About once a year, I will watch a Browns game and three hours later, I almost get a "that's it?" type of feeling. That's what happened this past Sunday against the New York Jets for the most part. Up until Jamal Lewis' fourth quarter run, which energized the entire city of Cleveland, I felt like it was basically a bye week for the Browns. Maybe it was due to the fact that we were playing our second straight game beyond 4:00 PM EST, or maybe it was because of the incredibly boring first half of football we were forced to watch. Either way, after a bizarre, almost sickening ending to the game, the thing that counts is that the Browns came away with a road victory and are one game closer to clinching a postseason berth.
A win brings out the game balls first this week, followed by the goats of the game...
Awarding Game Balls (Coming Through in the Clutch)
- Jamal Lewis: I mentioned it in the introduction: Jamal Lewis' 31-yard scamper on third down at the end of the game had me leaping from my crouched position after a game that seemed to go by within an hour. Overall, it was another solid game for the veteran running back, who went over the 100-yard mark in December's first game. He's also developing a knack for catching touchdowns too. Originally I didn't want a big back like Lewis handling Anderson's throws, but to my surprise I don't think he's dropped hardly any of the passes that are sent his way.
- Phil Dawson: After my "unsung hero" piece following Sunday's game, this one really shouldn't come as a surprise. Dawson answered some of his critics by killing a 49-yard kick through the uprights while it was raining at the Meadowlands. Without being too repetitive, without his successful kick, you never know how the outcome of the game could/could not have changed.
Goats of the Game (Hide From the Media)
- Daven Holly: I'm looking forward to getting Eric Wright back sooner than later. It's not that Holly has played bad, but he's often giving up first downs even if he's playing his man well. While Laveranues Coles deserves all of the credit in the world for going out and playing as physical as he could with an ankle injury, there were instances in which Holly was still pretty much dominated in the finer aspects of the game -- primarily stopping Coles from getting a first down in third-and-five type of situations.
- Todd Grantham: That was downright embarrassing to see the Jets hustle their way to a touchdown late in the fourth quarter while our defense could barely get back to the line of scrimmage. We were giving up 15-yard draw plays to Thomas Jones at will at that point, and when Kellen Clemons hurried to the line of scrimmage, he was able to walk up the middle for a touchdown. Grantham needed to call something to improve the defense's tempo at that point, and he clearly didn't.
- Cribbs on Offense: I usually start off every week's "general thoughts" section with my opinion of Derek Anderson. Considering I stated that this didn't feel like a normal game, why bother with a normal review? Besides Lewis, I was also moderately amused to see Cribbs involved twice on offense. Why not start incorporating him into the gameplan more if teams aren't going to kick it to him? Cribbs ran a pitch play for a few yards and was upended, and then held on to an 18-yard pass from Anderson over the middle despite taking a shot from Jets safety Kerry Rhodes.
- Told You So: Does anyone find it funny that the one week I happened to suggest that Chaun Thompson be brought on a blitz, he recorded a sack (he was only credited with half a sack). Beyond Thomson though, Leon Williams had one of his better games of the season in seeing more playing time than Andra Davis did. Williams recorded 1.5 sacks and was in coverage when the Jets failed to a convert a two-point attempt to tight end Chris Baker. Speaking of which, who attempts a fade pass to a 258-pound tight end that isn't in the same league as guys like Kellen Winslow, Antonio Gates, or Tony Gonzalez?
- Deju Vu: It seemed like an early repeat performance of the Cardinals from Anderson after firing a pass towards the direction of Kellen Winslow right before the end of the first quarter. Anderson was intercepted by Rhodes, who is the Jets' lone defensive player I said Anderson needed to stay away from prior to the game starting. Like Anderson does though, he was able to rebound to the point where he again posted above average numbers on gameday.
- Harrison Sighting: Wha...wha..what was that? A Jerome Harrison sighting? The tale of the mysterious undersized running back that comes off the bench every month or so to break off a couple of energetic run before being sent back to the catacombs.
- McDonald's Brilliance: Brandon McDonald is looking like the team's best cornerback since returning to the league if you're basing the decision on his first three games. McDonald had tight coverage when Clemons threw his direction, and he also showed tremendous body control and awareness on a turnaround-interception. I can't decide yet whether or not I want to risk moving him into a starting role, because he has really flourished as the nickel back on the outside.
- 0-for-9: While it's not an official tracking, it's probably pretty close. In case you're wondering, I'm referring to the succession rate of Anderson to (Tim) Carter on the deep ball. You might as well call it a waste of an offensive play at this point.
- Goal Line Stand: If I hadn't awarded Dawson the second game ball, I would have given it to Sean Jones for his interception on the goal line in the second quarter following Anderson's interception. Jones' pick was preceded by the Browns stuffing Thomas Jones twice in a row after it looked like he was ready to plunge into the end zone on both carries.
- Quiet Yet Effective: Braylon Edwards only had three catches against the Jets, but each one was equally effective and critical in victory. His first one involved a fourth-down fade pattern that he leaped in the air to grab -- not an easy catch by any means. The second came on a pass over the middle that he eventually took for a 45-yard gain (before Rhode ripped the ball away from him as it fell out of bounds). The final catch came when he stabbed a pass off the shoulder pad of Darrelle Revis for his 13th touchdown of the season.
- Nugent is Money: Granted, I would've loved for Mike Nugent to shank a kick against the Browns, but he was automatic against us as he has typically been in his young career. The Browns have faced two special teams demons from the Ohio State Buckeyes this year; Nugent takes the individual battle over Ted Ginn Jr.
- Onside Mania: I've never seen a team attempt so many onside kicks in the span of a few minutes. Officially, it was three attempts, but if you count the penalty, it was four. The Browns failed to get the first one after Brad Smith's fine leaping ability, but Joe Jurevicius came through with the other two recoveries. It makes sense for the receiver with the best hands on the team to be the focal point of the "hands" team, right?
- Exchange of Philosophies: Eric Mangini's decisions at the end of the game were debatable. Personally, I agreed with his first decision to kick the field goal. However, after that, he should've kicked the ball deep and hoped for his defense to stop the Browns and get the ball back. Then, the Jets would've had fairly good field position against a defense that has failed to close out games in the proper ways this season. On the other hand, it also didn't make 100% sense for Lewis not to go down after he got the first down. The game would've been over for sure, and by continuing to run, he did risk fumbling the ball (especially in the rain).
- Bored Explanation: Maybe I was bored, or unenthused, during the game because the crowd at the Meadowlands was pathetic. It was almost a scrimmage-like atmosphere from the get go, considering only a few of the front rows had seats taken while the rest of the stadium was empty.
Brownies: Quietly, Kamerion Wimbley is making more of an impact. It's not really first-round draft pick impact, but purely as an individual, his pressures on quarterbacks are starting to occur more often. Doesn't it seem like Jason Wright has been darn near non-existent as well over the past few weeks? I really hate the fact that teams continue kicking away from Joshua Cribbs. I would say to lateral it to Cribbs after the upback gets it, but that'd probably be worth more trouble than it's worth considering we're still getting great field position. Dave Zastudil's punt average was 46.0 yards per punt, his second highest average in a non-dome location this season.
The intensity should be much higher this weekend against the Buffalo Bills. A home game that means something in December? With snow possibly in the forecast? After seeing Anderson get off to slow starts the past two weeks, I really hope he's able to get an early touchdown in the books against the Bills to change some of the hair-pulling that's been forced upon us.