CHICAGO – DirecTV Signal went 9 points ahead with the Cleveland Browns with six minutes to play on Sunday, a victim of Chicago’s weather. This brown bar in a Chicago neighborhood was a party at the time. By the time the game came back on six TV screens on a two-minute warning, about 10 minutes after collectively listening to the Browns radio broadcast, it felt like we were together seeking shelter from the storm.
I don’t think it was just this bar, or just the TV signal. That’s what the final six minutes of Week 1 meant for this Browns season. Lose it, and the rain was coming.
It is strange for 75 sports lovers to suddenly be cut off from the game. I was here because our family was going to drop our daughter off to college, and she and I were going to watch the start of this Brown season with the Browns. And then the unifying force disappeared. Baker Mayfield’s 75-yard touchdown pass (finally seen the play – yikes) to Robbie Anderson occurred about 60 seconds after the signal was lost. The result went through the bar in dribs and drabs, ruining temporary blissful ignorance as the result was play-by-play on updated football websites on football. I reported the news to the couple at the next table and saw their shock.
Were the weather gods insulting these good guys, former Ohio and Brown lovers who have kept their allegiance? Not everyone could be protected, but this pocket of orange and brown, this outpost of Cleveland hope, might be spared. It was a desert island. Here, Brown never blows up that coverage. Here Brown won.
And then they really won.
The crowd began a Cade York chant before his third field goal, the last play he saw before the unexpected break. When York defeated the 58-yard game winner for a 26–24 victory, an MVP chant broke out.
That was the explosion. Miles Garrett’s first sack of Mayfield felt like a gust of wind had come from the room. Mayfield took the field to start the game, receiving little backlash, just a smattering of boon. Jacoby Brissette did not create any discussion even among the buzzing people. (Except when he completed a crucial third-down pass to Anthony Schwartz and one of Schwartz’s mentors said, “He caught it! He caught it!”)
But it was soon revealed what these fans thought of this team. Bar ah tells a lot. In a crowd, as with beer, your brain and heart react and your vocal cords get emotional. The initial reactions were of two types. What did they have to do with the feet of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and the feet of Mayfield. With each, in the middle of a play, Brown’s fans had a feeling something good was about to happen, and most of the time they were right. Chub and Hunt brought anticipation. Mayfield brought no fear.
Browns fans have longed to watch all three — Chubb and Mayfield for five seasons, Hunt now in Cleveland for his fourth season — to know when something is about to happen. When Chub sees a cutback lane or drops a stern hand, when Hunt breaks through the defensive line and hits second level, Brown can’t help but bar himself. They don’t know what the final scale will be, but they do know that this is the show they have come for. This is their hope.
There was no programmed response to the quarterback that had led the Browns for four seasons. With the most refreshing memory of their game last season, Brown’s fans reacted with confidence when Mayfield had the ball in his hands. At one play-action, when Mayfield found his happy foot in the pocket while attempting his third reading, an uproar ensued as Brown’s fans knew the result would not go Mayfield’s way. They were clapping and almost picked up before Mayfield got on the line.
Mayfield’s successful plays surprised him. His scramble for the Panthers’ second touchdown rubbed the bearded millennial chin across the bar. I counted at least four. Hmm, he said. Mayfield was not a concern.
this is true. Brown had all kinds of confidence in the run game and defense, and none in the Panthers’ offense. Then Mayfield quarterbacked the leading 64-yard drive and Christian McCaffrey keyed it. Carolina now leads 1 with 1:13 to play, and you almost wanted the TV to go out again.
Then, Brown brought in the kicker again.
I don’t know if every Brown fan will remember where they were when York hit their first game-winner for Cleveland. But some of you will. And you’ll remember how it felt when you thought the party was over.
In this space for Brown’s fans, and certainly in your place too, people jumped in and screamed and hugged. The Browns had won, and then the Steelers-Bengal overtime game turned it around, and Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell tried to win the straight game.
A Cade York chant resumed.
Boswell eventually did another kick and the Steelers won, not that it mattered on this day. After a divisive season, Brown fans came together. And a deceiver sends them back into the world, realizing that the sun has gone out.
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Watch Karim Hunt run for a 24-yard touchdown to give the Browns a 14-0 lead
Watch Jacoby Brissette take a 1-yard touchdown pass to Karim Hunt to give the Browns a 7-0 lead vs the Panthers
Watch the Browns’ safety Grant Delpit intercept Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield in the second quarter