CLEVELAND — It was a storybook ending to an incredible game. And then it wasn’t.
Chansi Stuckey, who came to Cleveland in the October 2009 trade of Braylon Edwards, had the ball and a game-defining play in his grasp as the Browns were driving to beat the New York Jets and Edwards, Public Enemy No. 2 in Cleveland.
Then the play unraveled, by a fraction of an inch along the home sideline. Midway through overtime, after Colt McCoy and his tight ends brought Cleveland back late in regulation, Stuckey — a first down in hand off a McCoy pass — fought for extra yardage, avoiding the sideline by a hair. But Drew Coleman stripped Stuckey at the Jets’ 32 — in Phil Dawson’s field-goal range — and Antonio Cromartie recovered the bouncing ball at New York’s 36.
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Officials reviewed the play, but upheld the ruling on the field, that Stuckey stayed in. The Jets went on to a 26-20 win, scoring the winning TD with 16 seconds left.
“A fumble is a fumble,” said Stuckey, who had four catches, including one earlier in the drive on which he fumbled. “It just happened at a really crucial time. I was trying to make a play to help the team win.
“I felt bad for my teammates. Fiftythree guys on the field and I had the ball and I let everyone down. That’s really what I’m dealing with now. Just letting the guys down is the biggest thing for me.”
Browns coach Eric Mangini and teammates credited Stuckey for his effort, and noted the Jets failed to win the game after the fumble, as kicker Nick Folk missed his third field-goal attempt of the game.
“He’s obviously upset, as I would be,´said tight end Ben Watson, who caught five McCoy passes. “Everybody’s had plays that you’re not happy with. There’s no one play that makes or breaks a game. There’s multiple plays, multiple players that could have done something here, could’ve done something there. It’s not one play. He’ll be fine.”
Meanwhile, Edwards — who was sent to the Jets for Stuckey, linebacker Jason Trusnik and two draft picks — got his victory after an up-and-down week in which he boasted to New York media of his glee upon hearing news of the trade. Outspoken about his disdain for all the losses he played in while a Brown — the team was 21-41 with Edwards — he was mostly contrite after the game on Sunday.
“I did sense it was going to get chippy,” he said. “I anticipated it, and as a team, I think we handled it well. In life, you learn, you mature in some ways. I just came here to play football. I didn’t come here to get into it with fans or any of the Browns. I was focused on the goal at hand, and that was helping the Jets win.”
Edwards also caught four passes, none more interesting than the first. On the Jets’ first possession, after the Browns had taken a 3-0 lead, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez threw short left to Edwards, who lowered his head at the end of a 6-yard play. Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown, who Edwards bowled over, left the game and didn’t return after suffering what was called a shoulder injury.
After the play, Browns players jawed with Edwards, and it appeared nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin threw a punch. The crowd immediately started a chant that was, well, not family friendly. Later, Abram Elam gave Edwards an extra little shove after Sanchez misfired on a goalline pass intended for Edwards.
“I thought (Edwards was frustrated),” said Browns cornerback Mike Adams, who sacked Sanchez on a late-thirdquarter third down, getting the defense off the field. “That was the key, to rough up all their receivers. Like (Santonio) Holmes, they’re all core receivers so we tried to rough them all up.”
Edwards also had a part in the most important play of a game that had scores of big ones: On the Jets’ third possession of overtime, inside the two-minute warning, Sanchez targeted Edwards down the visitors sideline. The ball was thrown short, and Joe Haden picked it off — at the Browns 3. After three plays, Reggie Hodges’ punt from his end zone was a low liner, and Jim Leonard’s 18-yard return set up the Jets’ winning score.
“(The Browns) were making sure Braylon didn’t get deep on them, and they did a great job staying on top of him,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “Braylon Edwards is a special player, and they certainly knew where he was.
“I thought he kept his composure, and I’ll tell you this: (Brown’s injury) shows you how physical (Edwards) is. He’s just a battering ram and a big man. I thought he did a great job keeping his composure.”
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.