On the popular CBS reality game show Big Brother, a common phrase states to "expect the unexpected". Over the first two weeks of the NFL season, that phrase seems to coincide with the Cleveland Browns. One week after fans were stunned at the embarrassing product that was showcased on the field against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and after the team had traded starting quarterback Charlie Frye to the Seattle Seahawks, the Browns scored a miraculous 51 points. Although we only won by six points, which is a negative notation for our defense, the fact is that not only did the Browns put themselves in the positive side of the spotlight for once, we actually won a game versus a team in our division. One solid performance by the offense collectively has immediately subsided all of the discussion of bringing Brady Quinn in as soon as possible, and that includes myself. Granted, I'm not overly optimistic that Anderson will suddenly be a manageable quarterback for the rest of the season, but he definitely earned several more looks.
When the Browns win, I don't really feel like putting "goats of the game" down, but it's still necessary to provide. Let's start with the positives though, considering we're coming off of a victory...
Awarding Game Balls (The Ones That Stood Out)
- Braylon Edwards: Now that look like a former third overall pick of the draft. Without question, this was the best game of Edwards' career, and hopefully a sign of things to come. The only drop Edwards had that I can recall came early in the game, when he leaped in the air and was flipped over on the tackle. Besides that, everyone was done to perfection, highlighted by four catches especially. First, on Edwards' first touchdown, he did a nice job getting behind the coverage with hit route running. Second, Edwards made an incredible catch with a toe drag near the sidelines, something that you see Marvin Harrison do each and every week. Third, Edwards made a fantastic diving catch after the Bengals had a blown coverage, and then rolled into the end zone. Finally, with the game on the line, Edwards caught a quick hitter and took a hard hit, muscling his way for a first down. Granted, I don't believe he had the first down and it was nervous to see him lose the ball, but the refs made the right call in terms of saying his forward progress had ceased.
- Derek Anderson: This could have easily gone to Jamal Lewis or the entire offensive line, but at least for this week, it's going to Anderson. We saw just how much of a difference it makes when a quarterback gets rid of the ball as soon as possible. The offensive line did a fantastic job blocking for Anderson, but without his quick throws and proper decision making, the units eventually would have responded in the same way they did during the first half of last week's Steelers' game. Many of Anderson's throws were bad still, but in the end, only one of them resulted in an interception in comparison to the five nice touchdown throws he had. Where Charlie Frye choked with the pressure on, Anderson thrived.
Goats of the Game (The Ones That Made it Hard)
- Lawrence Vickers: Sure, I liked the spin move he had at one point of the game on a reception, and he did play a role in lead blocking for Jamal Lewis. However, Vickers was stopped short on fourth-and-short at a critical juncture of the game. A little bit later, Vickers dropped a wide open pass that many feel would have sealed the game. Just imagine: if Edwards had two mistakes during the game, we probably would've lost. We were fortunate that Vickers wasn't counted on for plays down the field, but he still dropped the ball big time.
- Leigh Bodden: I commend him for a tremendous game-ending interception, but Chad Johnson finally got the best of Bodden in a major way. Johnson had two touchdowns and over 200 yards receiving, something that nobody has ever done to our beloved cornerback. Our defense as a whole deserves a portion of Bodden's negative spotlight here.
- Palmer Worked Harder: Was it just me, or did it seem like Carson Palmer had to work harder than Derek Anderson did in the game? Any time Anderson was under center, the middle of the field was wide open. When Palmer was under center, our defense wasn't very good, but he still had to methodically pick apart our coverages. Basically, I'm saying that if it means anything, our "horrible" defense on gameday was leaps and bounds better than the Bengals "atrocious" defense on gameday.
- Peek Performance Again: Linebacker Antwaan Peek started off big again, stripping Bengals running back Rudi Johnson of the football early on in the game. Peek never gave up on the play, and because of it, the Browns were able to have a short field en route to taking our first lead of the game at 13-7. He only had one tackle in the game, which seems surprising considering the impact he appears to make.
- Bow Down to Cribbs: On the first play of the game, the Browns ran a play in which Cribbs came in motion and then ran backwards on the snap. However, the Browns simply handed the ball off to Jamal Lewis. Later in the quarter, the Browns ran the same exact play, except they gave the ball to Cribbs instead, who gained 11 yards and a first down. That's the second week in a row that he's been used at least once on offense in a role that suits him well. On kickoffs, he was simply amazing. It's a shame that his second one didn't count, because I don't think anybody could've stopped him whether there were holds or not.
