Yippie...I finally get to do more of an upbeat review after a game. After failing to reach expectations over the first three weeks of the season, the Browns finally saw a glimpse of their offensive mojo from last season. It may have taken 15 quarters to see it, but it was certainly back in quarter number 16. We needed something positive heading into the bye week and before our Monday Night Football game against the New York Giants. Mission accomplished.
This week, I get to award some game balls first as opposed to starting off with the goats...
Awarding Game Balls (Contributors to Victory No. 1)
- Eric Steinbach: Talk about a leader for this team. Originally reported by ESPN as having a separated shoulder with the potential to be out for 3-5 weeks, Steinbach went out there and played an entire football game. I don't want to make it sound like he was too much of a warrior since he said ESPN's report was erroneous, but you have to imagine he played through some pain as opposed to taking the easy route out -- sitting out and taking advantage of the bye week as well.
- Mike Adams: I still don't understand why many fans have been so harsh on his performance at the safety position. We know that he is not a starter (or an elite backup). He was in good position any time Ryan Fitzpatrick went deep against the secondary, coming away with an interception in the first half. He also recovered a fumble on a strip by Kamerion Wimbley.
Goats of the Game (Troubling Performances Don't Pay Off)
- Louis Leonard / Corey Williams: Combined, the pair jumped offsides four times (two a piece). Not only does that give the other team an automatic five yards if they so choose to accept the penalty, it gives them four free plays. In a way, they are the most costly penalties of all for a defensive player. Penalties have been a huge issue for this team, and for someone like Leonard to have two of them when he didn't even record a single tackle is insane.
3/4 of Derek Anderson: I think I would've driven everyone insane if I didn't list Anderson as a goat for this game. As a whole, it was definitely another poor outing for Anderson. More on Anderson down below in the general thoughts section.
QB Derek Anderson played bad enough in the first half and early third quarter to be benched, but Romeo Crennel kept sending him back onto the field.
General Thoughts (Random Tidbits on the Game)
Quinn - Not an Option?: After seeing how everything transpired against the Bengals, I think you have to believe that all of the team's "Brady Quinn" talk throughout the week was nothing but fluff. In the first half, Anderson was 4/10 for 27 yards. Since the score was only 6-3 and we got the ball first after halftime, Anderson got another shot. He started with a slick 17-yard completion, but then promptly threw an interception to Chinedum Ndukwe (who has become a nemesis of sorts for Anderson). If all of that wasn't enough to bring Quinn off the bench, then his only hope was an injury.
- Faith Pays Off: My message before the game was to keep faith in Derek Anderson. Why? Without repeating myself from that post too much, I wanted the faith to try to establish some continuity on offense in a winning effort. As ridiculously long as it took to actually look decent, Anderson showed flashes of what he did last year in the fourth quarter of the game. I'm not proclaiming this as "Anderson is Back Day!", but if he comes back in two weeks and lights it up against the Giants, we'll know when and where he regained his fire.
Edwards' Touchdown Catch: Again, it is absurd that we've had to take such babysteps to give a little bit of praise to either Derek Anderson or Braylon Edwards. No matter how much you may despise either player for their performances to date, I think every Browns fan had to be pumped up and jumping out of their chairs when they finally saw the duo hookup for a touchdown -- a one-hand stab no less. Kind of reminded me of their connection way back in Week 1 of the preseason. And, Edwards' celebration? Better than having Ocho Cinco on your back.
- Jamal Hot, Jamal Slow: With the start Jamal Lewis had against the Bengals, he was on pace to run for over 200 yards against them. Instead, he finished with just 79 yards rushing, with under 4.0 yards a pop on average. Why? The incredible shakiness of Anderson through the first three quarters. The Bengals crowded the middle of the line -- case in point: on the Browns' fourth-down attempt, Steve Heiden was uncovered on a playaction fake. If Anderson had started completing passes sooner, Lewis would've torn the Bengals apart.
- Still, Not His Best: Regarding Lewis, it still wasn't his "best" game. The Bengals are still one of the worst tackling teams in football, so I expected Lewis to fight through the extra defenders in the box on at least a few carries past the first quarter. Also, his mishandled exchange with Anderson down near the goal line in the fourth quarter could've cost us the game.
- Pooch Punt: Before I forget, props to Phil Dawson for executing a pooch punt successfully. When you think about it, it's kind of funny that Dawson pooches a punt from 57 yards out, while the Raiders actually attempt a 76-yard field goal with Sebastian Janikowski.
- Kamerion Wimbley: Stat sheet! Stat sheet! Unfortunately, although "stat sheet" is a step forward on paper, it's not a step forward on the field. Wimbley recorded a sack and forced a fumble, but both seemed to come down to plays where it still took him 7-8 seconds to reach the quarterback (i.e. Ryan Fitzpatrick's inexperience).
- Crennel True to Word: For once, head coach Romeo Crennel was true to his word when it came to giving a few more reps to RB Jerome Harrison. And, when Harrison dropped a pass early on, I was begging for Crennel not to use that as an excuse to sit him the remainder of the game. Clearly, Harrison was included in the Browns' playbook before the game for the first time since he was drafted by the team. Let's hope that trend continues -- and, Jason Wright also received just the right amount of reps as well.
- Ugh: If you want a roller coaster of emotions on one play, take a look at Eric Wright. He makes the most athletic interception of the season, and then tries to return the ball. That is where the problems began. For whatever reason, and this goes back several years, it seems like Browns-bred players do not know how to follow blockers well enough to return a pick for a touchdown. Mike Adams, coming from a different system, did a better job on his return. Wright completely neglected the fact that offensive players try to punch the ball out of the interceptor's hands. After Wright lost it, the ball went right to Chad Johnson.
- Sowells Sighting: Thankfully we were facing the Bengals the game where Isaac Sowells needed to come in. I didn't pay particular attention to him when he got in, but I still feared that his presence would cause a problem. We'll have Ryan Tucker healthy after the bye to provide better depth.
- Cribbs' First Good Return: At the start of the second half, Joshua Cribbs had his first near-explosive return of the season (though you wouldn't have known it from the monotone reactions of Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon). We'll need all the explosive returns we can get against the Giants, because you get the feeling they'll be putting touchdowns or field goals on the board against us fairly often.
- Crennel's Time Management: I still don't understand his rationale behind not calling a timeout before the end of the first half. He wasted about 30-40 seconds for us to possibly get the ball back. Instead, he uses the timeout to "ice the kicker". The Bengals tried a silly kickoff after their score, giving us a shot at the end zone. With more time, we could've worked in a long field goal for Dawson.
Brownies: On defense, Brodney Pool continues to make an impression...I can't wait to get Sean Jones back now...Syndric Steptoe had his best, albeit it a non-noteworthy, game of the season...we should work on lateraling the ball to Cribbs on short kickoffs returns...the Browns won only three road games all of last season.
I never thought I'd be saying this: WR Braylon Edwards has his first touchdown reception of the season...in Week 4.
LB Alex Hall has provided good reason for excitement over the past two weeks. Here, he forces a game-clinching fumble.
A win is a win. The next step is looking good in victory. You can't expect that to happen against the New York Giants, but you can certainly prepare for it to happen. With several players slated to return from injury, if this Browns football team is in sync in all aspects of the game, there is no reason we can't be in the game until the final whistle.