the Browns a 14-0 lead. The next Browns drive was a quick 3-and-out, forcing the Browns to punt; needless to say the punt protection could have been better, as Antwaan Randle El returned it 66 yards for a touchdown making a 14-7 game. The Browns would add a Phil Dawson field towards the end of the half to make it 17-7. Early in the 3rd quarter, Holcomb and Northcutt hooked up again, this time a 15 yard touchdown pass to make it a 24-7 Browns lead. With 4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter the Steelers crossed the goal line on a 6 yard touchdown pass from Tommy Maddux to Plaxico Burress, cutting the lead to 24-14. A Phil Dawson field goal at the start of the 4th quarter gave the Browns a 27-14 lead and gave the Steelers a 5.1% chance of winning. It looked like the Browns would be moving on the next round. However, the Steelers answered right back with a Tommy Maddux 3 yard touchdown pass to Jerame Tuman, making it a 27-21 Browns lead. Then the Browns answered the Steelers touchdown with one of their own, as Kelly Holcomb threw a 22 yard touchdown pass to Andre Davis, giving Browns fans real hope of moving on with 33-21 lead. It would take 7 minutes of game-time before another score occurred, when Tommy Maddux and Hines connected for a 5 yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 33-28. The Browns would then hold the ball for 24 seconds before giving it back to the Steelers, who capitalized with a Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala 3 yard touchdown run, giving the Steelers a 36-33 lead, and giving Browns fans everywhere a sick stomach. The Browns got the ball back with 50 seconds, but time expired on the Browns before they could get close enough for a field goal, as the Steelers moved on to the next round. The Browns were left with 8 months to dwell on this game.
Pro Bowl: None
Total Points: 344 (19th)
Total Yards: 5027 (23rd)
Passing Yards: Tim Couch – 2,842
Passing TD: Tim Couch – 18
Passing Int: Tim Couch – 18
QB Rating: Kelly Holcomb – 92.9
Rush Att: William Green – 243
Rush Yards: William Green – 887
Rush TD: William Green – 6
Rec: Kevin Johnson – 67
Rec Yards: Quincy Morgan – 964
Rec TD: Quincy Morgan – 7
Total Points allowed: 320 (10th)
Total Yards allowed: 5348 (21st)
Tackles: Earl Holmes – 127
Sacks: Mark Word – 8.0
Int: Earl Little – 4
— Chris Sladoje (@CST_Doje)
Photo via The Toledo Blade
Cleveland Browns: Season in Review