Browns fans came to the lakefront in search of revenge against Art Modell and the team that abandoned Cleveland four years ago. They wanted payback for the pain Modell caused by moving the old Browns franchise to Baltimore.
They did not find satisfaction.
The new Cleveland Browns gave their fans nothing to cheer about, stumbling to an embarrassing 41-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
The performance was equally discouraging to Browns fans and players.
"When I signed here, the first thing I heard from everybody was beat Baltimore," said Browns right tackle Orlando Brown. "Bust 'em up.' That was on my mind the whole time. This is very disappointing."
The Browns were inept in every phase of the football game.
"I think the game really broke down to the fact that we did not make any plays on offense, defense or special teams," said Browns coach Chris Palmer.
The tone was set early, when the Browns blew two golden scoring opportunities.
Trailing 7-0 after an 11-yard touchdown run by Baltimore running back Errict Rhett on the Ravens' first possession, the Browns got a break when Tarek Saleh stripped Ravens punt returner Jermaine Lewis deep in Baltimore territory. Cleveland's James Williams fell on the loose football at the Ravens' 17, but after seven plays, the Browns were forced to settle for a 25-yard Phil Dawson field goal with just 18 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Browns gambled and won on the ensuing kickoff, successfully attempting an onside kick that was recovered by Raymond Jackson near midfield.
Again, the Browns failed to seize the momentum. Their threat ended when quarterback Tim Couch underthrew a pass to Darrin Chiaverini in the right corner of the end zone, and was intercepted by Ravens' cornerback Duane Starks.
Baltimore took advantage of the turnover, driving 80 yards in 10 plays, and extending its lead to 14-3 on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Tony Banks (14-of-25, 129 yards) to Quadry Ismail.
Couch's interception underlined his worst game as a professional. The rookie quarterback completed just 9-of-21 passes for 57 yards before being replaced by Ty Detmer in the fourth quarter.
"We wanted to put on a good show against Baltimore and we just were not able to," said Couch, who sat dejectedly on the Browns bench with a towel draped over his head in the final quarter. "You never want to be pulled (out of the game). The way I am, I always want to be out there with my teammates. If we are losing, I want to be out there losing with them, just like if we are winning. I don't like being on the sideline. I feel like this is my offense, and not being able to be out there is pretty tough."
Whether or not Couch was in the game didn't make a difference. The Browns offense could not move the ball against the Ravens' fifth-ranked defense.
A miserable performance by the Browns' high-priced offensive line helped the running attack manage just 51 yards rushing and a 2.6 yard-per-carry average. The offense picked up just 10 first downs, with three coming in a meaningless fourth-quarter drive that ended with the Browns lone touchdown _ a 6-yard pass from Detmer to running back Terry Kirby with 5:13 left in the game.
Rob Burnett, one of only three former Browns on the current Ravens roster, blocked Dawson's extra-point attempt, making the Browns offense the first not to score 10 or more points against the Ravens in their four-year history.
Meanwhile, the Ravens overcame its season-long struggles.
Rhett led the way in a simple offensive gameplan, running between the tackles for 117 yards on 17 carries.
With 2:50 left in the third quarter, Rhett burst through the middle of the Browns defense, broke into the open, and outraced defensive back Corey Fuller for a 52-yard touchdown, extending the Ravens' lead to 24-3.
The Ravens put the exclamation point on the victory with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. Safety Rod Woodson intercepted a fourth-down pass by Detmer and returned it 66 yards down the right sideline for a 34-3 lead. Then backup quarterback Stoney Case scrambled through the Browns defense for a 20-yard touchdown run to close the scoring.
For Browns fans, the most disappointing product of the loss to the Ravens had to be the satisfaction it gave Modell, who watched the game from the safety of his home in suburban Baltimore.
"He's excited," said Ravens coach Brian Billick, who spoke with Modell on the phone after the game. "He felt good for the team. He felt good for the fact that we played the way we did. The guys played hard, worked hard and handled themselves with class. He's happy for the organization."
In the other locker room, Browns players struggled to hold back their emotions.
Defensive end Derrick Alexander tried to fight back tears.
"They were tears of disappointment," said Alexander. "I know the capabilities that our team possesses, and we haven't gone out there and done it. We show shades of different signs that we are capable of going out there and being a good football team in this league. I don't think we are at the maturity state where we can go out there and continue to do it week in and week out."
Palmer said he had a bad feeling coming into the game, after watching his team's lackluster performance on the practice field during the week. Palmer implied that the long NFL schedule is taking its toll on the Browns younger players, who are used to shorter college seasons.
"I was concerned," said Palmer. "My concern was that I thought some of our key players were tired and that showed up during the week. (Rookie cornerback Daylon) McCutcheon was tired three weeks ago and (rookie linebacker) Wali Rainer was tired, both of them have caught their second wind. I thought some of our offensive players were tired (this week)."