- Taking it Up A Notch: After hearing several times that Jamal Lewis should be healthier than his last two years in Baltimore, it only took two weeks of the regular season to see it. Lewis hit the left side of the line without being touched for awhile on several occasions, including his 66-yard burst past all of the defenders. Credit offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski for sticking with what worked, rather than trying to run the ball on the right side of the line to "throw the Bengals off". The only thing Lewis did wrong was when he bobbled the pitch play, which was a shame since it looked like it could've gone for a good amount of yardage.
- Finding the Hometown Hero: It was critical for Anderson to make sure he had a third target besides Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards, and that man turned out to be Joe Jurevicius. Like Anderson stated after the game, Jurevicius is his security blanket - he's always where he's supposed to be. The way in which Jurevicius was used against the Bengals is the same way the Seattle Seahawks used him in their NFC Championship season a few years ago.
- Staying Aggressive: Backed up in our own territory? No problem, Anderson guns a 27-yard strike over the middle to Steve Heiden. Sometimes, playing cautious is the right way to go, but Chudzinski understood the situation the Browns were in. Our defense couldn't stop Palmer, and playing it safe would likely result in a quick touchdown by the Bengals.
- Don't Forget Phil: Amidst all of the scoring, one of the most underrated aspects of the game involved kicker Phil Dawson. Although his 18-yarder was a chip shot, he drilled two 39-yarders in the first quarter of the game to cut the 7-0 deficit to one point. I realize that it's his job to make those type of field goals, but after some of the struggles he's had dating back to last season, we couldn't have won this game without him.
- Gutting it Out: Despite being in pain, Dave Zastudil hung in there after not punting since the first quarter. He was able to get a punt downed inside the ten yard line on the Bengals final drive, making it impossible for Palmer to bring the Bengals back one more time.
- What Else to Say?: I'm really trying to think of something to say about our defense beyond what I mentioned with Cribbs, but there's really nothing noteworthy. Palmer picked us apart just like Roethlisberger picked us apart a week ago. Sitting here and trying to find one or two plays that an individual person made is not worth it if they were dominated on every other play of the game. Instead, I'll highlight the team's goal line stand and the defensive stop after Vickers failed to convert on fourth down as the bright spots.
- Kickoff Coverage: I don't think I've ever seen our kickoff coverage be so good yet so bad in the same game. One second we're forcing the Bengals' returner to nearly lose the ball down near the ten yard line, and the next second we were almost giving up a touchdown. As much as Cribbs' returns excited us, Bengals fans had to be almost just as excited about the returns they were pulling off against us.
- No Luck Romeo?: The annoyance of seeing Romeo Crennel lose another challenge continues. Crennel challenged a touchdown catch from T.J. Houshmandzadeh, a decision that I don't blame him for. A lot of people have blamed the referees for not overturning that call, but I believe they made the right decision. During live action, it was called a touchdown. On replay, there appeared to be a chance that he did not get both feet down at the time he had possession of the ball. Based on the camera angles though, I don't see how anyone could tell me that there was even 90% conclusive evidence that would define him as being out of bounds or catching the touchdown. Therefore, the call on the field stands.
- Dawg Pound Leap: Chad Johnson didn't get to do it the first time, but he scored another touchdown in the final quarter on the opposite side of the field to hop in. It was a joy to see a fan pour beer on him, and several other fans flip him the middle finger. However, I still think it would've been a little funnier had the fans dragged him into the Dawg Pound, never allowing him to come out. For those of you that do not like Johnson's antics, I'm sure you enjoyed the fact that Edwards celebrated the old fashion way with his teammates after his pair of scores.
- No Sacks: The Bengals have the worst defense in the NFL, but for the Browns now to allow any sacks against any professional team, that's a huge step in the right direction. In terms of the passing game next week against the Raiders, the Browns would be foolish to think they'll have the middle of the field open as often as they did this past Sunday. I'm sure we'll gameplan accordingly.
- Brownies: I think it'd be beneficial to have Jerome Harrison active on gameday for screen plays. Tim Carter didn't even come close to being able to fight for a ball that Braylon Edwards would have had. It looked like the type of pass Dennis Northcutt was not able to catch throughout his career. Ideally, it'd be great to see Travis Wilson develop into a player that can make those catches. I'd like to say the same for Cribbs, but I think that he'd probably have too many of those plays bounce off his hands due to his overaggressive nature at times.