NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The greatest comeback in Cleveland Browns history now belongs to Brian Hoyer.
The greatest road comeback in NFL history? Also Hoyer’s.
Clearly, many were involved in Sunday’s 29-28 Browns win over Tennessee, but it will always go down that Hoyer was the quarterback. And it will go down that his approach mattered, a lot.
“I think his poise was pivotal for us,” coach Mike Pettine said.
“He stays poised, he’s focused, relentless,” running back Ben Tate said. “He doesn’t give up.”
The roots of this comeback by Hoyer were set in Pittsburgh, when he brought the Browns back from 24 down to nearly steal a win in a place the Browns win once every decade.
Because of that near comeback, the Browns knew they had a chance in Tennessee even though they were downright awful in the first half. The Browns had their share of mistakes and breaks in LP Stadium, but they walked out with what they needed most at this point of the season: A win.
“Hopefully none of the [the fans] are in the ER right now,” Hoyer quipped.
His coach might be headed there, though.
“I have an EKG scheduled for tomorrow,” Mike Pettine said, “because my heart can’t take many more of these.”
The Browns erased a 25-point deficit, scored the game’s final 26 points and overcame two second-half drives that ended with no points. They won on Hoyer’s touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin with 1:09 left.
They were helped by a decision by Ken Whisenhunt to go for a first down on fourth-and-inches from the Titans 42 with 3:09 left, a decision that backfired when Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger combined to stop Charlie Whitehurst’s quarterback sneak.
Hoyer stood on the sideline before the sneak expecting a punt and thinking of running the two-minute offense. To that point, the Browns had 4 of 5 second-half drives that gained more than 50 yards and 236 yards in offense compared to 60 for Tennessee.
“Maybe that shows they were afraid for us to go back on the field,” Hoyer said.
When the defense made the stop, the thinking from the Browns was clear as they trotted on the field.
“Let’s win,” Hoyer said.
Pettine added his defensive thinking: “Don’t score too fast.”
It took just four plays and one penalty.
“We had plenty of time and we didn’t have to get in two-minute mode,” Hoyer said. “Before that [fourth-down sneak], I was thinking we’ll get the ball back with 1:58 left with no timeouts, maybe one timeout. Your whole mentality changes. You can play your normal offense, for the most part.”
Hoyer completed all his throws on the drive -- his only incompletion was negated by a Titans penalty -- and finished with a crossing route to Benjamin at the back of the end zone.
“It was kind of a scramble play without the scramble,” he said. “Something we worked on throughout the week, especially in the red zone. Travis made a great move, in and out, kind of similar to Pittsburgh when he scored. I thought I overthrew it when I threw it. But he went up, grabbed it and got his feet down.”
The comeback was complete, and in the locker room. Hoyer and his teammates danced with a passion that hasn’t been seen in some time with this team.
“That’s what an NFL quarterback is supposed to do,” Pettine said.
He referred to the comeback, not the dance.
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