“That bastard won't get away with this! What's going on in this country when a scum sucker like that can get away with sandbagging a Doctor of Journalism?”
- Raoul Duke
I was settling into my seat, watching Stuey and LP conjure the Browns game on the pristine HDTV on the wall of the outdoor smokers’ ghetto at the Buffalo Wild Wings where I’d set up shop to cover the three AFC North late games Sunday, when a drunken ape of a man suddenly leapt up from his barstool not ten feet from my table, grabbed the woman next to him and lifted her off the floor. In his inebriated state he overbalanced and fell, sending them both crashing to the concrete floor with a sickening thud like two intertwined sacks of moldy potatoes dropped off the back of a garbage truck.
He lay on the floor for over a minute, cackling maniacally as his bewildered victim lay helpless beneath his stinking carcass. Eventually the two rose on unsteady legs, but the fiend never stopped laughing as he wandered off into the parking lot, leaving the rest of us to scratch our heads and wonder what the hell ugliness just went down before our bloodshot, smoke-parched eyes.
It was an ill omen to be sure. I tried to convince the woman to go straight to the doctor and sue the evil bastard for every greasy penny in his filthy motor home, but she would have none of it. Instead she climbed back up to the bar and began drinking tequila heavily.
Damn right. The yahoos and greedheads may have taken everything else from us these past few years, but they can’t take away an American’s god-given right to a little drunken violence on Sunday afternoons. We are, after all, professionals.
Quickly a theme began to develop as Colt McCoy dropped back on the Browns’ second play from scrimmage, careened into two massive defenders and vomited the football directly into the path of Isaac Sopoaga, a Niners lineman who had dropped into coverage on the zone blitz. After a niggling pass interference call on Joe Haden, the Browns failed to get the correct package onto the field on second and goal and Frank Gore punched the ball right into the gap that late-arriving safety Mike Adams should have been filling. 7-0 Niners.
It was at that point I made the altogether understandable decision to rub hot sauce into my eyes. The excruciating pain saved me from seeing much of what happened on the ensuing series, but unfortunately my vision cleared up long enough for me to see McCoy throw a routine slant pass five feet over the head of confused rookie Greg Little for a near-interception on third and four.
This turned out to be another happy accident, however, as probable Browns MVP Brad Maynard came on and boomed a punt to the Niners’ one yard line, where it was expertly downed by TJ Ward and Dimitri Patterson.
The ensuing drive would define the first half, with first Frank Gore and then Kendall Hunter gashing the Browns for long runs. Eventually Mike Adams stuffed a run in the backfield on third and short and San Francisco settled for a chip-shot field goal to make it 10-0.
After a few more NCAA Division II-quality throws by Colt McCoy forced a Browns punt, the Niners once again drove downfield easily behind Gore’s steady running, but after a replay review overturned a Gore touchdown the Browns got the ball back when D’Qwell Jackson stuffed Gore about three inches from the end zone on fourth and goal.
After a fumbled snap by McCoy and another good punt by Maynard, the 49ers once again drove downfield with the running game and popped the ball into the end zone to Crabtree on a blown coverage at the goal line by TJ Ward just after the two-minute warning.
The Browns finally got on the board after a frantic drive to set up a 51-yard Dawson field goal that split the uprights despite a high snap. It says something about the Browns’ performance that everyone in the bar agreed they should count themselves fortunate to go into the locker room down only 17-3.
After we endured twenty minutes of Steve Mariucci ads and studio analysts pretending to be surprised that Washington was getting waxed by the Bills, we steeled ourselves for the inevitable unraveling of any semblance of quality football.
The two teams did not fail to disappoint. The second half was shaping up as Groundhog Day II, a seemingly endless loop of fumbles (including a second fumbled snap by the Browns), interceptions, penalties, and booming punts, until Josh Cribbs hauled in an unnecessarily difficult sideline throw from Colt McCoy, tiptoed down the edge of the field, and went in for a surprising touchdown to pull the Browns to 17-10.
On the ensuing drive the Niners got the key break of the game - D’Qwell Jackson knifing through traffic to haul Frank Gore down by his face mask on third and 3. After the penalty the Browns got burned by another tackle-eligible play, setting up the field goal that would provide the final margin.
McCoy coughed out a few last gasps, finally connecting on an idiotic pass over the middle with ten seconds left and no timeouts to mercifully end this sloppy, depressing game. The Browns’ defense once again had made some key stops, but nothing the offense did worked for long, and they just took too long to get started.
To borrow a famous millenial-era football phrase, the 49ers are who we thought they were. So, for that matter, are the hairy, witless besotted barflies at our local watering holes. And so, alas, are the Cleveland Browns. Check back next week for another uplifting spectacle as the Browns travel to Houston to look for their first victory over a team with a winning record.