Fortunately for the curious, the Browns won Sunday in dramatic fashion and, well, Barnidge had some explaining to do.
Just how on earth did he catch that fourth-quarter touchdown pass?
“Honestly,” Barnidge said, “it was a lot of luck, not much skill.
“There’s no way you can ever practice a catch like that. I wasn’t laughing about it at first but now I can laugh about it because we won the game.”
Those who compile lists and highlight reels of the NFL’s top plays from the weekend won’t mind a bit. Barnidge’s 18-yard touchdown reception early in Sunday’s fourth quarter not only gave the Browns their first lead of the game, but also provided a lasting memory for everyone who saw the eight-year veteran win a jump ball against Baltimore’s Will Hill and ultimately secure the catch with his thighs and buttocks.
“Gary came back and said ‘I caught it. I didn’t use my hands but I caught it,” McCown said.
Here’s how Barnidge described it:
“I jumped up, and I knew the ball hit his foot,” Barnidge said. “Then, I could feel the ball on my leg. I was cupping it, and I reached down and pulled it in.”
It’s the latest play to feed into a new nickname that is gaining steam inside the Cleveland Browns facility. Among the NFL’s tight ends, only New England’s Rob Gronkowski has more receiving yards than Barnidge, who caught a career-high eight passes for 139 yards -- also a career high -- and the memorable touchdown Sunday against the Ravens. For the season, he has 24 receptions for 374 yards and three touchdowns.
“I told him on the sideline that ‘if that’s not the No. 1 play of the week, then there’s something wrong,’” Browns coach Mike Pettine said. “I thought he couldn’t top the catch from last week. I guess it’s just another day at the office for ‘big play Barnidge’ as we like to call him.”
Barnidge’s other catches won’t be played on repeat throughout the week, but they were just as important in Cleveland’s overtime victory.
His 35-yard reception in the second quarter set up the second of three first-half field goals. His final catch of the day extended Cleveland’s game-winning drive in overtime, as he turned a short third-and-1 pass into a 19-yard gain that put the Browns in Ravens territory.
A team guy through and through, Barnidge quickly took the focus off himself as soon as he was done describing the catch heard and seen around the NFL on Sunday.
“I’m hoping this win can be a defining moment for this team,” he said. “It could help us turn the season around.”