Browns lose game, QB Anderson for year

Published 2:19 pm Monday, December 1, 2008

CLEVELAND (AP) — His season as good as over, his career in Cleveland probably finished as well, Derek Anderson draped his arms over the trainers’ shoulders and was helped to the sideline.

Anderson winced as the searing pain in his left knee intensified, and if that wasn’t bad enough, some Browns fans cheered the quarterback’s misfortune.

‘‘They don’t like me,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s well known.’’

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The Browns’ nightmarish season hit a new low on Sunday.

Anderson, hoping to win back his job or enhance his resume for another team, sustained a probable season-ending knee injury in the final minutes Sunday during a 10-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, whose offense was kept out of the end zone but whose defense came up with the game’s biggest play.

Defensive end Robert Mathis scooped up Anderson’s fumble and rumbled 37 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter as the Colts (8-4), despite getting only 125 passing yards from Peyton Manning, stayed in the thick of the AFC playoff chase by winning their fifth straight — another nail-biter.

Mathis’ big play helped bail out Manning and Indy’s high-powered offense, which failed to score a TD for the first time since Sept. 7, 2003, a 9-6 win at Cleveland.

Afterward, Manning could only laugh when asked to assess his performance.

‘‘I’m sure I could, but I’d rather not,’’ Manning said. ‘‘Our defense won the game for us.’’

One play was all it took.

With the Browns clinging to a 6-3 lead, Anderson was setting up to throw on third down at his own 45 when he was hit from behind by end Dwight Freeney, whose bull rush drove tackle Joe Thomas into Anderson’s back. The ball squirted loose, Mathis picked it up and lumbered in for the game’s only TD.

‘‘The ball was on the ground, I scooped it up and ran for my life,’’ Mathis said. ‘‘It’s the first time I’ve ever run with a football. I saw all that grass in front of me. I was looking back and hoping I had enough gas left to get there.’’

Adam Vinatieri kicked a 30-yard field goal as the Colts capped a 5-0 November, a monthlong run that has allowed them to rebound from a 3-4 start. They’ve managed to slide by each time during the streak, winning the five games by a combined 20 points.

‘‘Close, blowouts, whatever it takes,’’ Freeney said.

The Browns (4-8) can’t take much more.

They lost their fourth straight at home and will likely be without Anderson for their final four games.

Anderson, starting in place of the injured Brady Quinn, sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Embattled Browns coach Romeo Crennel said Anderson ‘‘may be in tough shape’’ and already named Ken Dorsey as his starter for next Sunday at Tennessee.

On Cleveland’s last drive, Anderson was moving to his left when Mathis powered over right tackle Kevin Shaffer, who fell back into his QB. Shaffer’s helmet first hit Anderson’s knee, which was then wrapped up by Mathis. Anderson, who sustained a similar injury during his last college game at Oregon State, knew he was hurt immediately.

‘‘I felt a burn, a pain,’’ he said. ‘‘It doesn’t feel very good. It’s disappointing.’’

Some of Anderson’s teammates were disappointed by the crowd’s negative reaction to his injury.

‘‘We love our fans, but that just wasn’t needed,’’ return specialist Joshua Cribbs said.

Anderson will undergo further tests on Monday, but he already seems resigned to his fate. A Pro Bowler last season, he was hoping to salvage this season for the Browns, who are 1-6 at home and haven’t scored a touchdown in nearly 135 minutes. With the Browns committed to Quinn, Anderson may be traded this winter before the team has to pay him a $5 million roster bonus.

Cleveland also lost tight end Kellen Winslow, who went out on the first play of the third quarter with an ankle injury and didn’t return. He declined interview requests following the game.

The loss of two of his best players won’t help Crennel, whose job could hinge on how the Browns finish.

‘‘The guys aren’t going to give up,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘Every single guy in here cares about each other and cares about winning. We love RAC (Crennel) and we’re going to play for RAC. That’s the biggest thing in the last four weeks.’’