Since coming back to the NFL in 1999, the Browns record in opening games is 1-19-1. The lone win happened on September 12, 2004, versus the Baltimore Ravens. What made this win special, besides breaking a five-game opening day losing streak, is the Browns celebrated the 40th anniversary of their NFL Championship in 1964. During the week-long celebration, players from that championship team preached to the new Browns patience, teamwork, discipline and attitude. It must have worked because the 2004 Browns embarrassed the heavily-favored Ravens, 20-3. It was the first time the Browns had beaten the Ravens when both running back Jamal Lewis and linebacker Ray Lewis were playing in the same game. The two players were the reigning offensive and defensive players of the year.
In 2003, RB Jamal Lewis had rushed for 500 yards against the Browns. But, on this day, Lewis was held to 57 yards for an average of 2.9 yards per carry. As Tony Grossi wrote in his post-game article at the time for the Plain Dealer, “Everybody knew how those two games felt,” linebacker Andra Davis said, who seemed to log every one of 67 defensive snaps and a dozen more on special teams. “We didn’t want to feel like that again. I looked at films of Lewis all off-season. Today, we had three or four guys on Jamal every play.”
The Browns started the scoring in the second quarter with a Phil Dawson 37-yard field goal after a nine-play, 25-yard drive. The Ravens answered in the third quarter with a 43-yard field goal by Matt Stover after a six-play, 32-yard drive. Right before the end of the third quarter, the Browns struck for a 46-yard touchdown pass to Quincy Morgan. All-Pro safety Ed Reed bit on a QB Jeff Garcia pump fake and WR Quincy Morgan was wide open for the touchdown pass.
In the fourth quarter, the Browns put together an 11-play, 85-yard drive for another Dawson field goal making the score 13-3. The drive was set up by an interception by defensive back Anthony Henry at the seven-yard-line.
On third and 10 from the seven, QB Jeff Garcia hit WR Andre Davis for a 51-yard reception. On the ensuing Ravens drive, after back-to-back sacks of QB Kyle Boller, on a fourth and 24, the Browns forced a fumble by Boller and three plays later, QB Jeff Garcia scored on a three-yard touchdown.
Ravens QB Kyle Boller finished the game 22 of 38 for 191 yards. He was sacked three times by Browns defensive end Kenard Lang and intercepted twice. Browns QB Jeff Garcia was 15 of 24 for 180 yards and a touchdown.
After the game, rookie TE Kellen Winslow said of Garcia in the same Grossi article, “I can see why he is great,” Winslow said. “His composure and his competitiveness make him a great quarterback.” As for the inspiration of the 1964 Championship team, Winslow added, “The old Browns gave us a push,” Winslow said. “We wanted to do it for them.” This was an unexpected win for the Browns. The Ravens were heavily favored to win the division, but the Browns outplayed them for their only opening day win since 1999. To get in the mood for tomorrow, here are the ESPN highlights of that game in 2004:
Let’s hope the Browns can add to that opening day win total this Sunday!