Colts' Backup QB Holds Key To Browns' Playoff Hopes

Thursday, December 27th 2007, 5:32 pm
By: News On 6

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Shaun Smith was up for a little sports trivia. Cleveland's large and loquacious nose tackle likes any challenge.

All right, big fella: Who's Jim Sorgi?

``Backup quarterback for Indianapolis,'' Smith snapped confidently on Thursday. ``Taken in the sixth round in 2004.''

Impressive. Done your research, huh?

``Nope,'' he said. ``Just know my football.''

So do Browns fans, who realize their team's season could rest with Sorgi, best known as Peyton Manning's rarely used understudy with the Colts.

Sorgi, who grew up in Michigan, played at Wisconsin and lives in Indiana, holds Cleveland's AFC playoff hopes in his hands as Indianapolis must beat the Tennessee Titans on Sunday night for the Browns to win a wild-card spot.

Forget Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey or even the deified Bernie Kosar and Brian Sipe. The most popular quarterback in Northeast Ohio these days is Indianapolis' No. 12, who has played in just 13 NFL games.

``Everyone here is probably buying Jim Sorgi jerseys this week,'' Browns defensive end Simon Fraser said. ``I think I'll have my wife make a (Sorgi) T-shirt.''

Colts coach Tony Dungy said Sorgi will play at least one half, and possibly more, as the defending Super Bowl champions rest their regulars before enjoying a first-round playoff bye.

Sorgi has received voice mails from Cleveland fans, who are praying he can rescue the Browns after their 19-14 loss last week in Cincinnati stripped them of controlling their postseason fate.

His fan club extended to the Browns' locker room, where Sorgi's name was thrown around like a football before practice.

``I thought about sending him a box of cookies,'' Anderson joked.

Browns rookie offensive tackle Joe Thomas knows Sorgi best. The two were teammates at Wisconsin in 2003, when Thomas was a freshman and Sorgi a fifth-year senior starter for the Badgers.

Thomas has confidence Sorgi will help the Browns, who host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

``He's got a good arm. He's a smart guy,'' Thomas said. ``He can definitely get it done.''

Thomas didn't plan to contact Sorgi before kickoff on Sunday.

``I don't want to put any more pressure on him,'' he said.

Dungy's plan to pull his starters early and use reserves against the Titans may be a hot topic with Cleveland fans, but not among the Browns, who understand the reasoning and feel the Colts reserves may be good enough to win.

``People make a big deal about resting guys,'' kicker Phil Dawson said. ``But if you look at the sideline on a Sunday, there's not many backups standing there. It sounds a lot bigger than it really is in reality.

``What do you have two offensive linemen on game day that aren't playing? One or two defensive linemen? What's (kicker) Adam Vinatieri going to do, not kick the big field goal in the fourth quarter?

``I don't think it's that big of a deal.''

It won't be unless Manning comes out after one series or if wide receiver Marvin Harrison, who has missed nine straight games with a knee injury, sits out his 10th.

The Browns have no formal plans to watch the Titans-Colts matchup, the NFL's final regular-season game, as a group. Following the 49ers game, most of Cleveland's players intend to retreat to their homes and watch with family.

They'll be rooting for the Colts.

``I think my son probably has a Peyton Manning jersey,'' Dawson said. ``He might have to wear it.''