CLEVELAND — Greg Joseph thought he made solid contact, then heard the sound kickers dread.
Then he heard the one they love.
“When you hear the sound of your foot and you hear a quick (thud) after it, obviously it is not always the best result,” he said. “It was awesome to see it go through and then hear the fans erupt.”
Joseph’s 37-yard field goal floated over the crossbar with two seconds left in overtime Sunday to give the Browns a 12-9 victory over the Ravens. The kick was partially blocked by Tony Jefferson, who came through the left side of the Browns line.
“I try to stay fairly in the middle — not too emotionally high, not too emotionally low — but it was definitely one of the crazier ones,” said Joseph, an undrafted rookie signed in Week 3 after Zane Gonzalez missed four kicks in a loss in New Orleans. “It is the first game-winner with the dying seconds that I have ever had to hit so just an awesome feeling.”
Joseph had a rough day before the winner and likely would’ve been looking for a job if he missed his last chance. He had an extra point rejected by the right upright and missed badly left on a 55-yarder with five seconds left in regulation.
“I said, ‘We are going to need you later on. You are going to make a kick that is going to win it for us,’” said coach Hue Jackson, who was pleased by the overall improvement of the special teams after an awful first four weeks. “Sure enough, he did.”
Joseph went to Florida Atlantic and said the closest he came to a last-second winner was when he beat Old Dominion with a kick with a couple of minutes left. This is a whole different level, and he was rewarded with a game ball from Jackson in the locker room.
“Awesome. Everyone is cheering. Everyone is coming up to me,” Joseph said. “I was just trying to relay the message, I have just been here — this was my third game — this was for you guys who have been here all offseason, months, years. They have been working. They have been fighting. They deserve it, especially because of the start of the season.”
TO THE RESCUE
Undrafted rookie receiver Derrick Willies had never made a catch in the NFL before Sunday. That didn’t stop him from making one of the biggest plays of the game.
Willies came off the bench when No. 3 wideout Rashard Higgins left with a knee injury early in the fourth quarter and caught three passes for 61 yards. His 39-yard catch-and-run on third-and-8 with 2:00 left in overtime kept alive the winning drive.
“It was a great feeling to go out there and make the plays when the ball came my way,” he said. “It was awesome, really.”
Jackson said Higgins will have an MRI on Monday. He had three catches for 66 yards, including the game’s only touchdown, a 19-yard post late in the second quarter. He has 16 catches for 244 yards and a touchdown on the year.
“Rashard made some huge catches early in the game, but I watched Willies walk in there and make plays towards the end,” Jackson said. “That was outstanding. That is what pro football is.”
Mayfield complimented Willies’ preparation during the week despite not playing much previously or being a big part of the game plan.
“Great mentality. That is the type of thing that you want to see,” he said. “Guys that do not get the reps, guys that do not necessarily have to be locked in during the week, but he is. He knows his stuff. He is able to go in there and execute. I have been able to trust him because of that.”
Running back Duke Johnson was quiet … until the end.
After Willies’ big play, Johnson carried to the right side on three straight plays, for 15, 5 and 4 yards to set up Joseph. Before the spurt in absolute crunch time, Johnson had two carries for 11 yards and a 7-yard catch.
“Huge. Duke Johnson is a tremendous football player,” Jackson said. “He is one of the best players on our team in my opinion, and our job is going to be to continue to find ways to make sure that this young man touches the ball.”
Mayfield said the Browns found a matchup to exploit.
“The line did a great job of giving him some room to run, and we just made it work,” he said.
The win didn’t stop the Browns from griping about the officiating for a second straight week.
On fourth-and-5 from the Baltimore 39-yard line with 3:26 left in overtime, receiver Jarvis Landry was knocked down by cornerback Brandon Carr as he tried to run down the sideline. Mayfield’s pass sailed well downfield, and referee Clay Martin announced there was no pass interference because the pass was uncatchable.
Instead of a first down, the Browns defense took the field and got its final stop to set up the winning drive.
“Not so much was it pass interference, but I think it was definitely illegal contact, which is definitely something they should have recognized, regardless if the ball was overthrown or whatever,” Landry said. “No defender can impede the progress of a receiver beyond 5 yards, I know that. It’s something we are going to have to play through because I don’t think it’s going to stop. It’s going to make our team better. We are going to have to be (darn) close to perfect (to overcome the officiating).”
Jackson said he was “very frustrated” there was no call.
“They said that the ball was uncatchable, but that was because he was on the ground,” he said. “The people in the stripes can make a better call, I think.”
The NFL admitted to missing a fumble by Raiders quarterback Derek Carr last week in a 45-42 overtime loss.
TAKE A LOOK
Former Titans receiver Rishard Matthews will work out for the Browns on Monday, a league source confirmed to The Chronicle-Telegram. He’s reportedly scheduled to work out for the Cardinals on Tuesday.
The Browns have considered adding receiver depth since training camp, including hosting former Cowboys star Dez Bryant for a visit. The perceived need grew when Josh Gordon was traded to the Patriots on Sept. 17 and could become critical if Higgins is out for an extended period.
Matthews, who will turn 29 on Friday, asked for and was granted his release by the Titans on Sept. 27. He was upset about a lack of playing time, catching three passes for 11 yards in 92 snaps.
He’s started 38 of 82 career games with 228 catches for 3,147 yards, a 13.8 average and 21 touchdowns.
Linebacker Joe Schobert had nine tackles and a forced fumble. He leads the team with 46 tackles, while adding a sack, an interception, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.
** Linebacker Jamie Collins had 12 tackles and his second sack of the year.
** Rookie running back Nick Chubb carried three times for 2 yards. He carried three times for 105 yards and two touchdowns last week.
** Strong safety Jabrill Peppers had an impact with four tackles and two passes defensed. He also had a 12-yard punt return.
** Tight end Seth DeValve was active after missing three games with a hamstring injury. He caught one pass for 26 yards.
** Rookie defensive end Chad Thomas, a third-round pick, was a healthy inactive.
** Defensive lineman Devaroe Lawrence was signed to the practice squad Saturday after being waived during the week.