Campbell guts out big performance

Posted Nov 3, 2013

Senior Editor Vic Carucci says quarterback Jason Campbell became the symbol of what the Browns are all about by fighting through sore ribs to lead them to a 24-18 victory against the Ravens.

Jason Campbell had a football underneath him and 340 pounds of Haloti Ngata on top of him.

Something was bound to give. It turned out to be Campbell’s rib cage.

With 1:48 left in the first quarter Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium, a second promising quarterback story for the Browns this season appeared to come to an abrupt end.

The first, authored by Brian Hoyer, ended two series into his third start, against the Buffalo Bills in Week 5. The second was coming at an even worse time – with the Browns having a legitimate shot at ending five-plus years of futility against their AFC North rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, and jumping back into contention for the division title.

But Campbell, despite getting up slowly and being helped to the sidelines by trainers and missing the next four offensive snaps, was having none of that.

“Nah! Nah!” he said of the possibility of not finishing the game. “They’d have to drag me out of that one.”

Campbell not only would return and remain in the game until the end, but he also would have one of the better showings of his nine-year NFL career. Despite feeling excruciating pain, he completed 23 of 35 passes for 262 yards and a career-best-equaling three touchdown passes in the Browns’ 24-18 victory. Campbell also connected on a crucial three-yard throw to Davone Bess – who also was his target on two of the touchdowns after a dreadful showing at Kansas City last week – on fourth-and-one to keep alive a 15-play, 67-yard drive that ended with Billy Cundiff’s game-sealing field goal with 14 seconds left.

It was an amazing effort, a display of sheer grit and toughness to go along with more of the dynamic impact Campbell displayed in his first start for the Browns last week at Kansas City.

His commanding presence in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage, to go along with his playmaking skills, were exactly what this team needed.

And on Sunday, it got something extra after Campbell was sacked with 1:48 left in the first quarter and Ngata then landed on top of him to draw a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty, while also driving the ball into the quarterback’s ribs.

It got a shining example of what the Browns have stood for throughout this crazy first half of the season: incredible resilience. They don’t give into quarterback changes or trades (real and rumored) involving their most prominent players or injuries.

“There are games like that in the NFL,” Campbell said. “There are tough-fought games, and at this time of the season, no one’s a hundred percent. There are a lot of guys fighting, playing with injuries. And I think it just gives us the opportunity to keep fighting.

“We take that mentality: don’t ever give up, don’t quit. And we’re going to fight to the end.”

That, the Browns did.

When the Ravens scored a quick touchdown just before halftime, to cut the Browns’ lead to 14-10 and seemingly take their momentum away, Campbell and his teammates didn’t quit.

When they scored another touchdown and extra point early in the fourth quarter, to cut the Browns’ advantage to 21-18, Campbell and his teammates continued to keep plugging.

And when Campbell’s ribs kept aching, making it difficult for him to breathe let alone throw a football, he refused to give in … even after he took another hit to the ribs on the fourth-down throw to Bess with three minutes left. Campbell remained on the ground for a while after that one, and Willis McGahee prodded him to get up. Campbell had every intention of doing so; he just needed to catch his breath first.

“It was tough, especially when you’re trying to throw the football,” Campbell said. “It affected some of my accuracy on some balls and the velocity that I tried to put on the ball. It was kind of tough at times, but my guys rallied around me. They did an outstanding job of making plays.

“I thought Coach Norv (Turner, the Browns’ offensive coordinator and play-caller) adapted to when my ribs were hurt. I thought he called a great game adapting to the situation.”

That’s what these Browns do. They adapt. They overcome.

And after losing their last three games and last 11 against the Ravens, they win and stay relevant past the halfway point of the season because they’re still within striking distance of first place in the AFC North.

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