Sometimes, football games are about a whole lot more than football.
There’s a much bigger picture being represented -- a much bigger message being spelled out -- by what’s happening on the field.
There’s no better example of that in Browns history than their game against the Detroit Lions on Sept. 23, 2001 at what was then known as Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The Browns won, 24-14, but that was just a small part of the story.
What the season-high Browns home crowd of 73,168 took away from that game and that day is that it was a symbol of the nation starting to get back to some semblance of normalcy following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks 12 days earlier.
After the attacks, the NFL decided to postpone its schedule for the weekend of Sept. 16, taking those games and adding them to what had been the end of the regular season. As such, the Browns’ trip to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers in the first regular-season game for new Heinz Field was pushed back to Jan. 6.
A week off without football gave NFL fans a chance to step back, heal and reflect a little bit. By the weekend of Sept. 23, it was time to get back to the game – to get back to what happens on Sundays in the fall.
It was an emotional day everywhere in the league, including Cleveland.
The win, which evened the Browns’ record at 1-1 while dropping the Lions to 0-2, was achieved on the strength of Tim Couch’s right arm. The third-year quarterback, who had missed the last half of 2000 with a broken right thumb, had one of his most productive days as a pro to that point, throwing three touchdown passes, including two in the first half as the Browns built a 14-0 halftime lead.
Rookie running back James Jackson supplemented Couch’s passing with the first 100-yard rushing performance of his career, gaining 124 yards on 31 carries.
The Browns defense was superb as well, tying a team record that had stood for 41 years with seven interceptions, all off former Brown Ty Detmer. Three were by rookie cornerback Anthony Henry, tying a team record held by 10 other players.
Percy Ellsworth, Corey Fuller, Earl Little and Jamir Miller also had an interception each.
Lastly, the Browns had three sacks, by Keith McKenzie, Tyrone Rogers and Greg Spires.
All the way around, it was a complete victory -- and the first by first-year Browns head coach Butch Davis.
Couch’s initial touchdown pass was a four-yarder to wide receiver Kevin Johnson in the opening quarter. His second scoring throw – a two-yarder in the second quarter – was unique, going to offensive lineman Shaun O’Hara, who had reported as an eligible receiver.
Phil Dawson’s 33-yard field goal in the third quarter pushed the lead to 17-0, and it was 24-7 by the end of the quarter following Couch’s 34-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Quincy Morgan.
The Browns got their win, but more importantly, football -- and a little normalcy -- had returned.