CLEVELAND (AP)—As they left the tunnel, the Cleveland Browns paused to touch the 1964 championship trophy. They then played as if they want one for themselves.
Inspired by a weekend long celebration for the ’64 Browns, the 2004 version pushed Baltimore around for three hours in a 20-3 victory over the Ravens on Sunday.
“They played like a team,” said Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown. “They won, but it was more the way they won. They all contributed, every one of them.”
Just as they did 40 years ago when the Browns won the last world title for any major Cleveland sports team. These Browns swarmed on defense, made big plays on offense, had no turnovers and won field position with special teams.
And for the first time since their NFL rebirth in 1999, the Browns are 1-0.
“This is huge,” said cornerback Daylon McCutcheon, one of just two starters remaining from the ’99 team. “This sets the tone for the whole season. Finally.”
Jeff Garcia threw a 46-yard touchdown pass and ran for another TD in his Cleveland debut, and the defense held Jamal Lewis to just 57 yards after he ran for 500 yards in two games against the Browns last season.
Cleveland also stole the spotlight from Deion Sanders, who came out of retirement and the TV studio for a chance to win another Super Bowl ring. But judging from the way Baltimore played, “Prime Time” could have made a better choice of teams.
The normally brash Sanders didn’t have much to say afterward.
“They played their game,” Sanders said. “They’re good. They won. They played well offensively and defensively.”
Before the game, the 1964 Browns—Paul Warfield, Leroy Kelly, Frank Ryan, Brown and others—were introduced and the new trophy given to them at a Friday night gala by NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was brought to midfield. Garcia sought out many former players.
“I shook as many hands as I could,” Garcia said. “I was telling them, ‘Bring us your power.”’
Cleveland’s defense was sparked by something.
Lewis, who had an NFL single-game record 295 yards against Cleveland last year, couldn’t find a hole to squeeze through. With All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden out with a knee injury, Cleveland’s defensive front did anything it pleased. Kenard Lang tied a career-high with three sacks and forced a fumble as he blew past Ogden’s backup, Ethan Brooks, at will.
After what Lewis had done to them a year ago, Lang said the Browns obsessed about stopping him and the Ravens, who shut out Cleveland 35-0 on Dec. 21.
“We didn’t think about it all week,” Lang said. “We thought about it all year. We couldn’t wait to get back on the field against Jamal. We wanted a chance to redeem.”
Atonement was on Garcia’s mind, too. Released by San Francisco after five years, the 34-year-old finished 15-of-24 for 180 yards.
He also finished off the Ravens with a 3-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter, diving into the corner of the end zone to make it 20-3 before getting up and leaping into the Dawg Pound.
“I wanted to jump in and enjoy that moment with the fans,” he said.
Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. had four catches for 39 yards in his pro debut.
Pressured all afternoon, Baltimore QB Kyle Boller went 20-of-38 for 191 yards.
Unable to get the ball to his wideouts for three quarters, Garcia found Quincy Morgan on a broken play for his first TD to put the Browns ahead 10-3. Garcia rolled to his left and spotted an uncovered Morgan, who had slipped behind safety Ed Reed. Garcia lobbed it to Morgan, who outran Baltimore’s defensive backs to the end zone.
“When Jeff moved, they kind of bit on it and I just wheeled around,” said Morgan. “It’s nice, 1-0.”
The unexpected ease of the victory has given the Browns a confidence they haven’t had since coming back. It also reinforced what they’d heard from players who won it all 40 years ago.
“Those are the guys we want to emulate,” Garcia said. “Those are the guys we want to be.”
Browns RB William Green outrushed Lewis 65-57. … Winslow dropped one pass, but nearly blocked a punt in the first quarter. … Browns DT Gerard Warren suffered a strained pectoral muscle in the first quarter and didn’t return. … The Ravens’ notable injuries were: WR Travis Taylor (groin), CB Gary Baxter (cut hand), DT Kelly Gregg (knee) and Brooks (knee). Brooks will have an MRI this week. … Browns RB Lee Suggs was inactive with a neck stinger.