COMMENTARY | Could 2013 be the year the Cleveland Browns finally break through?
With a roster chock full of young talent and a coaching staff that is certainly more competent than previous regimes, the Browns have received their fair share of preseason hype heading into the 2013 NFL campaign.
While thoughts of double-digit wins and playoff berths are nice, a lot of things are going to have to break right for this upstart Cleveland team to achieve that sort of success in 2013.
Ten years removed from their last playoff appearance and owners of double-digit losses in each of the past five seasons, the Browns have a number of dubious streaks that they are looking to end in 2013. Possibly the most frustrating streak of all for Browns fans is Cleveland's nine-year drought in season openers.
On September 12, 2004, the Browns soundly defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 20-3. A stellar performance by Cleveland's defense and two touchdowns by quarterback Jeff Garcia carried the underdog Browns to a win that day.
Sadly, that victory marks the only time Cleveland has won a season opener since returning to the NFL in 1999.
13 losses in 14 season openers-- definitely not a good a way to build confidence for a team that seems to be constantly in rebuilding mode. Amongst these 13 defeats are a number of games that Browns fans would rather forget.
On September 12, 1999, the Browns played their first regular season NFL game since 1995. Facing their biggest rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in a nationally-televised game at what was then Cleveland Browns Stadium, no one really knew how the upstart Browns would do -- they were only six-point underdogs in Las Vegas heading into the game.
Unfortunately, any hopes of the Browns being competitive in their first year back in the NFL were more or less put to rest on that fateful night. Pittsburgh thoroughly dominated Cleveland on both sides of the football, as they cruised to a 43-0 win. The Browns had just two first downs, and Pittsburgh gained 464 yards of offense, compared to just 40 yards for Cleveland. That loss remains one of the worst in Cleveland's nearly 70 years of professional football.
The 2002 season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs provided a different sort of misery for Browns faithful. With the game all but won, Cleveland linebacker Dwayne Rudd was penalized for taking his helmet off before the play was whistled dead. Rudd's blunder gave the Chiefs an extra untimed down, which allowed Kansas City's Morten Andersen to kick the game-winning field goal. Even though the Browns ended up making the playoffs in 2002, that loss to the Chiefs still ranks as one the more heartbreaking in recent memory.
After a surprising 10-6 season in 2007, the Browns faced the Dallas Cowboys to kick off the 2008 regular season. The darlings of the media during the summer of 2008, the Browns were seemingly every pundit's choice to be the breakout team of the NFL that fall. The Cowboys had other ideas though, and they humbled the Browns that day, on their way to a convincing 28-10 win. The loss to Dallas was the first of many for the Browns in 2008, as they failed to live up to the preseason hype. Cleveland would finish the year with a record of 4-12.
Opening 2013 at home against the lowly Miami Dolphins, the Browns certainly have an opportunity to start a season off with a victory for the first time in a decade. Here's hoping this is the first of many streaks Cleveland ends in 2013.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo! Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Browns for over 25 years.
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