Browns Special Teams. Over the past three-four years, as bad as the Browns have been, their Special Teams Units have always been very good. Nobody ever noticed because the team was terrible, but this year, they get a ton of national love. Yesterday was no different. Phil Dawson is THE MAN. Say it loud and say it proud. Old time Browns Hall of Fame kicker Lou Groza is affectionately known as "The Toe." My uncle and I have named our man Phil "The Groin" Dawson. The guy has balls of steel. The first field goal attempt with the wind behind him was a thing of beauty. Like a golfer with an iron shot, Dawson aimed with the wind, right to left, and drilled a 35 yarder.
In the second quarter, going into a swirling wind, the Browns couldn't convert a third and 10 from the Bills 32. Coach Romeo Crennel sent out the field goal unit. I thought, like the majority of the 78,000 fans that he was crazy to attempt a long kick in these conditions. Yet somehow, Dawson buried a line-drive which went right over the cross bar and hit his favorite spot, the support in back of the bar. It gave the Browns an 8-0 lead and seriously was the best kick I've ever seen live. I don't know if you can appreciate how tough of a kick it was unless you were there.
Not to be overlooked was the job long snapper Ryan Pontbriand did on a day like yesterday. With seven punts and two field goal attempts, every one of Pontbriand's was spot on. The same cannot be said for Bills long snapper Ryan Neill. In the second quarter, he air-mailed a snap over the head of Punter Brian Moorman that turned into a Browns Safety. A play like that made you appreciate Pontbriand even more. He may be the best draft pick of the Butch Davis era.
Punter Dave Zastudil also did an excellent job yesterday. Yes, he fell down on one punt, but the six others kept the Browns in control of the very important field position game all day. One of his punts even died right at the one yard line in front of the Dawg Pound. Give Zastudil, Dawson, Pontbriand, and the rest of the Browns Special Teams a ton of credit for yesterday's win.
Jamal Lewis and the Browns Offensive Line. Isn't this why GM Phil Savage brought him hear? Jamal Lewis came to Cleveland on a one-year deal with a huge chip on his shoulder and a lot to prove. I think after yesterday, all of the reports of his demise we can say were greatly exaggerated. On a day where passing was next to impossible, Lewis pounded the Bills all game long and got stronger as the game wore on. His 33 carry, 163 yard performance was exactly what the Browns needed. Do you think that if these conditions happened any time over the last three-four years, a Browns RB and Offensive line would have produced this kind of game?
Lewis ran left. Lewis ran right. Lewis ran inside the tackles. Lewis ran to the outside. He was magnificent. While Bills RB Marshawn Lynch rushed 21 times for 82 yards, one of his carries was a 29 yarder. Lewis was consistent all day, griding for yards. He helped put the Browns in position to get the points they needed. The Bills were never close enough to even attempt a field goal until the last drive where they needed a TD to tie the game.
You have got to give a ton of credit to the offensive line as well. As good as Lewis was, Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach, Hank Fraley, Ryan Tucker, and Kevin Shaffer opened just enough holes to get Lewis going. This was not easy to do when the footing was essentially non-existent. Said Lewis after the game: "The offensive line played phenomenal, they come off the ball and try not to let defenses get penetration on us. I love running behind them." Lewis went over the 1,000 yard mark for the season, something that never seems to happen in these parts. The RB and his line have been a joy to watch this year.
Just Enough of a Passing Game. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Derek Anderson played well. He completed only nine passes, but for some reason, all nine seemed to have significance. Along with Lewis, Anderson made just enough throws to keep the defense honest. Got to give credit to Braylon Edwards. The man who loves to drop the easy ones made two spectacular catches on a day where the rest of the receivers couldn't seem to keep their hands on the ball. The one pass he did drop hit off his chest and landed in the hands of Joe Jurevicius for 25 yards and put the Browns into position to kick their first of two field goals.
On the other side of the ball, the Stanford groomed Bills QB Trent Edwards looked lost all day, completing just 13 of 33 passes for just 124 yards. When the QB averages just 3.8 yards per pass, you aren't going to win many games, regardless of the weather. Edwards never seemed comfortable. Other than the final drive where he took the Bills to the Browns 12, he never had a shot to hurt the Browns. Credit the Browns defensive backs as well. Safety Sean Jones had a couple of big time hits that jarred the ball loose from Bills receivers. But overall, Anderson made a few throws he had to make, while Edwards didn't.
The Browns moved one game closer to the playoffs and eliminated the Bills from contention.