Luck, it has been said, is the residue of hard work.
In the Browns' 13-10 victory in Miami Sunday, however, hard work had absolutely nothing to do with it. This was was pure luck from start to finish.
In a game neither team tried very hard to win, the luck dial bent just slightly enough in the Browns' direction to allow Phil Dawson to put an end to 59 minutes and 59 seconds of miserable football. If, however, you believe the Browns and Dolphins did try hard, then ugly is not a strong enough adjective to describe what unfolded in that time span.
This one went so far beyond ugly, the National Football League should hide its head in embarrassment. It's a wonder Dolphins fans didn't demand their money back for false advertising. It was not your classic defensive battle considering the final score.
Quick timeout to allow the statistics to paint the grim picture. Each team had 13 possessions, not including a Browns kneeldown at the end of the first half. In nine of those series, the Browns ran more than five plays just four times. The Dolphins were worse with 10 of their series consuming five or fewer plays.
The teams combined for a pathetic six third-down conversions in 28 attempts, just 29 first downs and only 533 yards of total offense. And the weather was beautiful. More beautiful than the football played under it.
Considering what transpired a large majority of the afternoon, one can only wonder in amazement what possessed these juggernauts to suddenly treat the crowd with back-to-back, where-did-those-come-from touchdown drives in a dizzying span of 9:29. It took the Browns just three minutes and 40 seconds to cover 94 yards in six plays to take a late third-quarter lead, but the Dolphins struck right back with an 11-play, 80-yard march to tie it.
And that, for all practical purposes, was it for the afternoon when each team owned the ball. Just as suddenly, the offense ground to a halt. Nearly one-third of the day's offense was consumed on those two drives. Dolphins fans needed No-Doz as they watched their team fall for the fifth time in six games at home this season.
Both teams played a relatively conservative game, a sort of play-not-lose philosophy which uglied up the game. Rarely did either club attempt to strike downfield. Most of the running game took place between the tackles. It was conservative football at its worst.
Miami quarterback Chad Henne tried mightily to hand this one to the Browns with three interceptions, the first two winding up as three points on the scoreboard. He finally succeeded with the third when linebacker David Bowens luckily got enough of his big paw to deflect a pass into the hands of nickelback Mike Adams to set up Dawson's game-winner.
Why the Dolphins were throwing from deep in their territory on third down with a minute left and just one timeout in a tie game is a head scratcher. Maybe Dolphins coach Tony Sparano couldn't stand another 15 minutes of this kind of football.
A moment earlier, the Dolphins had a chance to put the game away when rookie cornerback Nolan Carroll jumped the route of Cleveland tight end Ben Watson, but dropped a sure pick six of a Jake Delhomme pass that hit him squarely in the hands around the Cleveland 35. That's a whole different kind of luck. The residue of hard work? Hardly. The residue of bad football perhaps.
The offenses in this one were truly and most sincerely offensive. It was a textbook display of how not to play offensive football.
Maybe that's why Browns coach Eric Mangini had so much faith in his offense, he ordered three straight kneeldowns by Delhomme from the Miami 3 before Dawson was summoned. If that doesn't cry "I don't trust you guys anymore" then nothing will.
It was a huge and most unorthodox gamble by Mangini, who risked a bad snap, a bad hold or even a shank by Dawson. Come to think of it, that would have been a more fitting ending to regulation considering what preceded it.
As it turned out, holder Reggie Hodges had to snatch a rare high snap by Ryan Pontbriand and gave Dawson a perfect spot for the game-winner.
That's two straight victories for the Browns now and both fall into the luck category. A blown last-second field goal by Carolina's John Kasay last Sunday and now this. Two ugly victories, but they all count. At least this one didn't seem like a loss.
Maybe it's a sign of things to come.