BEREA, OHIO (AP) - If there were any doubts, any lingering questions, any deeper suspicions about whether he could handle the pressure of being Cleveland’s starting quarterback and all that goes with it, Colt McCoy has put them all to rest.
The rookie passed his toughest test. In two minutes.
With 70,000 Cleveland fans screaming their heads off, millions of TV viewers watching the drama unfold and the Browns needing a late touchdown to tie the New York Jets, McCoy calmly entered the huddle, looked into his teammates’ eyes and made a promise.
“He said, ‘Look at me. We’re going to win this game,’” tight end Evan Moore said Monday.
The kid was almost right.
Making just his fourth pro start, McCoy drove the Browns down the field and threw a TD pass to wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi with 44 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Cleveland eventually lost 26-20 to the Jets, who scored with 16 just seconds to play in the extra period.
Still, McCoy made his mark.
Facing his fourth straight tenacious defense _ he hasn’t had an easy one yet _ McCoy gave the Browns and their die-hard fans more reason to believe that he is the one they’ve been waiting for, the one to finally return Cleveland to pro football prominence.
“Quote me on this: They have a quarterback now,” said Jets linebacker Trevor Pryce, who played for Baltimore. “I’m glad I’m not in the AFC North anymore so I don’t have to see him get better. They’ve had problems for a long time. They now have a legit quarterback.”
Catapulted up the depth chart because of ankle injuries to Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, McCoy has taken the starter’s job and run with it. Nothing has fazed the easygoing 24-year-old Texan who seemed to be in over his head during training camp and preseason.
But in four starts, he exuded confidence, fearlessness and leadership. McCoy handled Pittsburgh’s blitz, managed the Superdome’s din in a victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Saints, completed 75 percent of his passes to win a matchup with New England’s Tom Brady and nearly knocked off the Jets.
Before Sunday, all that was missing was a defining moment. The two-minute drive, covering 59 yards in 10 plays, gave him one.
McCoy accounted for all 59 yards, completing 5 of 9 passes for 58 and sneaking the other 1 for a first down at midfield before the two-minute warning.
Call him Colt McClutch.
“Like I said after his first game in Pittsburgh, he’s been there,” Moore said. “He was the winningest quarterback in college, so for him to come in and put together a drive to win is just him playing football. That’s what he does. I’m not surprised.