BALTIMORE – Pinned up against the wall, with the season arguably on the line, the Cleveland Browns roared back from a 21-9 third quarter deficit to takedown the Baltimore Ravens, 33-30, in overtime.
It's the type of win in the NFL that can change a season.
Veteran left tackle Joe Thomas said this victory counts as just one tally in the standings column, pushing Cleveland to 2-3 on the season. But the uplifting aftermath already could be felt in a joyous visitor's locker room at M&T Bank Stadium.
"This is a huge emotional boost for our team," Thomas said in between bear hugs with his Browns teammates.
The passionate reaction to the win was similar from the generally stoic Mike Pettine. Cleveland's head coach gave a rare celebratory scream and fist pump when kicker Travis Coons nailed the 32-yard game winner in overtime.
"Sometimes you get wins that define things for you, that become a turning point," Pettine said. "We're hoping that was this for us."
In the win, which sunk the Ravens to 1-4, quarterback Josh McCown tallied a Browns franchise record 457 passing yards and two touchdowns. His three consecutive games with 300 yards through the air is also a Browns first.
In a genuine, heartfelt press conference, McCown made a point of reminding reporters he once was relegated to play in the UFL in hopes of continuing his professional football career.
The reason he never decided to hang up the cleats had nothing to do with wanting personal success and franchise records. It's all about winning for McCown. And on the heels of a heartbreaking loss on the other side of the country against the San Diego Chargers -- which Pettine admitted the defeat "took a lot out of us" -- McCown helped deliver an unforgettable win that could turn the tides for Cleveland's season.
"I think it speaks volumes, I really do," McCown said. "We talked about being a team that responded. I think we are all in agreement that was a pretty good response.
"Sometimes a win like this means more than just one win."
The Browns looked like they were the AFC North team headed for a 1-4 record for much of the game. Big plays continued to pierce the defense and squandered scoring opportunities in the red zone hindered the offense. The Ravens took what felt like an insurmountable 27-22 lead with 5:56 left in the fourth quarter after a Justin Forsett rushing touchdown. Things looked bleak.
Cleveland saved its most inspired football of the young season for when it mattered most. McCown and Isaiah Crowell hooked up for a 22-yard touchdown, the defense bent but didn't break on a goal line stand to force a field goal at the end of regulation and then forced a three-and-out to start overtime. McCown remained collected on the game-winning drive
"To overcome all the adversity that we faced in the game, I told the guys, this was the greatest kind of win," defensive linemen Desmond Bryant said.
"To find a way to win a game like this, with everything on the line," Pettine said, "I can't tell you how satisfying this is."