For the third consecutive week, the Browns offense was running on empty.
Through 11 quarters of the 2003 season, Cleveland had just one touchdown. The Browns stared down an 0-3 start as they entered the fourth quarter of their Week 3 showdown at San Francisco trailing 9-0.
A scoring drive early in the fourth quarter changed everything and put all the momentum on Cleveland's side. Kelly Holcomb capped a 75-yard drive with a 2-yard pass to Andre Davis to cut the 49ers' advantage to 12-7. Just a few minutes later, he took the team 16 yards longer on a time-consuming march down the field to win the game. Holcomb's 11-yard touchdown pass to Davis put an exclamation point on the 17-play drive and gave the Browns the lead for good, 13-12, with 29 seconds remaining.
"That's Cleveland Browns football: Just wait until the last minute and 35 seconds of the game," coach Butch Davis told reporters after the game.
The combined length of the Browns' two, fourth-quarter scoring drives (166) was 53 yards more than the 113 yards the offense generated in the first three quarters. Wide receiver Kevin Johnson was the catalyst, catching 11 passes for 109 yards. He had six catches for 51 yards on the game-winning drive.
Though the fourth-quarter rally served as a confidence-booster for the offense, the win was just as rewarding for the defense. In their Week 2 loss to Baltimore, the Browns surrendered an NFL-record 295 rushing yards to Jamal Lewis. Against the 49ers, Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow combined for just 32.
"Our defense's pride was wounded last week," Davis said. "They were angry and they wanted to have a hell of a performance today."
A look back at the 2003 Browns victory over the San Francisco 49ers