BY RICH DUBROFF
BALTIMORE—Josh McCown knows his place in the NFL. At 36, McCown, playing with seventh in team in 13 seasons, made his M&T Bank Stadium debut, and it was one to remember.
McCown threw for a career high 457 yards, a Cleveland Browns record as the Browns beat the Ravens in Baltimore for the first time in the Joe Flacco/John Harbaugh era.
Two years ago, McCown beat the Ravens in Chicago’s Soldier Field in a game that was interrupted for nearly two hours by a tornado. That game was one of three he won in five starts for the Bears, and set him up for a year that he’d like to forget.
In 2014, McCown moved on to Tampa Bay and lost 10 of 11 starts. He laughs when he recalls his last win.
“It was last year at FedEx Field against the Redskins. There weren’t very many last year,” McCown said.
On Sunday, McCown recorded his first win since that day in November as the Browns won here for the first time since Nov. 18, 2007.
Back then, Mike Pettine, Cleveland’s coach was coaching the Ravens’ outside linebackers. The Browns won that one in overtime, too—by the identical score of 33-30.
“I don’t know if it’s sunk in, yet. Maybe when I light my cigar outside it might start to sink in,” Pettine said.
So much went wrong for Cleveland. There were two silly penalties on nose tackle Danny Shelton for hitting after the play. Two consecutive plays for significant gains reversed after replay challenges, and a late hit by kicker Travis Coons.
On the Ravens final drive in the fourth quarter, defensive back K’Waun Williams hit Marlon Brown after Flacco’s pass to him was over the receiver’s head.
That extended the drive which led to Justin Tucker’s game-tying field goal.
“This wasn’t pretty. We did a lot of bad things,” Pettine said.
Coons, who his coach labeled “a bit of an adrenaline junkie,” hit Ravens returner Jeremy Ross while he was running out of bounds in the second quarter. Coons won the game with a 32-yard kick.
Of course, there was the acrobatic grab by Cleveland’s Gary Barnidge, laughingly called “the thighmaster catch.”
McCown became the fifth quarterback to throw for over 400 yards against the Ravens in their 20-year history.
He spent 2010 out of the NFL playing for the Hartford Colonials in a now forgotten league and appreciates what he has more than ever.
“I played in the UFL, for crying out loud. Personal satisfaction kind of fell out the window,” McCown said.
McCown admires his Ravens counterpart, and understandably has some QB envy.
“Joe, doing what we all chase, which is taking your team to the Super Bowl, winning it—in a contract year,” McCown said.
He’ll remember his first time in Baltimore. What was it like?
“Pretty good, pretty good,” McCown said.
“Fun place to play. This AFC North is special just because of the fans that you have in these cities. They’re not quite as passionate as Browns fans, but they’re close.”
McCown has now played for teams in five of the NFL’s eight divisions.
“To come into a place like this where fans support their team like this is huge,” McCown said.
The Browns are now 2-3. McCown suffered a concussion in Cleveland’s Week 1 loss to the New York Jets and had to watch Johnny Manziel’s win over Tennessee the next week.
Ravens fans who wanted to watch “Johnny Football” in action had to settle for the wunderkind trotting over to Flacco for a handshake after the game.
In Cleveland’s last win here, Phil Dawson hit a controversial field goal which sent the game into overtime. That year, 2007, was the Browns’ last winning season.
“Sometimes you have wins that define things for you, can define a season or be a turning point. We hope that was this for us,” Pettine said.
McCown is Cleveland’s hope for a postseason berth even though he’s not known as an NFL top shelf quarterback.
“The people that know, and the people that you really care about, that’s all that matters, is their opinion of you, and your opinion of yourself,” McCown said.
On Nov. 29, the Ravens travel to Cleveland. By then, the Browns and McCown will now whether he’s still their quarterback or whether they need to be looking for another one in next spring’s draft.
Don’t sell him short, he cautions. He’s come a long way since that nightmare in Tampa Bay last year.
“Everybody didn’t write me off. There’s obviously some folks in Cleveland that didn’t write me off, and thankfully my wife and kids didn’t write me off,” McCown said.
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