Before Greg Joseph could walk back to the Browns’ bench after missing an extra point in the first half, head coach Hue Jackson ran over to the rookie kicker and lifted him up.
After all, they were going to need him.
“I went out there and met him on the field, looked him in the eye and said, ‘That one’s over with. You’re going to be in position to help us win this game,’” Jackson said.
“That came true.”
Indeed, Joseph knocked down a 37-yarder with two seconds to play in overtime that lifted Cleveland to a dramatic, 12-9 win Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium, the team's first victory against a divisional opponent in almost exactly three years.
Making Joseph’s heroic boot — a line drive that narrowly cleared the crossbar — more of a feel-good story was how it followed two missed kicks earlier in the game. The youngster had a PAT bounce off the uprights and watched a 55-yarder sail wide left with 9 seconds to go in regulation.
“If I had made those, we wouldn’t be in the position that we were in,” he said postgame. “Super happy for the guys in there, my family and mainly the guys in the locker room because they deserved that win. It’s been a long time coming.”
Joseph — a first-year player out of Florida Atlantic who’s been with the team for less than three weeks — kept a level head and employed a positive outlook right up to his final attempt.
“I try to stay fairly in the middle. Not too emotionally high, not too emotionally low,” Joseph said, “but it was definitely one of the crazier ones. It’s the first game-winner with the dying seconds that I’ve ever had to hit.”
Following the lead of their head coach, Joseph’s teammates picked him up throughout the bout.
“We knew we were going to have another chance. If it wasn’t going to be this week, it was going to be later. We just picked him up,” veteran left guard Joel Bitonio said. “I think Coach Jackson did a good job of picking him up and making sure he was going to be ready to go if we needed him again, which we did.”
Joseph, after all, was brought to Cleveland to make kicks like this one. The Browns signed him off the street after watching then-kicker Zane Gonzalez struggle in a Week 2 loss to the Saints.
When it mattered most, Joseph delivered in the clutch. Even if it wasn’t pretty.
“I could not decide whether I wanted to look at the kick [in overtime] or not,” rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “I turned around last second and saw it pretty low.
“It wasn’t a pretty kick, but it went in. This also wasn’t a pretty win, but it counts.”