The Browns won for the third time in their past four road games, taking out the wildcard-contending Buffalo Bills 29-27 on Monday Night Football. It was our second Monday Night victory of the season in two attempts -- we have one more in December against the Philadelphia Eagles.
I think that overall, when you look at the state of the team, we are a better football team than last season. Looking at our schedule heading into the season, we feared that despite being better, we'd have a worse record. We do have a worse record at this point (4-6), but it's not because of the competition. We've defeated the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. We've defeated two potential playoff teams in Buffalo and Jacksonville. And, we dominated the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens -- two teams with great records -- until making team history with collapses.
The odds aren't in our favor now, but we still love Cleveland Browns football, and our team gave us another wild one against Buffalo. Let's get started with the game balls for Week 11...
Awarding Game Balls (Making Fans Jump for Joy)
Phil Dawson: I didn't agree with the decision to kick it short on kickoffs as often as we did, but I'll assume those calls came from special teams coach Ted Dashier. Dawson is listed here for being the hero against the Bills for the second year in a row -- by now, I'm sure Buffalo fans hate him to death. Dawson went an incredible 5-for-5 on the road, with each one of them being spot on. His finest piece of work came on what turned out to be the game-winning field goal with 1:39 remaining, as he calmly drilled a career-long 56-yarder.
Jerome Harrison: I'm not exactly sure if four touches merits praise for the coaches in terms of getting him involved a whole lot more, but at least they stuck with him while he was hot. At the start of the fourth quarter, Harrison burst through the line for a 72-yard touchdown. I was screaming and jumping out of my seat as I saw him get past the third level. His work may have been even more important after that though -- following a Bills kick return touchdown, Harrison came right back out for a 9-yard run (tack on a personal foul penalty), followed by a nice 21-yard reception on a play the Indianapolis Colts often run. He didn't return after that due to a hamstring injury, but he led us to 10 points in the two drives he was utilized.
Goats of the Game (Could Have Cost Us)
Andra Davis: Welcome back to the goat section Andra Davis. After making a nice interception in the first quarter, the rest of the game was unbearable. The entire defense couldn't tackle Marshawn Lynch or Fred Jackson, but Davis was the worst of them all. Please, Romeo: get Beau Bell in there already. I don't care if Bell gets juked out of his shoes on every single play; removing Davis from the field is a victory in itself.
Braylon Edwards: He had 8 catches for 104 yards, but it could have been so much more. Edwards was targeted on several other occasions, but couldn't come away with a reception. The most notable ones were a nice high pass on the team's first drive, and a ball that hit Edwards right in the face on the final drive. I do give a lot of credit to Terrence McGee for having excellent coverage on Edwards throughout the game, but Edwards is supposed to be a Pro Bowl receiver. There were clearly catches in that game that he knows he's talented enough to catch; the wait for him to break out of his funk continues on.
General Thoughts (Random Tidbits on the Game)
Outstanding Defense: Yes, of course there were a lot of things our offense should have done to adjust better to the Bills' defense. Nonetheless, I thought Buffalo gave Brady Quinn a lot of tough looks in his first road start, and I'm glad that they did. It allowed us to see how Quinn would respond to that type of pressure.
- Quinn Did What Needed to be Done: Statistically, it wasn't a very pretty game for Quinn, as he completed just 39% of his passes for a QB rating of 55.9. Maybe Derek Anderson would've had been stats in this game, but that's not what is important to look at in this case. Quinn was blitzed heavily all night long and did a great job getting a throw off down the field most of the time. The option of using him on a bootleg run panned out well too. My favorite throw is his one on our final drive that set up Dawson's long field goal -- a corner blitz came free from the edge, and Quinn almost instinctively without seeing him was able to step up, double pump, and fire a completion.
Missing Stallworth: It was good to see Edwards get involved this week, and Winslow was still targeted several times as well. However, I don't like the fact that we heard Syndric Steptoe's name mentioned more on the receiving end than Donte Stallworth's. Things looked bright last week between Quinn and Stallworth, but having zero catches the next week is not what this team paid so much money for.
