It's a miracle everyone: the Browns have put together a football team. A week after suffering a heart-breaking defeat to the Oakland Raiders, the Browns stood up to the challenge against the feisty Ravens defense, failing to look the least bit intimidated. Jamal Lewis ran for 64 yards against his former team, but the statistic that matters is the fact that he had 23 carries. The Browns would not run the ball so many times if we weren't competitive early on. The Browns were more than competitive in the first half, because at one point, the Browns were leading 24-3 in the first half. A three possession lead is unheard of with this team. How did all of this come about, especially considering the Ravens had 418 total yards to the Browns' 303 total yards?
A win warrants the game balls first again, so let's get started with this, followed by a couple of nuisances that still remained...
Awarding Game Balls (Standout Contributions in Victory)
- Kellen Winslow: Separated shoulder and all, Winslow again managed to perform like the best tight end in the NFL, recording 4 catches for 96 yards. He had two big catches in particular: a 25-yard reception on third down in the first quarter, and a career-long 46-yard reception towards the end of the third quarter to set up a field goal. On both instances, Winslow caught the ball on the right side of the field, made defenders miss, and took the Browns deep into the red zone.
- Derek Anderson: Again at the mercy of fans if he falters, Anderson showed no fear against the Ravens defense. For the third week in a row, he got rid of the ball at the right time for four quarters, resulting in him not being sacked once. Clearly, getting Anderson off to an accurate start is critical for the Browns to be competitive early. What Anderson was able to do against the Raiders in the second half over a week ago, he was able to do in the first several drives against Baltimore. The most important throw came when he hit a wide-open Braylon Edwards in stride - a vast improvement over missing Joe Jurevicius several times against the Raiders.
Goats of the Game (Put Bags Over Their Heads)
- Not Applicable: I don't feel this is a copout, simply because it's the first time in a review in which I haven't listed at least two goats of the week. The Browns still gave up a lot of yards defensively, but there wasn't one particular individual player that stood out. For me to pick one person as a "goat" would mean that I was trying to dig deep just to find the slightest thing that was wrong, which is not the purpose of this category. For those of you wondering who I considered the most, it was Tim Carter because he is almost non-existent.
- Minimal Attempts: Anderson is known for having erratic throws that spontaneously occur, such as his lone interception to Ravens safety Ed Reed at the end of the first quarter. When the Browns had a large lead heading into the second half, Rob Chudzinski called it smart with his playcalling. Anderson wasn't forced to make any unnecessary throws, but was still able to deliver when he was called upon (the 46-yard pass to Winslow in the third quarter).
- Shifts and Motions: Doesn't it get a little old when people say things like "if Jamal Lewis didn't have that 28-yard carry, his average would've been around 1.8"? If you look at a lot of running backs stats around the league, the reason their averages are so high during any particular game is due to the fact that they break out for one or two carries of 20-40 yards. The critical thing Lewis and the offensive line was able to do against Baltimore was get a push forward on the defensive line, rather than backwards. Lewis had many carries of two yards, and in the end, those 2nd-and-8 plays set Anderson up for a better passing situation.
- Off Track: When I titled the above bullet "shifts and motions", I sort of got off track. I meant to touch on how much I adored the constant shifting and counters that the Browns were doing. Of course I'd react differently if they didn't work, but it seems that any time there were shifts and motions, the Browns had a good carry. That was especially evident on both of the carries by Jason Wright, who had 2 touches for 27 yards. I've been calling for Jerome Harrison for awhile, but bursts like that by Wright tend to sway my opinion.
- Cribbs' Daily Play: The Browns have included a special play for Cribbs in each of the first four games now. The real question is this: when will he actually sit in the pocket, or roll out, and throw the ball down the field? I'd like to say it'd be against the Patriots, but I get the feeling that Bill Belichick would discipline his troops to watch out for such a play. Perhaps a wacky play the Browns could run would involve Cribbs throwing a screen pass to a running back.
- Sudden Pressure: I know that it was very obvious that the Ravens were going to pass the ball in the final few minutes of the fourth quarter, but McNair had been passing the ball all game (53 attempts) without being pressured. So, why is it that in those final minutes of the game, McNair was getting hit nearly every play? The Browns failed to record a sack, but McNair took quite a few hits.
- McGinest Noticed: He wasn't on the field every play, but it was freshening to see Willie McGinest back on the field. The Browns gave up too high of an average on the ground to Willie McGahee, but giving Antwaan Peek extra rest will help his status in the long run.
- Cardinal Sin: I don't care what team it is: a defense in the National Football League should never allow a running back to be trapped on one sideline, only to turn around and run all the way to the other sideline, eventually turning a five-yard loss into a 28-yard gain. When I first saw McGahee trying to do what he did, I was ready to jump with joy because I figured someone would come through and stop him for an even greater loss - perhaps a loss of ten yards. Props to Eric Wright for coming all the way back to make the saving tackle.
- Bend, But Don't Break: The Browns' defense looked more like it did last season, based on the unpopular "bend, but don't break" philosophy. Instead of allowing touchdowns, we allowed Matt Stover to have four field goal attempts, two of which he shockingly missed pretty badly. Plays like Daven Holly being right on top of his man before he gets a first down, and Brodney Pool diving all out to tip a pass intended for Todd Heap are the things this defense will need to do the rest of the year to overcome all of the flaws.
- Defensive Changes: Although part of it was due to fatigue and injury, I was glad to see Ethan Kelley, Shaun Smith, and Leon Williams all get starts. Most of the defensive players on our team aren't good enough yet to make an impact by staying in there for four quarters, so establishing a rotation is proving to be the best route to go.
- Quinn's First Touchdown: Quinn had the first NFL touchdown of his career on Sunday. Of course, I'm referring to Ravens' tight end Quinn Sypniewski, who had to come in and replace the injured Todd Heap and Daniel Wilcox. What, who did you think I was referring to?
- Underrated Stat: Something that we should definitely be proud of: Ravens' backup running back Musa Smith had five carries for five yards. In previous weeks, we had given up 43 yards to Najeh Davenport and 50 yards to Justin Fargas. Holding the backup running back to a minimal average prevented Baltimore from building momentum when they spelled McGahee.
- Brownies: All things aside, the Browns had two things go our way Sunday that stood out Sunday. First, Dawson's missed field goal resulted in new life for the drive after the Ravens jumped offside. Second, Lewis' leaping touchdown was way too dangerous considering the circumstances, and the ball never crossed the goal line. Thankfully, Brian Billick threw the flag too late, and it was an extra bonus to see him furious on the sidelines. Scott Player should find a job elsewhere as a starter if the Browns let him go in favor of Ryan Tucker. Eric Steinbach's stinger didn't last too long; he was fine following halftime. The Browns are now 2-1 in the division. Ignoring the bye weeks for the Jaguars and the Titans, the Browns are in a four-five-way tie for the fifth and sixth playoff spots in the AFC, depending on how you look at it. Officially, we would not be in right now since the Jaguars and Titans have played one less game than us, and only have one loss.