In general, the Browns finished their six-game opening stretch of the season better than expected with a 3-3 record and a blazing offense. As has been the case in all of the games this season though, our defense nearly let the game slip away. In the Browns' victories over the Bengals and the Ravens, I was thrilled because it's great to beat any division team considering what we've been through. After our 41-31 victory over the Dolphins though, I was more frustrated than joyous over our victory. Our offense played so well again, but one stretch of the game involving our defense almost negated everything they had done. And Cleo Lemon was at quarterback.
Before I get further into that though, it's time to start with this week's gameballs and gamegoats, brought to you by Dawgs By Nature...
Awarding Game Balls (You Know It's Not the Defense)
- Derek Anderson: Another marvelous game by Derek Anderson can only make you smile. Anderson completed 72% of his passes, which was a season high. Many of his incompletions came on plays that were positive -- he would throw the ball away when everyone was covered. Anderson also seems to have a knack for knowing when to take off and run. With some young quarterbacks who lack mobility, I see them take off and either get stripped from behind or get stopped short of a first down. When Anderson takes off, he usually gets just past the marker, or into the end zone, as was the case this Sunday. Anderson's four-touchdown performance was crisp in every aspect of the game.
- Braylon Edwards: Edwards had his lowest yardage total since Anderson became the starting quarterback, but that didn't stop him from having three of his five catches go for touchdowns -- a career high for Edwards. After a couple of drops by Edwards early in the game, the "veteran" receiver continued his tear this season, particularly on his final two catches. Edwards used his body to his advantage, once shielding his back to the defender in tight coverages, and the other time establishing position before grabbing the ball out of the air.
Goats of the Game (Nearly Cost Us the Game)
- Sean Jones: Everyone knows that the defensive line's production is nearly impossible to fix this season. Jones has contributed to the second-biggest concern on the team this year: the safety position. For the past several weeks, Jones has been dominated by tight ends, mainly because he stumbles or loses sight of the football while it is in the air. Jones allowed Dolphins tight end David Martin to have his only production of the season with two relatively easy touchdowns.
- Dave Zastudil: In his first game back, both of Zastudil's punts were horrible compared to what we're used to. Thankfully, he'll have had two weeks to recover from this and shake off any jitters or rust that he may have attained during his time off.
- Where Have You Been?: Yes, call him my "man-crush" if you must. Jerome Harrison saw his first action of the season with the Browns due to Jamal Lewis' absence. Harrison ran the ball eight times for 57 yards and caught one pass for 15 yards. Despite the fact that Miami's run defense is still ranked near the bottom of the league, Jason Wright really didn't get established as well as we had hoped against them, and the Houston Texans really didn't break anything against them the week before. Harrison did a fantastic job of cutting quickly to a hole when he saw a defender coming from a certain direction. My only issue is that with the way he carried the football on a carry or two, I swear that it would've been so easy to poke it out from behind him.
- So Close: Not that it means much, but the Browns came very close to not allowing over 100 yards rushing to the opposing team's running back for the first time this season. Brown had 102 yards rushing, but also had 9 catches for 69 yards. That guy is going to be a special back when the Dolphins get good enough to sit on a lead.
- Substitution Continues: For the second week in a row, Crennel decided to substitute Ryan Tucker for Kevin Shaffer during portions of the second and third quarters. I'm all for team play, and I understand that Tucker is a veteran, but I still understand why Shaffer would be upset by this. The guy has played the right tackle position very well after accepting the fact that Joe Thomas would take left tackle away from him, and yet he's still having playing time taken away from him. It's a tough decision all around, because putting Tucker in does have its pros, such as reducing the risk of injury and keeping Shaffer fresh for the fourth quarter of a game.
- Early Pressure: The Browns' defense was actually making me proud near the beginning of the game. Lemon was sacked on the first play of the game by Kamerion Wimbley, and an interception by Leigh Bodden led to a quick-strike touchdown to Edwards. But then, it happened...the defense fell apart.
- Defensive Collapse: The defense did everything in their power to give up the 24-3 lead the Browns' offense had put together to start off the game. It started with 6:04 left in the second quarter, as Lemon led an 11-play drive for 80 yards in five minutes. That drive included an instance where we allowed Miami to get a first down after being stuck in 1st-and-30. The Browns only had time to get a field goal before the half came to an end. After the half, Miami got the ball first and put together a 14-play, 75-yard drive that lasted nearly seven minutes. The Browns' offense had about its only lackluster drive of the game after this, giving the ball right back to Miami. Lemon led the Dolphins' third consecutive touchdown drive, closing Miami's deficit to three points at 27-24. The Browns were outscored 21-3 during that span, and in reality, the Browns' offense only had one chance at an offensive possession. If we allow Cleo Lemon of all people to do this, imagine the problems this will pose for the remainder of the season.
- Stop the Praise: I like Ian Eagle and Soloman Wilcots, but please, spare me the praise for Cleo Lemon. The guy played pretty bad for most of the game. How many times did his receivers have a step on our defenders, only for him to overthrow the receiver by about ten feet? That seemed to happen at least five times. In a case where Ted Ginn Jr. was running free later in the game across the field, Lemon's pass was way behind him, killing Miami's chances of catching up with our offensive surge.
- No Hugs for Porter: He may have needed a hug after the Dolphins' sixth loss in a row, but Joey Porter wasn't going to get one from anybody. Winslow caught 5 passes for 90 yards, and at least twice got the better of Porter on passing routes by far. During the two-minute drill in the first half, Winslow initiated contact to Porter and sent him flying. After the game, Porter still tried to take cheap shots verbally at Winslow, but no one cares - even his own fans are sick and tired of him not doing a damn thing on the field. I honestly regret suggesting that the Browns should have made a run at signing him back in the offseason.
- Unusual, Isn't It?: Maybe it's just me, but does anyone else find it unusual that whenever a Browns' drive stalls this year, we haven't been forced to decide if Phil Dawson should kick a 50-yard field goal? Most of Dawson's kicks are from around 40 yards in distance, including his game-long against the Dolphins.
- Vickers Hand-Off Works: Slowly, the handoffs to Lawrence Vickers are beginning to work in our favor. I'd still question giving it to him if Lewis was in the backfield, but with two undersized backs this past Sunday, I couldn't disagree with it.
- Trickery to Cribbs: Chalk it up: six games played, and six trick plays attempted with Joshua Cribbs (with none of them including a pass attempt). Against Miami, Cribbs was fed the ball as he was running in motion prior to the snap.
- Motivation, Perhaps?: Overall, I think Eric Wright had another solid game for being a rookie, and he recorded his first interception of the season in the fourth quarter at the hands of Lemon. Wright wanted desperately to run his pick back, but hesitated and decided against it. I thought it was a wise decision at first, but on the replay, it seemed like nobody on Miami's team would have been on that side of the field besides offensive linemen and Lemon.
- Brownies: You can count on Antwaan Peek being amongst the higher-ranked players in my power rankings this weekend. Despite his injuries, he's had the most memorable defensive plays in my opinion this season. At first, I yelled at Jerome Harrison for fumbling after Wright's interception, only to be stunned to see it was really Jason Wright. I would've hated it if Ted Ginn's first career touchdown came against the Browns. D'Qwell Jackson had nine tackles, and if it means much, continues to look better than Andra Davis. Where has Chaun Thompson gone?