Rookie Mistake by Eight-Year Vet Hank Poteat Costs Browns, Brady Quinn

Tom DelamaterAnalyst INovember 22, 2009

CLEVELAND - 2009:  Hank Poteat of the Cleveland Browns poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by NFL Photos)
NFL Photos/Getty Images

What was Hank Poteat thinking?

The Browns and Lions played what was, for them, a classic game on Sunday. Cleveland had taken a late 37-31 lead, and Detroit was down to a last-gasp throw by rookie Matthew Stafford.

Almost tackled as he scrambled for his life, Stafford uncorked a Hail Mary pass into the end zone with no time on the clock. It was intercepted by Brodney Pool, and the game should have ended with a Browns victory.

Instead, a yellow flag flew to the ground. Pass interference, defense. The Lions were awarded the ball at Cleveland's one-yard line.

Replays showed clearly that Poteat threw a block at Detroit receiver Bryant Johnson as he attempted to move toward the throw.

The Lions got one more play. Stafford, shaken up on the previous pass, was aided by an officials' time out and a subsequent one called by the Browns. He trotted back onto the field and threw his fifth TD of the afternoon, giving Detroit a stunning 38-37 win.

The shocking sequence frittered away what should have been Brady Quinn's coming out party as a pro quarterback. Quinn started fast, throwing three touchdown passes in the first quarter as Cleveland stormed out to a 24-3 advantage. As if to address the critics who say he can't throw downfield, two of the touchdowns were long passes, one of 59 yards to Mohamed Massaquoi and the other a 40-yarder to Chansi Stuckey.

Quinn eventually threw the go-ahead score to Michael Gaines late in the fourth quarter, and it would have held up if not for Poteat's end zone blunder.

In a way, the interference call was symbolic of a woeful performance by Cleveland's defense. Rob Ryan's crew picked the worst possible time to have its worst game of the year. Stafford, a rookie, torched the Browns for 422 yards and five touchdowns.

Otherwise, Browns fans had much to cheer about. Quinn was sharp, going 21-for-33 for 304 yards and the four touchdowns. More important, he didn't turn the ball over. Massoquoi and Jennings had five catches apiece, although each dropped a TD pass on well-thrown balls from Quinn. Stuckey also had five receptions. The offense clicked like it hadn't all year.

But it was all for naught in the end. Poteat has been in the league eight years. He blocked a receiver with the ball in the air and cost his team a hard-fought and much-deserved win.

With Cleveland, if it's not one thing, it's another. On a day when Brian Daboll's offense finally came alive, Rob Ryan's defense looked vulnerable and tentative.

It's another black mark on a frustrating, futile season for the Browns and their legion of loyal fans.