BROWNS Late-game heroics become the norm
Cleveland had 12 games decided in the last minute this season.
BEREA -- If playing nerve-racking, gut-wrenching games every week can give a team an edge in the AFC playoffs, then the Cleveland Browns might be favorites.
"It seems like the last month we've had to win every game," kicker Phil Dawson said. "So is this any different?"
Just a little.
The Browns (9-7), who have embodied the craziness of this NFL season more than any other team, will make their first postseason appearance since 1994 -- minus three years Cleveland didn't have a franchise -- this Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Based on the recent matchups between the hated rivals, and the Browns' penchant for heart-stopping finishes this season, it's safe to assume it will go down to the wire.
Or even to overtime.
Strange, but it seems that's how the Browns like it.
After all, this is the team that won on a game with a desperation pass, and lost with a thrown helmet. It's also the same team that lost its quarterback to a broken leg last Sunday, and then won with a goal-line stand in the final minute.
"Pretty crazy," said quarterback Kelly Holcomb, who'll start this week for the injured Tim Couch.
Cleveland had 12 games decided in the final 60 seconds this season, including its last three. The Browns have had 19 games in the past two years go down to the last minute.
The Browns, who won seven of their final 10 games, went 6-6 in those 12 thrillers. They're convinced that experiencing all that drama will only help them survive in the do-or-die postseason.
"I think it gives us a real big edge," Holcomb said. "We've been in a lot of tight games, and it's been about a month that we've had playoff-type games. We haven't had much room for error if we were going to get in these things (playoffs)."
The Steelers swept the two regular-season games with the Browns, but only by a combined six points. Pittsburgh won 16-13 in overtime at home, and 23-20 at Cleveland.
Steelers coach Bill Cowher has been impressed by the Browns' ability to keep games within reach, especially on the road where they went 6-2. He doesn't expect them to be intimidated.
"Every game they've played, they're in it in the fourth quarter," Cowher said. "If you keep playing games like that, you become callous and you don't let things bother you. They feel like they're never out of a game."