Given that a number of NFL games aren’t decided until the end, it helps when teams save their best for last.
That’s exactly what the Browns did against the Chicago Bears on Oct. 9, 2005 at what was then known as Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Trent Dilfer threw two touchdown passes to Antonio Bryant during a 40-second span in the final three minutes to give the Browns a 20-10 victory before a crowd of 73,079, the Browns’ second-largest home crowd of the season.
The Browns improved to 2-2 under first-year head coach Romeo Crennel. It marked the second straight season, and the third time in four years, that they had split their first four games.
They would also finish fast, with two wins in their final three games, to go 6-10, their best record since 2002.
The Bears also stood at 2-2. They would recover and win their next eight games, and 10 of 11, en route to finishing 11-5 and making the NFC playoffs for the first time in four seasons.
The Bears entered the day having scored just seven points in two of their first three games, and the Browns defense made sure they continued to struggle offensively, holding them to just a field goal in the first half -- Robbie Gould’s 44-yarder with 9:04 left in the second quarter.
But sandwiched around that kick were two field goals by Phil Dawson -- a 19-yard at 4:20 of the first quarter and a 44-yarder of his own with but 41 seconds left in the second quarter -- to give the Browns a 6-3 halftime lead.
The only scoring of the third quarter -- and the first touchdown of the game -- was an eight-yard pass from Kyle Orton to former Browns fullback Marc Edwards at 5:36. It culminated an impressive 12-play, 93-yard drive stretching over six minutes and gave Chicago the lead for the first time, 10-6.
With neither team being able to do much offensively, the score seemed to really put the Bears in good shape. Their situation looked even better when they picked up three first downs on a fourth-quarter possession, the last one coming with just 7:13 left.
But the Browns finally forced them to punt and, following Dennis Northcutt’s 15-yard return, took over in good field position at their 46 with 5:47 remaining. That seemed to be the spark the Browns needed offensively. They moved to a first down at the Chicago 33, and then Dilfer hit Bryant with a touchdown pass as they regained the lead, 13-10, with 3:10 left.
On the ensuing possession, blitzing safety Chris Crocker sacked Orton and forced a fumble that he recovered at the Chicago 29.
Two plays later, the Browns were in the end zone again as Dilfer and Bryant combined on a 28-yard score with 2:30 remaining to make it 20-10.
Just like that, the Browns, by saving their best for last, were on their way to a victory.