The Cleveland Browns followed that uppercut Sunday with an even more crushing blow to the city of Baltimore, upsetting the Super Bowl champion Ravens 27-17 on their home turf.
"It's a bad week for Baltimore," Browns cornerback Corey Fuller bellowed during the postgame celebration in the locker room. "First Rahman loses, now this. I can see the headlines, 'The Browns sweep the Ravens! The Browns sweep the Ravens!' "
The Browns shocked the Ravens 24-14 in Cleveland Oct. 21.
"The Ravens said that one was a fluke," said Browns wide receiver Kevin Johnson. "They said we weren't any good. They said we got lucky the first time we played them. They said Fuller and I talked too much and they were going to get us this time."
Just like the drama leading up to Saturday night's heavyweight rematch between Lewis and Rahman, the Browns and Ravens traded verbal jabs in the newspapers all week.
The Browns backed up their bravado at PSINet Stadium, forcing five turnovers on defense while being inspired by the debut of rookie Ben Gay on offense.
In his first appearance in the Browns' backfield, Gay scored on a 7-yard touchdown run to help the Browns build a first-half advantage, then broke off a 21-yard run to set up a fourth-quarter touchdown that sealed the win.
Gay, who earned the nickname "Legend" for his fabled high school career in Texas, had seen action only on special teams in his first eight games as a professional. Just two weeks ago, Browns coach Butch Davis said Gay, who dropped out of Baylor University before playing one year of college football at Garden City Community College, was still "too raw" to play running back in the NFL.
An ankle injury suffered by starting back James Jackson during Wednesday's practice forced Davis to give Gay his shot earlier than he might have liked. The Browns opened with second-year pro Jamel White (9 carries, 29 yards) as the starting running back, but turned to Gay in a short-yardage situation on the third play of the game. He moved the chains on his first pro carry, converting a third-and-one, then stayed in the backfield rotation with White.
"I kept pinching myself," said Gay, who just six months ago was delivering pizzas and working as a security guard near Houston. "I (pinch myself) every single day, regardless if I'm going to practice tired, breathing hard, sitting down watching film, watching movies or doing extra things like running routes. I still pinch myself and ask 'is this real?' ... I am so thankful for this opportunity. Thanksgiving this week is going to have extra meaning."
Gay (18 carries, 56 yards) helped the Browns take advantage of one of five Ravens' turnovers in the first quarter, giving the Browns a 10-0 lead on a 7-yard touchdown run just four plays after rookie Anthony Henry intercepted Ravens' quarterback Elvis Grbac.
The Browns intercepted Grbac four times, including three by Henry. Safety Devin Bush turned in the game's biggest interception, leaping high into the air to grab a Grbac pass, then racing 43 yards for a touchdown that increased the Browns' lead to 17-0 with 8:09 left in the first half.
"I just made some really dumb mistakes and cost us some points," said Grbac, a Cleveland native who heard the boos of Ravens' fans most of the afternoon. "I just knew that in the second half I had a lot of time to come back and give us a chance to win it."
Grbac almost did bring the Ravens back. He tossed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley with 5:34 left in the second quarter, then pulled the Ravens to within six points (20-14) on a 24-yard scoring throw to tight end Todd Heap with 6:07 left in the third quarter.
The hookup with Heap, followed by a 42-yard field goal by Matt Stover, came during a near disastrous third quarter for the Browns.
After completing 13-of-16 passes for 109 yards in a near-perfect first half, Browns quarterback Tim Couch was intercepted three times during a seven-minute stretch. The Ravens turned interceptions by safety Rod Woodson and defensive end Mike McCrary into the 10 points that cut the Browns lead to 20-17.
It could have been even worse for the Browns. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis dropped an interception that he could have easily returned for a touchdown that would have vaulted the Ravens into the lead late in the third quarter.
After all of the drama of the third quarter, the Browns still held a three-point lead going into the final 15 minutes.
"A lot of things went bad for us in the third quarter," said Couch, who completed 19-of-30 passes for 144 yards and three interceptions in the game. "I had a few picks, I had a ball batted in the air for (McCrary's) pick. Things didn't go well. But I think this team showed a lot of resiliency coming back from that and not letting it affect the way we played the rest of the game."
The Browns put the game away in the fourth quarter with a 12-play, 68-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by White with 4:02 remaining. Dennis Northcutt kept the drive alive with a big 12-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Ravens' 35.
After two straight heartbreaking losses in overtime, Davis was thrilled to see the Browns hold off the Ravens' second-half challenge.
"If we have many more games like this in the last month of the season, I'm going to be 70 years old instead of 50," said Davis, who turned 50 Saturday. "In that third quarter we had every opportunity to fold. We played on the short end of the field in that third quarter, but our defense hung in, our offense hung in, and our offense showed up today and made the big plays to give us a chance to win."
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