McDonald's Redemption: I couldn't have been happier for Brandon McDonald, who made up for last week's miscues with two big plays against the Bills: an interception and a forced fumble, each of which led to a Dawson field goal. The tackling was still atrocious, but if you can't tackle you at least need to make up for it as McDonald did.
Strong Consideration for E-Wright: There probably should have been a third game ball handed out to cornerback Eric Wright. Blanketing the fast Lee Evans most of the game, he held him to without a catch the entire game. Heck, I don't even remember him being targeted once, despite the fact that Trent Edwards often had light years to make a decision. That's the first time Evans has failed to record a catch in a game in nearly 70 games.
Special Teams Edge: Trying to determine who had the better special teams on Monday Night is a tough one. Dawson had five field goals including the game winner, while Rian Lindell missed the game winner. The Bills' coverage on Cribbs was solid, while the Browns' coverage on Leodis McKelvin was poor. There is one play that will lean me towards Cleveland: in the first quarter, Mike Adams perfectly downed a Dave Zastudil punt at the one-yard line on a play most special teamers would probably muff into the end zone in the heat of the moment.
- Did You See Orr?: I sort of rushed seeing the game since I was on tape delay, but I didn't really notice any difference in terms of Shantee Orr's playing time. If anyone has any word on that, feel free to chime in. I noticed Travis Daniels in on the action more often, but he was just part of the depressing non-tacklers.
Ahtyba Rubin: Even before he made a critical fumble recovery, I noticed Rubin making a few more plays than usual. If anything, it looked as if Rubin was receiving the type of proportional playing time I expected Orr to get at linebacker.
"Reason 2 - Not Physical": I listed "not physical" as reason number two of our defensive shortcomings in my review of the Denver Broncos game, and it applies to the Bills game as well. Marshawn Lynch has a lot of talent, but he had not had a good game all season. In the past three games, we've allowed rookie Ray Rice to have a career day, fullback Peyton Hillis to beat us on fourth-and-one, and Lynch to win 1-on-6 matchups with 20 yards to go against us. We're not catching unlucky breaks in terms of backs getting hot; we're just that bad when it comes to tackling.
- Fullback Slant: Heh, I'll take a quick fullback go/slant route over the middle any day over a fullback flat pass. When Charles Ali caught Quinn's pass in stride, I thought, "holy crap, is that Ali out there?" I would've hated to have been the defender to meet him for the tackle.
- Ineffective Back: There was a lot of discussion before the season in debating who was better served as the Browns' backup running back: Jason Wright or Jerome Harrison. Wright had two decent seasons as a backup, but this year he has been in my opinion a detriment to the offense. I still put some of the blame on him for not turning around quick enough on Haloti Ngata's interception a few weeks ago, and I blame Wright for not doing a good job in picking up the blitzes Buffalo brought up the middle. All you need is a chip, but all I saw were whiffs.
- Crennel's Reactions: At the end of the game, I couldn't help but roll over laughing at Romeo Crennel's excited reactions to Dawson's successful kick and then Lindell's miss. As they showed him walking to the center of the field after the game, I could've sworn he had a facial expression that was trying to look normal but was really holding back a huge smile.
- Opposite Reaction: After I saw those reactions from Crennel, I saw someone on the OBR mention how Crennel looked pissed off after Jerome Harrison's huge touchdown run. I went back and checked the tape and was laughing -- but baffled -- at just how true this was. If you taped the game, go back and check it. A montage of these past two bullet points would make you laugh.
- Brownies: Quinn had a heart-clutching throw late that should have been picked and cost us the game...it goes without saying, but Shaun Rogers remains a beast, as he had another Pro Bowl type of game...I kid you not: right before Cribbs' four-yard touchdown run, I said to my brother, "I bet we'll run a double reverse to Joshua Cribbs here." It was only a single-reverse, but close enough.
The defense was horrible again in the fourth quarter, meaning our "rotations" didn't really keep people any fresher. In the end, the "W" is what matters, and Brady Quinn has improved to a .500 record at 1-1. This is the third straight game that we should have blown out the competition based on how we started the games; maybe we can do that this Sunday against the Texans. Thank goodness for a regular Sunday 1:00 PM game too -- I've missed those.