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Brian Hoyer leads Browns on game-winning drive


When Brian Hoyer threw his third interception of the day, a wobbly pass right into the hands of Falcons safety Dezmen Southward, he walked with his head down towards the sideline. He clasped his hands together in anger. Curse words were muttered under his breath.

As the clock kept ticking, Hoyer thought he had cost the Cleveland Browns a chance to improve their record to 7-4.

 "You could see it as he came off the field…he was mad at himself," said coach Mike Pettine.

"I can't believe we still won," Hoyer said. 

Atlanta leveraged the interception into a 52-yard Matt Bryant field goal, giving the Falcons a 24-23 lead with 49 seconds left. Falcon's fans were celebrating. Cheerleaders were dancing. The win seemed secure in Atlanta's hands.

Hoyer and the offense trotted back onto the Georgia Dome field, to a deafening crowd noise. The Browns backs were against the wall; ball on their 20 with 44 seconds remaining. Cleveland would need to move the ball 45 yards, at least, for Billy Cundiff to boot a game-winner.

For the umpteenth time this season, the odds were stacked against the Browns. Confidence was wavering amongst the Dawg Pound faithful. Did this team have the guts to drive all the way down the field?

When he was counted out, that's just when Hoyer awoke.

Miles Austin for 11-yards towards the left sideline. Timeout! Josh Gordon on a gorgeous route over the middle for 24 yards. Timeout!!

With 24 seconds left, the Browns had crossed midfield. There was light at the end of this anxiety filled tunnel.

"I had faith in him," said Joe Haden after the game. "Hoyer is clutch. We all felt like he was going to be able to make something happen."

First-and-10 from the Falcons 45. Hoyer evading pressure, lofts a pass in traffic over the middle, and its caught. Gary Barnidge for 15 yards. Timeout!

The Browns were on Atlanta's 30-yard line. Only 16 seconds remained and Cleveland was out of timeouts. A 47-yard field goal was doable for Cundiff. But the Browns coaches saw confidence radiating from Hoyer.

Let's go for the kill shot, they thought.

Hoyer and the offense trotted back onto the field. Instead of opting for a traditional last-second play call towards the sideline, Hoyer fired a bullet to Austin right in the middle of the field, an 11-yard play advancing the ball to the Falcons' 19-yard line.

Falcons fans had their hands behind their heads; their glare at the field grimacing. Behind the arm and late-game decision making of Hoyer, the Browns were a field goal away from adding another heroic win to an already improbable season.

Out walked Cundiff who treated the 38-yard field goal attempt like any other attempt.

"I didn't feel pressure," said Cundiff, coolly in the locker room.

The kick sailed through the uprights. Cleveland had defeated Atlanta 26-24. Elation erupted on the sidelines and carried over to both a joyous visiting locker room and ambient plane ride back to Ohio.

Not many quarterbacks in the NFL can put behind them a rather miserable day at the office and rally his troops at the end. Hoyer did just that.

"I think that speaks volumes of his mental toughness," said Pettine.

"Man, Hoyer is such a tough guy," said guard Joel Bitonio. "He made some mistakes but at the end we knew he was going to throw it to the right guy. There's no panic in Hoyer. He made the right throws and we got the win."

By no means is Hoyer letting his game-winning drive absolve him of his three interception day. While most of the players enjoy the Victory Monday day-off, expect Hoyer to be back in Berea.

"I'm happy we won. It was a great team win…but I've got to play a lot better," said Hoyer moments after the game. "If we really want to do something with this thing, I can't play like that."

Still, the comeback was Hoyer's fourth of the season. Haden is right: this guy is clutch.

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