1. After initial jitters, bad tackling, and over-pursuit, the defense showed up and punched Pittsburgh in the mouth.
It just seemed like the Browns were playing a little too fast and a little too recklessly on defense in the first half. Missed tackles, over-pursuit on running plays, and lack of contain turned every catch by LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown into a huge gain. Frequently, the Browns were in the backfield, but took a bad angle and let one of the most "escapable" QB's in the league step into wide gaps in the pocket.
After halftime, the Browns clearly settled in and began to do what they'd been expected to do; push the pocket and press the receivers on the outside. Defensive players stayed at home, and Ben looked rattled the entire second half. The Browns showcased the difference between a comfortable pitch-and-catch offense and one that's been thrown off it's rhythm with a tale of two halves.
2. The play calling from Kyle Shannahan was mostly on point.
My biggest concern for the 2014 Browns season was the amount of time that it would take for the Browns to get used to the Shannahan zone blocking scheme. Being able to run the ball is the lynch pin to success in Kyle's offense, and without a premier passing game, its critical to the Browns viability on offense.
You would never expect that this scheme is new to the Browns offensive lineman. Not only did they do an admirable job pass blocking, but they blew open enormous running lanes for all three running backs en route to the best rushing attack the team has had in the modern Browns era. While Pittsburgh is not exceptional at stopping the run, the comfort with assignments showed a line comfortable with each other and individual responsibility. The play action passing game in the second half was as much a result of this success as it was from Hoyer getting into a groove. Wide receivers ran open all game, and it the offense had a great tempo in the second half running the hurry-up.
3. Brian Hoyer found a rhythm in the second half and looked like the 2013 copy.
Brian Hoyer does not possess elite quarterbacking skills, and he took entirely too long to get going on Sunday. He left at least a dozen completions on the field in the first half, many at critical 3rd down stops. The offense saw the field sparingly, and looked demoralized and discombobulated when they got the ball.
Hoyer caught fire in the second half, and the defense kept handing him the ball. At one point the Browns signal caller was 9-10, and had flipped the script on TOP and total offense from the first half. If the Hoyer that the Browns sent out to the field shows up for a full game, and they continue to play inspired defense, the team is capable of beating anyone.
4. The uselessness of the Browns WR corps was dramatically overstated
Despite not having a stud play maker on the outside, the Browns wide receiving corps got open and showed sure handedness all through the second half. Without Cameron on the field, the Browns cycled heavily through targets, and everyone played consistently. The general experience among the wideouts and tight ends was difficult to see, as the passing game was fluid and aggressive.
5. Isiah Crowell and Terrance West look like natural fits for the scheme
Isiah Crowell was a pre-draft darling for most of the Dawgs By Nature staff, and he reminded everyone in the NFL that he may be the offensive rookie with the most upside in THE LEAGUE. Crowell and West gashed Pittsburgh's defense, ripping off huge chunks of yards and finishing runs with violence. Our own Mike Krupka likes to compare Crowell's running style to Marshawn Lynch, and it's easy to see why. Crowell is a very rare combination of size and speed, and West looked far more comfortable behind the first team line than anything we've seen previously.