The Cleveland Browns put on a valiant effort -- scoring 24 unanswered points in the second half -- but fell to their division rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, 30-27, on a field goal in overtime on Sept. 7.
The Cleveland Browns lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 30-27, in Week 1 of the 2014 NFL season.
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The Browns almost overcame a 24-point halftime deficit but Ben Roethlisberger threw to Markus Wheaton for a 20-yard gain to set up the winning field goal by the Steelers' Shaun Suisham in overtime, per Kevin Jones of the Browns' official website:
"When the Cleveland Browns go and reiew the film of the second half from the Steelers game, they'll see themselves as the team Mike Pettine had envisioned all along: full of resiliency and extreme mental toughness.
"Trailing, 27-3, at the half, the Browns roared back scoring 24 unanswered points. However, it was too little, too late as the Steelers were able to pull out a 30-27 victory in the season opener at Heinz Field.
"Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connected with Markus Wheaton for a 20-yard pass to set up Shaun Suisham's 41-yard field goal as time expired.
"'We're 0-1,' said Browns head coach Mike Pettine. 'I told the team this is a pass-fail league. We failed. I'm proud of the effort in the second half, but it's a valuable lesson to learn. If you're behind 24 points at halftime, I don't know what the percentages are of coming back and winning, I guarantee you it's probably right aroud one.'
"The Browns came 40 seconds away from becoming that one percent. If you missed the final minute and the first half, you would've thought the Browns steamrolled the Steelers.
"From the moment the second half began, quarterback Brian Hoyer led an up-tempo, no-huddle attack, catching the Pittsburgh defense off-guard. Hoyer's quick-hitting passes to Andrew Hawkins teamed with rookie runnning backs Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell, not only took the Browns off life support, it nearly won them the game. The Browns first touchdown drive of the season (on the opening drive of the third quarter) took only six plays and one minute and 33 seconds off the clock.
"Cleveland's much-anticipated running attack did not disappoint. Two of Crowell's first three NFL carries turned into touchdowns, including a gorgeous 15-yard scamper, where the Steelers werent' able to lay a finger on the undrafted rookie. Crowell may have gotten the points, but it was West's powerful running style which Pittsburgh had no answer for. Used almost exclusively in the second half, the rookie from Towson still managed to eclipse the 100-yard mark.
"Crazily, the comeback was without two of the Browns' best players. A knee injury sidelined starting running back Ben Tate, while a flared-up shoulder kept tight end Jordan Cameron off the field.
"The Browns' defense deserves just as much credit for the second-half response. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took a blow torch to the secondary in the first half, launching 278 yards in dart-like accuracy. But just like Cleveland's offense, the second half was a brand new ball game. The Browns tightened their coverage and Pittsburgh started playing not to lose. Sacks from Chris Kinskey, Armonty Bryant and Jabal Sheard showed that the Browns activated a war in the trenches -- and they began winning it.
"'There are no moral victories in this league, but I was proud of the resolve and the character that showed up,' said Pettine.
Despite the loss, Hoyer proved that he is the right choice as the Browns' starting quarterback, per The Northeast Ohio Group's Mary Kay Cabot:
"Hoyer, playing with all the magic that enabled him to go 3-0 last season, engineered four straight scoring drives and 24 straight points to tie the game 27-27 and almost pull of the upset. He did it with an up-tempo, no-huddle offense that caught the Steelers off guard. At this time, the Steelers were preparing for Johnny Manziel -- and Hoyer's no-huddle almost did them in.
"In the end, however, Ben Roethlisberger pulled another Houdini act and beat the Browns 30-27 on a last-second field goal.
"'It was really just one play after another and those guys getting pretty tired,' said Hoyer of the Steelers' defense. 'We knew exactly what we were doing and it's quick and you guys saw how successful it was, so it's something that obviously we'll have to keep doing but we have to keep improving on other stuff too.'
"Hoyer was lights-out in the second half, completing 15 of 20 attempts for 173 yards with one TD pass -- a 9-yarder to Travis Benjamin -- for a 117.2 second-half rating. It was a dramatic turnaround from the first half, when Hoyer completed 4 of 11 attempts for 57 yards and a 54.0 rating.
"'When he's in his rhythm, he's damn good,' said guard John Greco. 'And it's exciting to see that, and that makes us want to play harder and get the run game going a little bit. It makes us want to block harder, block longer, so we'll try to build on that.'
"Overall, Hoyer completed 19 of 31 attempts for 230 yards with one TD and no interceptions for a 94.8 rating. It looked so shaky in the first half that it seemed inevitable that Johnny Manziel would come in off the bench soon to save the day.
"But Hoyer made it impossible for the rookie to make his NFL debut by producing scores on the first four of his six second-half drives: two straight Isaiah Crowell touchdowns runs, a Billy Cundiff field goal, and the 9-yard TD pass to Benjamin.
"'The way the game went, we just never felt the need for (Manziel),' said coach Mike Pettine."
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