Sunday, October 28, 2007

Over .500! Never thought I'd See the Day

Yes ladies and gentleman, your Cleveland Browns are officially over.500 at 4-3. The boys from Berea struggled with those tough 0-8 St. Louis Rams, but ended up on the right side of a 27-20 game, thanks to what is looking like a Pro Bowl combination of Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards.

I will never use the "P" word with this team, but the offense is virtually unstoppable since DA took over the reigns. Its amazing what a good offensive line will do for you. You think Tim Couch would have liked to have had this line blocking for him? The good news for Timmy, he is retired with at least $40 million in the bank and he is married to former Playmate of the Year
Heather Kozar. Anyways, with all of that time to throw, DA once again showed off his cannon arm to the tune of 248 yards and three TD passes. The key was no interceptions. He hit Edwards on several big plays; eight of the 18 completions went Braylon's way. Jamal Lewis seemingly went for five yards a pop. Jerome Harrison and Jason Wright were great changes of pace backing up Jamal. Joe Jurevicius is finally being used they way he should be; three of his five receptions were on third downs that extended drives. Even Josh Cribbs showed up in Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski's game plan, gaining 18 yards on a customized run.

That was the good news.

The bad news is that the other side of the ball is still a major problem. The Rams came in averaging a league worst 11.4 points per game. RB Steven Jackson ran all over the pathetic Browns D for the first two series of the game before leaving with a re-aggravated groin injury. That was the best thing that could have happened to the Todd Grantham's D. Jackson carried eight times for 41 yards. His backup, Rookie Brian Leonard more than doubled the carries (15) and gained only 33. The Pass defense was even worse. The lack of pass rush gets more and more magnified every week; this week more than others, since the Rams have the worst offensive line in the league. Mark Bulger easily torched the lackluster secondary for 310 yards on 24-36. Yet, somehow everytime the Rams got into the Red zone after Jackson went out, the offense sputtered.

Browns fans, coaches, and players can all thank Rams coach Scott Linehan for that. His play calling on third and fourth downs was about as smart as Joel Skinner holding Kenny Lofton at third. Twice in the fourth quarter, the Rams had a chance to tie the game. Twice on fourth down they failed. Linehan's "Leonard up the middle" failed once. It was so miserable that given a second chance with less than three minutes to go, he tried it again, this time with the Browns loading up the box with nine men. Memo to Linehan and Bulger, its called an audible, You should try it sometime.

Browns cornerbacks Leigh Bodden and Eric Wright hadn't stopped Torry Holt, Drew Bennett, and Isaac Bruce all day long, yet twice Linehan went with Leonard. Great call! Hey, this was a nice road win for the Browns, something they haven't been able to do all year. They also won back to back games for the first time seemingly since the Eisenhower administration. But any halfway decent team finishes that game. The Rams aren't even close to halfway decent. The fact that they had three chances to win the game against one of the worst defenses in the league and still couldn't get it done speaks volumes about them.

But it also says a lot of the Browns who in the past would have for sure blown a game like this. There is a lot to like about the offense. Derek Anderson has thrown for three TD's in back to back games, something that hasn't been done since Brian Sipe in 1983. Edwards is a star about to emerge. If he could only hang on to the easy ones and keep his head. (SIDE NOTE: He must be called to the carpet for his ridiculous tauting penalty for taking his helmet off after a big first down catch, that's NFL 101 Braylon. He also dropped about what could have been the game-clinching ball from Anderson late in the 4th quarter. Right in his hands. It was vintage Braylon; made the spectacular catches all day and dropped the easiest one of them all in the biggest spot.) Kellen Winslow is playing at 60% and is still at the top of his position. The line blocks astonishingly well for both the run and the pass. Nobody even mentions Brady Quinn anymore. Music to all of our ears.

So Berea is 4-3. With a charmin-soft schedule remaining (Houston, Buffalo, San Francisco at home, Arizona, NY Jets, Cincinnati on the road) 9-7 is not out of the question. How many of you had that at the beginning of the year? I know I didn't. My 5-11 at best call is looking real bad. But i'm more than happy to be wrong in this case.

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