Browns lose, go through emotions WR Rison 'ready to get out of here' after 31-20 defeat

Grey Cup

November 20, 1995|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- When the game was over yesterday, the Cleveland Browns were still reeling with emotion. Offensive tackle Tony Jones was depressed. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde was elated. And wide receiver Andre Rison was irate.

Or, better put: Rison was Rison, expletives deleted.

"They [fans] were yelling, 'Modell -----. Rison -----,' " said Rison, in his first year with the Browns. "Frankly, I'm ready to get out of here, 'cause I don't deserve it. I didn't know we were moving. I'm just getting settled in here. We're trying to build a championship ballclub.

"All the man wanted was a new stadium," he said, referring to owner Art Modell. "Look at this raggedy place. As far as the boos, I'll be glad when we get to Baltimore. This ain't my home. Baltimore is our home."

It was that kind of afternoon at Cleveland Stadium during the Browns' 31-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

All the corporate sponsorship signs had been removed. Cleveland fans, some wearing orange armbands, frequently cheered for the visitors. The Browns were greeted with silence in pre-game introductions, and oh, dawggone it, some of the big-name pooches were missing from the Dawg Pound.

But the Browns still gave the crowd of 55,388 something to cheer about with a second-half comeback.

The Browns' last opportunity for victory ended when Testaverde was stopped on a sneak on fourth-and-one at the Packers' 10 with 2 minutes, 58 seconds left.

It was the sixth loss in seven games for the Browns (4-7) and the second straight since Modell announced Nov. 6 he was moving the team to Baltimore.

Cleveland fans showed their disapproval with 17,547 no-shows. And then they cheered, chanted, booed and cursed the players during the nearly three-hour game.

At times, Green Bay (7-4) seemed like the home team.

"It was tough to handle the crowd," said Jones. "I knew it was going to be like that, so I just tried to go out and play football. It was nice that they cheered for us when we were fighting back. They've always been loyal."

Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren said: "It was kind of a gray day. It was an eerie feeling. It was hard to describe. There was a sense there that you were almost sleepwalking."

Actually, both teams went into zombie land, Cleveland in the first half, Green Bay in the second. The Packers had a great offensive mix in the first half, rushing for 62 yards and passing for another 131.

Packers quarterback Brett Favre was excellent using short passes in the flats and over the middle. When Cleveland played zone, he took advantage of the 9- to 11-yard cushion the Browns were giving his wide receivers.

Green Bay took a 7-3 lead with 5:04 left in the first quarter on its second possession of the game with a 12-play, 74-yard drive. Favre had 20- and 11-yard completions on slant-in patterns, and threw in the right flat to fullback Dorsey Levens for a 6-yard touchdown pass to end the drive.

On his next series, Favre continued to hurt the Browns over the middle, this time with a 22-yard pass to tight end Keith Jackson to the Cleveland 28. Five plays and another 17-yard pass over the middle to Jackson later, Favre passed to tight end Mark Chmura in the left flat for a 3-yard touchdown with 11:27 left in the half.

Green Bay scored again when receiver Anthony Morgan beat Tim Jacobs on a flag pattern for a 13-yard reception that put the Packers ahead 21-3 with about five minutes left in the half.

"Why were they so open in the flats and over the middle?" said Browns cornerback Antonio Langham. "It was a combination of them calling great plays on third down and us not executing. We didn't have any fight until the second half. We stunk in the first."

Cleveland's defense was not alone. Rookie quarterback Eric Zeier continued his three-game slump. He completed only five of 10 passes in the first half, when the Browns had minus-4 passing yards, and only 21 yards of offense.

Coach Bill Belichick pulled Zeier at halftime. "I felt Eric needed to step back and take a look at the game from a different perspective for a while," he said.

Enter the forgotten man.

Testaverde, who was benched after Game 7 for Zeier, completed 16 of 22 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns. He led the Browns to a 28-yard field goal on their first possession, and threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Jackson on the second to pull the Browns within 24-13 with 12:09 left in the game.

But then Testaverde got greedy. He tried to go deep to Rison down the right sideline on the Browns' next possession, throwing into double coverage. His pass was picked off by safety LeRoy Butler, whom Rison failed to tackle, and Butler returned 76 yards to the Browns' 9. A play later, Favre ran around right end for a 4-yard touchdown and a 31-13 lead with 8:23 remaining.

Testaverde took the Browns in for a touchdown on two plays in their next series, throwing a 37-yard touchdown pass to Jackson with 7:41 remaining, but Testaverde couldn't get 1 yard on fourth down on their next possession.

"I thought we could get the first down because the center was uncovered, and the linebacker was off the line of scrimmage," said Testaverde. "But he came forward before the snap, and got a good hit on me.

"No, I don't feel vindicated," said Testaverde. "I thought I had played well enough earlier in the season to have been the starter all year. As for starting next week, that's a coaching decision."

Belichick wouldn't say who would start Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Zeier did not hang around to be interviewed afterward, moving much faster than he did in the pocket yesterday.

But several Browns said Testaverde gave the team new life.

"We perked up, and we aren't dead yet," said Jones. "It's a shame that can't be said for Cleveland Stadium in about six weeks."

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