As the research analyst for NFL Network's NFL RedZone, Elliot Harrison watched all 267 games in the 2010 season. We asked him to rank the 20 most memorable.
Some games are retrieved from the memory banks effortlessly, while others "fade into Bolivian," to quote Mike Tyson.
This is one contest that didn't fade into oblivion. Cleveland had every opportunity to steal a win from a better opponent and blew it.
So did the Jets. Nick Folk pulled his best David Buehler impersonation, blowing some serious kicks. His misses included a 48-yarder, a putt from 24 yards, and another from 47. The latter came deep into overtime, when Rex Ryan and company thought they were getting out of dodge with a victory over his twin brother Rob, Eric Mangini, and the rest of the feisty Browns.
Watching from the NFL RedZone studios, I couldn't help but think of the Jets almost escaping out of Cleveland with a victory in the 1986 AFC Divisional playoffs. The memory was so burned into my brain that I drove home from NFL Network and popped in the DVD of the broadcast from 24 years ago. While that's a sad commentary of this writer's social life, the parallels between the games are present.
The Jets had backed into the postseason in 1986, much like they backed into narrow wins over the course of last season. When coach Joe Walton's Jets pulled 10 points ahead of the Browns with just more than four minutes to go, NBC color analyst Bob Trumpy all but conceded the game to Gang Green. Like the 2010 game, this one went on forever, spilling into two overtimes. Eventually, the Jets would find a way to screw it up, much like Folk shanked his kick a quarter of a century later.
During that '86 playoff, Cleveland quarterback Bernie Kosar was a 23-year-old kid trying to make a name for himself, and delivered in the clutch. Fast forward to our 15th best game of 2010, and here was Colt McCoy, a 24-year-old kid attempting to do the same. He fell short, but not before putting up solid numbers against a good defense: 18-31, 205 yards, a touchdown and no picks. Not sexy, but an 88.8 in-game rating against a Rex Ryan defense ain't bad for a rookie.
Meanwhile, 2010 would be the last hurrah for Mangini in Cleveland. But McCoy clearly showed enough that team president Mike Holmgren didn't get drunk with the Gabbert punch in April.
Boneheaded play of the game
The Browns had a golden opportunity in overtime detonated by one very costly fumble. On their first possession of the extra period, McCoy converted a key third-and-four from the Jets' 46, but as receiver Chansi Stuckey churned upfield to gain a couple more yards, he let himself get stripped by nickelback Drew Coleman.
Cleveland's Joe Haden intercepted a desperation heave by Mark Sanchez with just 1:35 left in overtime, which was a good thing. Unfortunately, the rookie probably should have batted it away. Had he done so, the Browns would presumably been in a better spot rather than being stuck at their own three-yard line.
Despite being buried deep in their own territory with little time left, coach Eric Mangini opted to go for the win, calling a pass play right out the gate. Epic fail: The first fell incomplete, and on third down McCoy was sacked by two seemingly 50-year-old defenders, Jason Taylor and Shaun Ellis. The Browns burned no time on the incompletion, and Ryan called a timeout after the sack. That left just enough time for ...
... the play of the game. On the first play of the drive, Sanchez hit Holmes on a deep slant. No. 10 split the defenders and took off.
Holmes, who got caught from behind on a similar play in Detroit a week earlier, had this to say about the winning catch-and-run: "When the safety came up, I saw he was flat-footed. I put my head down. The guys would have been all over my butt all week if I got caught this time."
Why is this game No. 15 of 2010?
This epic Jets-Browns struggle had to be included in the top 20 because of all of its interlocking parts. It was one of the longest regular-season games in NFL history that didn't end in a tie. Braylon Edwards playing his old club in a place where the only people he's more popular than are named James and Modell. It was also a great old-school uni matchup, which should never be underestimated in its importance.
Meanwhile, the duel between the twin brother coaches is the best such duel since the twin Van Dammes made cinema history in "Double Impact."
Why not higher?
No. 15 on our list suffered from the fact that seemingly every Jets game was a close call. The previous week, the Jets played a nail-biter in Detroit. And after the Cleveland game, the Jets eeked out a close call against Houston. Interestingly enough, Holmes made the deciding play in all three.