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Mangini's Browns Tear Apart Belichick's Patriots, 34-14

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CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 07:  Head coach Eric Mangini of the Cleveland Browns leaves the field after their game against the New England Patriots at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 7 2010 in Cleveland Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 07: Head coach Eric Mangini of the Cleveland Browns leaves the field after their game against the New England Patriots at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 7 2010 in Cleveland Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
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Eric Mangini defeated Bill Belichick this week, but the win has to mean so much more to him than just some simple "revenge" victory. His Cleveland Browns are playing perhaps the best football in the National Football League right now. The team's record might be 3-5 right now, but if this team keeps on rolling, look out.

Let's get to the review of this week's game, starting with the game ball...


Awarding the Game Ball:

  • Peyton Hillis: I covered this in the game ball post already, so here is the cliff notes version: Hillis ran for a career high 184 yards on 29 carries and 2 touchdowns. His only blemish was a fumble in the first quarter, but that didn't stop Brian Daboll from ensuring he got the football. Hillis' hurdle, his second effort at the goal line on his first touchdown, a reception down the sideline, and his longest touchdown run of the season were all highlights.

Goats of the Game:

  • Mike Bell: We haven't heard any updates on his hip injury, so I assume that means that he'll be fine. Bell needs to start running the ball a lot better when given opportunities. It is a bit absurd to have Hillis plow for an easy six yards on any given down, only to see Bell struggle to manage one yard. Looking at a few replays from the Patriots game, he seems to be taking way too slow to shift his hips after he receives the ball from McCoy. When you watch Hillis, he already recognizes the hole and is shifting his hips as he is receiving the ball from McCoy on the handoff.

General Thoughts:

