Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer (6) passes the ball against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, in Atlanta. The ball was intercepted by Atlanta Falcons strong safety Kemal Ishmael. (AP Photo/J
John Bazemore
November 24, 2014

CLEVELAND (AP) The mistakes were inexcusable. Brian Hoyer didn't need anyone to tell him that.

Cleveland's quarterback spent part of Sunday beating himself up over his three interceptions before atoning for them by leading the Browns to a comeback win that could grow in significance as this season goes on.

On Monday, Hoyer's errors hadn't been forgotten. However, they had certainly been forgiven.

''I think the guys realize we wouldn't be where we are right now without Brian and that nobody is perfect,'' coach Mike Pettine said. ''When you see a guy who's that hard on himself and is that much of a perfectionist it means a lot and they are going to play for him.''

Hoyer may have saved Cleveland's season - and maybe his job - with his gutty comeback in Atlanta. After throwing two interceptions in the fourth quarter, the second one leading to a field goal that gave the Falcons a 24-23 lead, Hoyer completed four passes in the final 44 seconds and drove the Browns in position to set up Billy Cundiff's 37-yard field goal as time expired.

Before taking the field, wide receiver Andrew Hawkins said Hoyer, who had feared he had let his teammates down, gave them a quick pep talk.

''Brian was super poised, and before we went out there he said, `C'mon guys, let's go down there and win this,''' Hawkins said. ''You know when Brian says that he means it so guys just stepped up to the plate.''

Following the game, Hoyer showed disgust and disappointment as he replayed the picks during an interview session. He was down despite the win, but Pettine said the QB's public acknowledgment of his miscues not only showed Hoyer's leadership but a how close-knit the Browns have become.

''I just think that's what one of the biggest reasons why we are where we are,'' Pettine said. ''Guys care about each other, and they realize that they're part of something bigger than themselves. I think that when you're involved in a team sport and you have that you have a chance to be special.''

Pettine said he ''never considered'' pulling Hoyer in favor of rookie backup Johnny Manziel.

One of the league's bigger surprises, the Browns (7-4) are in playoff contention and playing relevant games late in the season because of Hoyer, who also had Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon on the field Sunday for the first time this season.

Gordon caught eight passes for 120 yards, and his presence alone opened running and passing lanes.

In the end, it was Hoyer who made the biggest plays, bouncing back from what he called ''the worst game of my career'' to deliver his fifth career fourth-quarter comeback win in just 14 starts.

Hawkins said Hoyer has instilled a belief in the Browns.

''I've said it before: I don't think there's ever a time during a game when we think we're out of it because we have No. 6 running the show,'' said Hawkins, who had five catches for 93 yards. ''It's not just him. The guys around him are all busting their butts, but there's no question about it, he's the leader on offense. When you have confidence in your leader and he has confidence in himself and the rest of the team, the sky is really the limit on any given Sunday.''

On any given Sunday, the Browns are liable to make things interesting. They've had five games decided by three points or less and following the win in the Georgia Dome, Pettine could relax knowing that he, too, had overcome some coaching mistakes.

Hoyer bailed himself and out, and everyone around him.

''Brian is very difficult on himself,'' Pettine said. ''He's a competitor. He's a perfectionist, and I just think in a sense he felt that...he was letting his teammates down with some of the plays that he had made. Sure, it obviously affected him, but I just think the way he handled it was outstanding - the resolve.

''It's a testament to his mental toughness and the team's mental toughness.''

NOTES: Pettine credited rookie OG Joel Bitonio's hustling tackle for saving him ''when I lost my mind right before the half and decided to go for the 60-yarder.'' Cundiff's first attempt from 60 was short, but didn't count when the Falcons called time. Pettine had Cundiff try again, and Devin Hester returned it 75 yards and would have scored if not for Bitonio. ''That can end up being the play of the year for us,'' Pettine said. ''It makes my decision look not nearly as bad as it was.'' ... The Bills said Ralph Wilson Stadium will be ready for the Browns' visit on Sunday.


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