The Atlanta Falcons last played the Browns in 2006, and they haven’t played in Cleveland since 2002 – the Browns’ lone playoff season of the expansion era.
The Browns won both 17-13 in 2006, and 24-16 in the 2002 season finale to clinch a playoff berth.
For my money the later was the most exciting game of the expansion era, and also included the New Browns’ most exciting play: a 64 yard TD blast by rookie running back William Green to ice it (sure Josh Cribbs has had some exhilarating runs, but never in a game they won and got them into the playoffs).
Here’s a clip of it, with Jim Donovan on the call – that’s me in the stands literally losing my mind.
Either way, it’s been a while since we’ve seen the Dirty Birds, so here are some answers to three questions your girlfriend might ask about them come Sunday:
Question: The only guy I know is about it Michael Vick, what happened to him?
Answer: In Cleveland fan terms, Vick kinda pulled a Braylon Edwards mixed with a Ben Roethlisberger all rolled into a LeBron on the fans of Atlanta.
In 2002, the last time the Falcons were in Cleveland, he was arguably the best player in the league. He led them to the playoffs that year were they defeated Brett Favre’s heavily favored Packers at Lambeau Field 27-7. He never won a title though.
A few average seasons later, he was accused of spreading sexually transmitted diseases to multiple women in the Atlanta area (the whole Ron Mexico thing), and then went to prison for operating an illegal dog fighting ring in his back yard. He served a few years, was released by the Falcons, and is now never allowed to set foot in the state of Georgia again.
The team we are watching now had to totally reinvent themselves after that earthquake, and they’ve done a good job. They made it to the playoffs the first season after he went to jail, and proved you can rebuild quickly after a bad season – That’s a trick Browns’ fans are still waiting to see their management team pull off.
Question: This Matt Ryan guy is in commercials too, that must mean he’s good right?
Answer: Kinda yeah. Ryan was the third pick in the draft a few years ago and he’s earned the praise of an elite QB in the making, but he plays on a good team with a lot of talent around him and is rarely asked to win games all by himself.
He did throw a 62-yard touchdown on his first ever NFL pass, which is kind of awesome.
But the Falcons are at their best when they can run the ball and Ryan can manage the game. His career quarterback rating is an average 84.6, and he’s 8-10 as a starter in road games. But he’s young, has tons of upside, and the Falcons don’t have to wonder when they are going to draft their next franchise face like the Browns do. They know who their main man is, the guy from the commercials.
Question: This Peyton Hillis guy is awesome, want me to buy you his jersey for your birthday?
Answer: Hillis is the people’s champion right now, but he’s got a long way to go before I can trust him with a $70 jersey.
I would prefer you get me a generic Browns hoodie or jacket. Anything with a name on it will be useless a year from now if that player is released or catches a staph infection.
I suppose if you had to get me a jersey, you could go with a Moore or Wright one; those are common words that could easily be altered into funny slogans once the player is no longer a Brown. Or, anyone who has the last name Brown would make sense, so I could use tape and markers later to make it say “Browns.”
Or you could get me a Josh Cribbs jersey. That is the one elite player we have on this team who looks like a lock to retire a Brown. He’s also from the Cleveland area, and I have less local hero related Cleveland sports apparel in my closet now than I did say… 90 days, 12 hours, and 33 minutes ago.
Possible follow-up question: When did you become so bitter?
Answer to follow-up: It all started 10 years ago when the Browns won the Super Bowl wearing purple pants.