Cleveland's season was on the line. Coach Bud Carson's job was hanging by a thread and so perhaps was Bernie Kosar's job as the Browns' quarterback.
Kosar responded Monday night by turning the tables on the team that has so often tormented him, leading Cleveland to 10 points in the final 3:21 and a 30-29 win over Denver.The winning points came on Jerry Kauric's 30-yard field goal as time expired after a 48-yard drive engineered by Kosar. A few minutes earlier, Kosar had hit Brian Brennan with a 24-yard touchdown pass to cut a 29-20 deficit to 29-27.
In fact, it was almost all Kosar for a team that had scored just three offensive touchdowns in its four previous games.
He completed 24 of 38 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns - and could have had a fourth, had a 5-yard flip to Eric Metcalf for a TD not been ruled a lateral and scored as a rushing touchdown.
What mattered most, however, was that Cleveland (2-3) broke a three-game losing streak a week after a 34-0 debacle in Kansas City that had Carson's job in jeopardy. What made it even more satisfying was that it came against a team that had beaten the Browns three times in the last four AFC title games and had won 11 of the last 12 overall between the clubs.
Denver (2-3), which had five turnovers in a loss to Buffalo last week, took advantage of two Cleveland miscues to overcome a 20-19 deficit early in the fourth quarter.
Then came Kosar. He hit a 24-yard pass to Vernon Joines on fourth-and-2 from midfield, then threw his third touchdown pass of the game, a 24-yarder to Brennan with 3:21 left.
The final drive started with 2:04 left. Kosar completed passes of 15 yards to Joines, 20 to Reggie Langhorne and 15 to Brennan on a third-and-8 play to set up the winning field goal.
Mark Jackson scored on a 16-yard reverse and David Treadwell kicked a 25-yard field goal as Denver took a 29-20 lead.
Until the late rally, it appeared that Denver would win by the margin of a second-quarter safety, achieved when Denver's Simon Fletcher blocked a Bryan Wagner punt through the Browns' end zone. It was the third score against the Browns on a punt block in two weeks. They gave up two touchdowns on blocks last week in Kansas City.
The safety, following Bobby Humphrey's 19-yard TD run, gave Denver a 19-13 edge.
Kozar touchdown passes of 43 yards to Webster Slaughter and 11 yards to Kevin Mack, and Metcalf's 5-yard run staked Cleveland to a 20-19 lead until Denver struck early in the final period.
Denver's offense was sparked by Humphrey, the NFL's rushing leader who carried 20 times for 106 yards in his fourth straight 100-yard game.
The Broncos, flat on both offense and defense, got a lift when rookie Alton Montgomery, who had been burned all night after replacing the injured Elliott Smith, picked off a Kosar pass and returned it to his own 31.
After John Elway hit Vance Johnson for 34 yards on a third-down play to the 16, Jackson took the ball around the right side for the TD that gave the Broncos a 26-21 lead.