  1. Underrated Play of the Game: In the fourth quarter, the Patriots were poised to make one last comeback attempt against the Browns. New England had just scored their second touchdown, making the score 27-14 with about 6:30 left to play.
    On the Browns' next drive, Hillis was stuffed by Gerard Warren for a massive loss of five yards. Uh-oh. That set up a 2nd-and-15 situation. Against a lot of teams, that means the series would end up being a three-and-out. New England conceivably could have gotten the ball back with about five minutes to play.
    Hillis wasn't about to have any of that. On 2nd-and-15, Hillis bursted by the Patriots' line for 15 yards and a first down. Ballgame. A few plays later, on his sixth straight carry of that drive, Hillis ran 35 yards for the final dagger touchdown.
  2. Trust in Receivers: There's no question that the offensive pass/run ratio was the most ideal you can get for the personnel Cleveland has. When they did throw the ball, it was nice to see Colt McCoy have faith in his wide receivers. Let's take a quick look at each of the receivers' production and/or looks.
  3. Massaquoi Off Playaction: Massaquoi was the team's leading receiver with 4 catches for 48 yards. Every time he was targeted, he caught the ball. I was fascinated when watching the replay of the Browns' first offensive play of the game. Off of playaction, the Browns only sent out two receivers. They had max protection -- eight guys were in there to block. McCoy and Massaquoi connected quickly for a 21 yard pickup. This is the type of passing we might see against the Jets this Sunday.
  4. Robiskie and Cribbs Hang On: There weren't many opportunities for Brian Robiskie and Joshua Cribbs, but they each had a memorable catch thanks to the mobility of Colt McCoy. On the pass to Cribbs, McCoy did a great job avoiding several pass rushers and rolled out to his right. He connected with Joshua Cribbs, who made a diving catch, after lining up slot left. The pass to Robiskie came on a rollout to the right again, this time after a miscommunication as to where Hillis was supposed to be lined up. McCoy made a perfect throw on the run, setting up a touchdown on the next play.
  5. Stuckey's Doesn't Convert: To start the second quarter, Chansi Stuckey had back-to-back catches -- one for 4 yards, and the other for 2 yards. The receptions fell short of a first down, and the Browns had to punt. It wasn't really Stuckey's fault, as the tackler was right there in position to make the play. Stuckey still got involved later on with his first touchdown of the season on a variation of the fumblerooski.
  6. Emergence of Abram Elam: I think it is safe to say that safety Abram Elam is in the best two-game stretch of his career. Against the Saints, he made a few plays in pass coverage. Against the Patriots, he had a huge strip on tight end Rob Gronkowski just before halftime. How different could the game have been if New England scores a touchdown there? On replay, I saw some other plays where Elam came across the field to make the finishing hit on BenJarcus Green-Ellis as well. He was Cleveland's leading tackler with eight.
  7. Utilizing Special Teamers on Defense: Even with the Browns up big, it was pretty surprising to see Blake Costanzo and Ray Ventrone in on defensive plays late in the game. Both players had noteworthy moments on defense -- prior to a Patriot fourth down, Costanzo appeared to fake an injury (I won't debate the validity, just stating how it "looked") to buy an injury timeout.
    Then, on another fourth down play, Ventrone was guarding Gronkowski in the back of the end zone when the pass fell incomplete and out of bounds. Ventrone faceguarded the tight end as the ball came though, giving New England a first down at the one (and their second touchdown a couple players later).
  8. Brady to Gronkowski: Before the season, I was worried about the Browns' ability to cover tight ends. It really hasn't ended up being that big of a deal. Nonetheless, it was very odd to see how many times Tom Brady targeted his rookie tight end, Rob Gronkowski. I almost want to say..."thank you?" Brady targeted him 9 times. His top two wide receivers, Wes Welker and Deion Branch, were targeted a combined 10 times, mostly not until they were already being blown out.
  9. Hodges Mixes in a Bad One: Punter Reggie Hodges had three punts on Sunday, and two of them were great -- one at the 10-yard line, and one at the 2-yard line (to close out the game). His middle punt went 22 yards though, and was fair caught at the 21-yard line. I'll chalk it up to Hodges having his first bad hit in awhile due to the wind. Considering the Browns were punting from the 43, a short punt didn't harm them too much in the game of field position.
  10. Dominant Run Defense: In my game preview, I stated that I didn't like BenJarvus Green-Ellis' chances of success against Cleveland's run defense. Sure enough, Green-Ellis finished the game with 9 carries for 14 yards. Danny Woodhead gave the defense some trouble, but mostly on draw plays.
  11. Wildcat Usage: The volume of the Wildcat wasn't needed as much with Hillis doing so well himself. Still, it was good to see it mixed in, even if he only got two yards. The Browns need to keep with that formation, because Joshua Cribbs will break one sooner or later. He also drew the defense's attention big time on the fumblerooski.
  12. McCoy the Rest of the Way: I said this after the game, but I'll say it again -- all arguments for Jake Delhomme or Seneca Wallace starting can now be countered by the play of Colt McCoy against New England. Could he still struggle? Sure. But we have a running game to rely on, and a defense that is keeping us in games.
  13. The Touchdown Run: Who didn't go ape-nuts on Colt McCoy's touchdown run? From avoiding the rush, the running wide left, to seeing the crushing block from Joshua Cribbs, to the final dive at the pylon from McCoy, it was another great play in a great win for Cleveland.
  14. No Goat for Ventrone: Along with Mike Bell, I did consider making Ray Ventrone a goat for his pass interference in the fourth quarter. However, I couldn't forget the big fumble recovery he had when the Patriots fumbled their kickoff in the first quarter. How dumb was it for Gronkowski to call for a fair catch on a kickoff, and then let it go? This isn't a punt, guy. Thankfully when the Browns have guys like Marcus Benard returning a kick when teams kick away from Joshua Cribbs, we haven't had those issues.
  15. Special Teams Tackles: Leading the way on special teams was...well, no one. Five players had one tackle each, including T.J. Ward, Ray Ventrone, Mike Adams, Nick Sorensen, and Blake Costanzo. On field goals, Phil Dawson was money from 38 and 37 yards.
  16. Great Body Control: I remain impressed by the play of Evan Moore. Every time he is in the game, there is a positive play. Moore used his body and height for a great 19-yard yard catch near the goal line on the team's first touchdown drive. Moore caught the ball, kept his feet in, and then was about to still go forward for a score before another defender came over to knock him out of bounds. Maybe the Browns feel his success is the element of surprise, but I just envision Moore being used a lot more often in the gameplan. Maybe we'll try to pin him against the Jets' corners in one-on-one situations this week?
  17. Third Down Conversions: The Browns definitely outplayed the Patriots on third down on both sides of the ball. New England converted only 3/11 third downs, while Cleveland moved the chains on 7/13 third downs.
  18. Gutsy Call: Remember the years of Romeo Crennel, when the Browns would be losing a game in a losing season, and yet he would punt the ball in a fourth-and-short situation? The Browns are demonstrating a confident, winning playcall strategy now, as seen when they went for it on 4th-and-1 from their own 36 in the first quarter, up 10-0. The Browns lined up tight, and then everyone audibled wide. The second a defensive end/linebacker decided to shift to cover the slot receiver, Alex Mack snapped the ball and McCoy sneaked it forward for an easy first down. Hillis fumbled on the next play, but it was a great call given the look New England presented.
  19. Brownies: It was fun to see guys like Joe Thomas chestbump Brian Daboll, who has started to redeem himself after a rough playcalling stretch to start off the many deflected passes in the end zone for touchdowns will the Browns give up this year?...the goal line defense stopped Green-Ellis twice from the one, so the team's streak of only giving up one touchdown still stands.

Next up, the Browns take on the New York Jets. This game will be just as tough [heading into it] as the Patriots and Saints games were, if not tougher. There's only one difference now -- all of a sudden, the Cleveland Browns and Peyton Hillis are everyone's new favorite team and player in the NFL. How will Cleveland respond in the spotlight?