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Special-teams calls pay off for Browns

Posted Sep 23, 2013

A fake field goal for a touchdown and fake punt that led to a field goal helped the Cleveland Browns defeat the Minnesota Vikings, 31-27, Sunday.

The Cleveland Browns’ special-teams unit was responsible for far more than kickoffs, punts, field goals and extra points in their 31-27 win over the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field at the H.H.H. Metrodome Sunday.

A fake field goal that turned into a touchdown and a fake punt that resulted in a 34-yard gain and helped set up a field goal proved to be difference-making plays in the Browns’ first win under coach Rob Chudzinski.

“That’s always our mindset, and that’s the way I’ve always been,” Chudzinski said. “When I talk about what our philosophy’s going to be, we’re going to attack, and we’re going to be aggressive. Sometimes, it’s going to work, and sometimes, it’s not going to work. I felt like we had real good opportunities in those situations. The situation happened to come up during the game where we felt like we could use those plays.

“I have so much faith in our guys and belief in our guys. I think that encourages them to want to get better as we have that faith and belief in them. Any opportunity that we have -- whether it’s on offense or defense -- we’re going to capitalize and we want to be aggressive in that way.”

Cleveland punter Spencer Lanning extended the Browns’ lead over the Vikings to 10 points, 24-14, with an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Cameron at the 3:39 mark of the second quarter.

Initially, the Browns lined up to kick a field goal, but Lanning got the ball from long-snapper Christian Yount, threw a pass to Cameron on the right side of the formation and watched as the third-year tight end ran to the pylon for the score.

“It was one of those things that if they covered it, we were going to bring it back in and kick it,” Lanning said. “You try to get set so they don’t see it, and we just got out there and they gave us the look we wanted. It was a good snap, good throw and JC made a good catch and got in the end zone.

“It was an easy pass. He was open, and as a quarterback, you can’t ask for anything more than that. I was just thinking to myself, ‘I can’t believe they’re not going to cover him.’ We heard the defense. They knew we only had 10 guys out there. They just didn’t see (Jordan). They were freaking out, trying to figure out what was going on. I was just trying to get our O-line to line up and make sure we didn’t have an illegal-procedure penalty.”

By throwing the touchdown pass and later hitting an extra point when Billy Cundiff exited the game with a strained quadriceps muscle, Lanning became the first NFL player to kick a point-after-touchdown, throw a touchdown pass and launch a punt in the same game since Sam Baker on Oct. 13, 1968.

Lanning’s holder on the extra point was quarterback Brian Hoyer, who had just thrown the go-ahead touchdown to Cameron with 51 seconds remaining in the game. Lanning usually handles the holding duties when Cundiff is in the lineup.

“I haven’t really experienced it before, having to use a punter in those kicking situations,” Chudzinski said. “I put a picture up in our team meeting with the guys, and the picture was that last extra point. I’ll tell you, I was ecstatic when we scored the touchdown and it took me about a second or two to realize, ‘Okay, now we have to kick this extra point. And this is an important extra point,’ knowing that Brian Hoyer was out there holding, and Spencer was obviously kicking it.

“I put the caption underneath it to show the team. The theme of the week was, ’Do a little bit more.’ That’s really what it ended up being at the end of the game, for those guys especially.”

Earlier in the game, it was a fake punt that led to a field goal.

Before Cundiff converted a 38-yard field goal attempt that put the Browns in front of the Vikings, 17-14, with 6:07 to play in the first half, the team faced a fourth-and-one at its own 38-yard line. Reserve safety Josh Aubrey took the direct snap from Yount and ran up the middle for a gain of 34 yards.

“When they told me we were going to run it, it was just like a sense of relief,” Aubrey recalled. “I’ve been waiting to do it for a long time now, so when I got the call, I just figured, ‘Make a play. Go find something and make a play.’

“I was thinking, ‘Did this really just happen? Did it just really open up like that?’ because it’s not designed for a long run. It was more for short-yardage, but when I saw it, I just got excited and was ready to win.”