Strange as it may seem, the bizarre scenario in Baltimore on Sunday that led to the Browns' overtime win over the Rams was not the first time that a Cleveland team had its game profoundly affected by a ball hitting the goalpost.
Phil Dawson's game-tying 51-yard field goal at the end of regulation -- which bounced off the left upright, hit the post behind the crossbar and then bounced back onto the field with a Tiger Woods backspin -- was eventually ruled good and led to Dawson's game-winning kick on the opening drive of overtime.
|Jamie Squire / Getty Images|
|Cleveland's Phil Dawson kicked four field goals Sunday. Three of them were uneventful.|
Back in 1945, the goalpost played an even greater role in the outcome of a game. The Cleveland Rams were hosting the Washington Redskins in the NFL title game at Cleveland Stadium. The goalposts were planted on the goal line in those days, not in the back of end zone. The first score of the game occurred when Redskins quarterback Sammy Baugh, throwing from his own end zone, hit the crossbar. According to NFL rules at the time, that was an automatic safety -- and the two points proved to be the difference in a 15-14 Rams victory.
Fast forward back to 2007 ... Credit official Pete Morelli and his crew for making sure they got the Dawson kick called right. Of the two officials stationed underneath the goalpost, one called the kick no good while the other told Morelli that he saw the ball hit the extension behind the crossbar. Morelli then had a meeting with the crew and TV showed that he tried to go to replay camera view it -- but then he was reminded he could not review the play.
Morelli trusted the official who saw it correctly, and the rest is history. That said, I would not be surprised if there was a call from the NFL office in New York that somehow reached Morelli with the message that the kick was good. After all, the league goes to great lengths to make sure there are no mistakes made by the officiating crews during the course of a game. Representatives from the league office are on site for every NFL game, including specific employees assigned to the replay booth. I can't imagine they would have allowed the Browns to lose this game under the circumstances.
One last note from this game: Dawson and Ravens kicker Matt Stover, who combined for seven field goals and are two of the best in the business, are products of the same high school -- Lake Highlan H.S. in Texas.
Every week it seems that somebody is tying or breaking a record, and Week 11 was no exception. The most compelling accomplishments to me were the parallel feats of the two most talked-about receivers in the league, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. Fittingly, these two lightning rods for attention became the first pair of receivers to catch four TD passes on the same day.
Cardinals cornerback Antrel Rolle tied a record by becoming the 24th player to return two interceptions for touchdowns in a game. He seemed to set a new record when he returned a third pick for a score in Arizona's win over Cincinnati, but that score was nullified by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Antonio Smith. The last time a player had two INT returns for touchdowns was Oct. 22, 2006 when Buccaneers corner Ronde Barber did it against Philadelphia.
McCarthy's record after 26 games as Green Bay head coach: 17-9.
With its dominating win over Buffalo Sunday night, New England became the 18th team in NFL history to start a season 10-0. Six of the first 17 teams to accomplish that feat lost their 11th game -- so the Patriots face the Eagles this weekend looking to become the 12th team to start 11-0.
They have scored 411 points in 10 games, which puts them on pace to score 657 for the season, which would be an all-time record. They have already scored more points than 28 teams scored all of last season.
Tom Brady's 38 TD passes are the most ever through the first 10 games of a season. He has a 134 passer rating, which is the highest ever at this point. Moss has 16 TD receptions, which is most in Patriots history and also the most for a player in his first year with a new team.
If you're looking for an x's and o's reason why the New York Jets were able to pull off a stunning upset Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, this is the wrong place. Thomas Jones is a very good running back, but Jones and the Jets offense had not shown anything earlier this season that would have suggested Jones would become the first player in 35 games to rush for more than 100 yards against the Pittsburgh defense.
No, this was more a case of a team that probably chalked this game up as a victory before the opening kickoff. You don't normally expect that from a Steelers team, but that had to be the case. Then the Jets hit them with a flea-flicker early and that gave Eric Mangini's team a lot of encouragement. Give the Jets even more credit, though, for sticking with it after Pittsburgh came back and took the lead. A lot of times, when a heavy underdog loses a lead late, it takes the wind out of its sails. But the Jets hung tough.
AFC wild-card race
Cleveland's win keeps them in the thick of the race for an AFC wild-card spot (actually, they're one game behind Pittsburgh in the division, though they lost to the Steelers twice). As we noted in this space last week, Cleveland's schedule is more favorable than the schedules of the two teams currently ahead of them, Jacksonville and Tennessee. The Browns play at Arizona on Dec. 2, and that might be their toughest remaining game. Cleveland could easily end up with 10 or 11 wins.
On the opposite end of the schedule spectrum is Jacksonville. The Jaguars have three road games left -- at Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Houston. The Texans certainly appear to be the easiest of those opponents, but the Jaguars have traditionally struggled in Houston.
Speaking of the Texans, they are really the only other team in the hunt for an AFC wild-card spot. It's hard to imagine a wild card will come from the AFC West, and there's no chance it will come from the East. Houston would have an outside chance if its offensive trio of Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Ahman Green can stay healthy. But the schedule is tough, to say the least -- they play Cleveland, Tennessee and Indy on the road, Tampa Bay, Denver and Jacksonville at home.
As we prepare to celebrate a Thanksgiving holiday that is all about tradition, it should be noted that Week 11 produced nine more "non-traditional" touchdowns. We had two fumble returns, two punt returns, four interception returns and one blocked kick returned for scores ... The 56 points scored by the Patriots Sunday night against Buffalo represented the most points allowed by a home team in the NFL since 1973 ... David Garrard set a Jaguars record with seven straight starts without an INT ... Peyton Manning became the second-fastest player in NFL history to reach 40,000 passing yards. Manning did it in 154 games; Marino did it in 153 ... Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin reached 5,000 receiving yards in his 53rd game -- only four players have reached that milestone faster ... Vikings rookie receiver Sidney Rice completed two passes against the Raiders for 94 yards.