The Browns headed to the Louisiana Superdome with an 0-7 record on Halloween in 1999. Cleveland had the first pick overall of the ’99 draft, Tim Couch leading the way. New Orleans dominated the ground game all day and out gained the Browns by 169 yards. However, Couch rallied his troops and found rookie second round pick Kevin Johnson for a 24 yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to make the score 14-10 in favor of Cleveland. Things were looking good for the Browns at that point. But, the Saints led by back up quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver, battled back for two field goals by veteran kicker Doug Brien. Knocking down field goals with ease of 24 and 46 yards in the breeze less Superdome, Brien made the score 16-14 late in the game. Cleveland would get one last chance.
Now if you talk to any major Browns fan about this game, most of them remember it well. In a rare moment, the memory of this game haunts the Dawg Pound fans in a warm and fuzzy way. It’s the complete opposite of all the other feelings and situations this city has endured. So, what was going through everyone’s head when Couch and the Browns got the ball back with just 16 seconds left. Talking to longtime fan Mike of Niles, Oh, he had this to say, “I was thinking let’s get a big pass play and kick a game winning field goal.” At the time, Cleveland had a little known rookie kicker by the name of Phil Dawson waiting for a shot to win the game.
The first play of the urgent drive was an incomplete pass to another rookie Darrin Chiaverini. The second play was a huge 19 yard pass to veteran receiver Leslie Shepard. There were two seconds left as coach Chris Palmer called his final timeout.
I remember the next play like it was yesterday. From their own 44 yard line with two seconds left, Cleveland set up a play called “258 Flood Tip”. Lining up three receivers to the right and one to the left, Couch rolled out to his right, stepped up and heaved the football with everything he had. The ball sailed in the air for like what seemed forever towards the right corner of the end zone. In a sea of white and black jerseys, the ball was tipped toward the front right pylon where Johnson cradled it with his soft hands and planted two feet inbounds before he fell out. The play was a miracle.
Fans across Browns nation were going nuts in their homes, “I was at my house watching, hoping, and praying. Then, he caught the ball and jumped so high in the air. I was so excited and it was an unbelievable way to win it.” Mike went on to say.
It’s memories like these that Cleveland fans should have stored in their memory bank, not the drive, the fumble, or the decision. On this day thirteen years ago, it sure was a Happy Halloween!
Ryan Ruiz – Cleveland Browns Writer
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