The Browns (1-2) had one touchdown in their first 11 quarters this season before scoring two in the fourth against San Francisco's defense, which held them to 113 yards in the first three quarters. It was all leading up to another comeback win for a franchise that has specialized in them since rejoining the NFL four seasons ago.
"That's Cleveland Browns football: Just wait until the last minute and 35 seconds of the game," coach Butch Davis said.
Holcomb beat out Tim Couch in training camp, but two middling performances in losses had put his job and Cleveland's season in jeopardy. His first three quarters against San Francisco weren't much better -- but with two sore ankles and a 12-point deficit, he led the Browns on two stirring drives for the victory.
"We just hung in there, and when we had to make plays, we made them," Holcomb said. "It's just satisfying that when we had to do it, we stepped up."
Both scoring drives ended in TD passes to Davis -- the second capping a 91-yard drive comprised mostly of short, expertly thrown passes. Kevin Johnson caught 11 passes for 109 yards.
The turnaround thrilled a miniature Dawg Pound at Candlestick Park, which at times was loud enough to drown out the disappointed thousands in San Francisco's sellout crowd.
"I think we saved the season today," said Policy, the Cleveland president who held the same job for eight years with the 49ers. "When you go 0-3, everybody is focused on where you aren't. Now, we can focus on moving forward to where we want to be. ... We were Nineresque at the end."
Both offenses sputtered and stalled on a stifling day, but Cleveland made an uncanny rally to win the clubs' first meeting since 1993. Holcomb was 25-of-38 for 222 yards.
Cleveland's offense finally helped out its defense, which kept Terrell Owens and Jeff Garcia out of the end zone despite several decent drives. New kicker Owen Pochman made four field goals for the 49ers (1-2), who had the type of timid, inconsistent offensive game that supposedly wouldn't happen after Steve Mariucci was fired.
Garcia went 21-of-35 for 198 yards. Owens caught eight passes for 90 yards -- and in a familiar refrain, he broke his media boycott long enough to demand a bigger role in San Francisco's offense.
"I don't know how many times we've been in the red zone and my number hasn't been called," Owens said. "I feel bad from an offensive standpoint, because we're letting the defense down. They're playing their tails off, and we can't help them out."
On their first 75-yard scoring drive, the Browns capitalized on key penalties leading up to Davis' 2-yard TD catch.
The Browns got the ball back at their 9 a few minutes later, and Holcomb picked at San Francisco across the middle, moving Cleveland to the 49ers 11 on Kevin Johnson's 19-yard catch with 44 seconds left. After two incompletions, Holcomb found Davis among four San Francisco defenders for a leaping catch.
"They stayed strong when things weren't going their way, and then they outplayed us in the fourth quarter," said 49ers cornerback Mike Rumph, who committed two key pass-interference penalties in the second half. "It seemed like they wanted it more than we did."
The Browns also prevented Garcia and Owens from hooking up for any big plays. Though Owens had decent statistics, he was frustrated into a helmet-throwing fit on the sideline in the third quarter.
Pochman, signed as a free agent last Tuesday to replace Jeff Chandler, kicked field goals from 38, 44, 46 and 36 yards.
- Jimmy Williams, San Francisco's punt returner and nickel defensive back, left the game in the first half with a concussion.
- Garcia was the 49ers' leading rusher with 40 yards.
- WR Dennis Northcutt missed the game for Cleveland with a chest injury.
The Associated Press News Service
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