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Life as a Cleveland Sports Fan

Archive for the month “November, 2011”

No passing the buck for Browns offense

“There are things that only come with repetition, in games as well as practice. You’re not sure who you’re throwing to, how they run routes, how they come in and out of cuts. Everybody is different. You’re trying to get some continuity with it, and it’s hard.

“I knew what I could or couldn’t do with each of (my receivers). That takes months and years to develop. Am I suggesting they can’t go out and have a fluid day? No. But at the same time you could also have three or four situations in a game where, Geez, what happened there? There’s confusion, and it only takes a couple of those in a game to ruin your day.”

Those comments came from former NFL quarterback and MVP Rich Gannon. He was talking to Sports Illustrated about Carson Palmer’s adjustment to Oakland, but he just as easily could have been talking about Browns quarterback Colt McCoy and the team’s receivers.

It’s no secret the Browns have struggled on offense this year, especially in the red zone, as they’ve worked to install the West Coast offense. But trying to pin the blame on any one player is overly simplistic and doesn’t do anything to try and address what is a team-wide problem.

If repetition and continuity are the way to build an offense – and why would anyone think it is not – when have McCoy and the receivers been able to build any continuity this year?

Greg Little didn’t become a starter until midway through the season, Mohamed Massaquoi and Ben Watson have missed games with head injuries, and since Evan Moore can’t block he wasn’t able to get on the field early in the season because the team was playing Artis Hicks and Oniel Cousins at right tackle.

When you mix a quarterback with only a little more than one year of experience who is struggling with his accuracy with a group of receivers who are inexperienced or can’t stay healthy you end up with an offense that struggles to score points.

It’s also very possible that this group of players is just OK and will never hit the next level. Just look around the division: Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and Pittsburgh’s Ben Rothlisberger were first-round picks, while Cincinnati took Andy Dalton at the top of the second round.

And the top two wide receivers on each team are Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith in Baltimore, Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh, and A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson in Cincinnati.

The common denominator among them? They all played wide receiver in college.

The Browns top two wide receivers are a converted running back who only played one year in college (Little) and a converted quarterback (Cribbs) who is probably better suited to be a running back.

We hope Little will develop into a solid receiver, but consider what Pro Football Focus had to say about him after the Bengals game:

Greg Little (-3.1) may have picked up the first touchdown grab of his career, but he did little else right in a textbook example of how not to catch footballs. The rookie receiver dropped an incredible four passes as he was guilty of constantly taking his eyes off the ball as he prepared what to do next. To his credit, he doesn’t shy away from bouncing back, and his quarterback kept going after him (12 times in all), but you won’t find many performances this year from a WR where they drop such easy-to-catch balls. His drop with 27 seconds left in the game summed up his day and it’s a growing problem given that he’s now dropped 12 on the year – an astonishing 20.3% of all catchable balls throw his way.

We also love how Cribbs plays hard every game and went to The Kent State University, but none of these guys – McCoy included – are starting for anyone else in the division.

Coach Pat Shurmur was on Sirius NFL radio this afternoon and he did have some good news. He said the Browns didn’t necessarily target Little on Sunday, but rather he was the second or third option on many of the passes. That meant that McCoy was working through his progressions rather than forcing the ball or just “dumping it off,” which is not always apparent to people sitting at home on the couch.

The fact that McCoy had time to go to his third option on some plays means the offensive line is doing its job. McCoy and the receivers now need to step up and do their jobs better.

The good news is that if everyone can stay healthy, each practice and each game brings them one step closer to building the kind of continuity that a successful passing attack needs.

The bad news is, even with practice and game experience, it might not be enough.

***

In other news, the Browns released long snapper Ryan Pontbriand – the lone remaining player from the Butch Davis era – and placed starting linebacker Scott Fujita and starting defensive end Emmanuel Stephens on injured reserve on Wednesday.

Just in time for a five-game stretch to close the season that features two games with the Ravens and two games with the Steelers.

Happy holidays!

***

Finally, courtesy of Cold Hard Football Facts comes this fun little factoid:

Since the AFC North was created during realignment in 2002, the Browns own a 14-42 record against the division. Worse yet, the Browns started off with a 7-11 record from 2002-2004. Therefore, the Browns are 7-31 since 2005 against the AFC North, with three wins of those wins coming in 2007. If the Browns get swept by the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, as they already were by the Bengals, the Browns will average one win per season against the division since 2005.

So, to recap, that’s 1-5 in Romeo Crennel’s last season, 2-10 under Eric Mangini and 0-2 so far under Shurmur.

That’s one coaching trend we definitely would like Shurmur to break.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

Browns can’t cage the Bengals

For the first time since Week 3, maybe, the Cleveland Browns had their first team offense in uniform and on the field Sunday against Cincinnati.

So it was no surprise, really, that the Browns had one of their better offensive days of the season, scoring a first quarter touchdown for the first time this season, building a 17-7 halftime lead and scoring 20 points for only the second time all season.

Apparently, having all your starters on offense healthy and playing makes a difference.

But it wasn’t enough to pull out a win.

Peyton Hillis returned after missing six games and ran for 65 yards on 19 carries. Overall, the Browns rushed for 134 yards and a 4.5 per carry average against a Bengals defense that was giving up just 88.6 yards per game on the ground.

But it wasn’t enough.

Colt McCoy threw for two touchdowns – one to Jordan Norwood and one to Greg Little – as the Browns put up those 17 first-half points.

But it wasn’t enough.

Phil Dawson made a 54-yard field goal – his longest of the season and seventh of more than 50 yards this year – to put the Browns up 20-10 with 3:50 to go in the third quarter.

But it wasn’t enough.

Because even after the Bengals had come all the way back to tie the game, 20-20, early in the fourth quarter, the Browns still had their chances and couldn’t capitalize.

Given one last chance after the defense forced a three-and-out, the Browns took over on their own 32 with 4:52 left in the game.

McCoy drove the Browns to the Cincinnati 37 before the drive stalled and coach Pat Shurmur strangely called on Dawson for a 55-yard field goal attempt into the wind.

Need we say Dawson was not able to convert? Need we say Ryan Pontbriand’s snap rolled to holder Brad Maynard?

“I think it’s safe to say a 55-yarder in that situation, into the wind, everything needed to be smooth,” Dawson said after the game.

The miss gave the Bengals the ball at their own 45 and that’s when A.J. Green made the play of the day. Green went up to catch a poor throw from Andy Dalton and the resulting 51-yard catch-and-run put the Bengals on the Cleveland 7-yard line where, after a few plays, Mike Nugent kicked the game-winning field goal.

Green’s catch stood out even more because, in addition to catching his first touchdown pass of the season, Greg Little had 6? 7? 8? drops on the day. And most were “the ball hit him in the hands” drops.

That’s the difference between a No. 1 wide receiver taken in the first round and a converted running back drafted in the second round after not playing last year.

We don’t mean to bag on Little, and it’s not as if the Browns could have drafted Green anyway, but that comparison shows just how far the Browns still have to go to get play makers on offense.

The Browns probably deserved better than this; they probably deserved to win the game. The defense was solid for the most part – especially Jabaal Sheard, who had four tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. The Browns also held Cincinnati to just 6-of-14 on third down and didn’t let the Bengals run too wild in the rushing game.

Of course, Green’s catch came on a third down, so …

“We have to figure out (how to play with) a lead, which we haven’t really done all year, and go finish,” McCoy said. “Don’t stop. Let’s continue to make the plays that we’ve made. The defense was playing well. It’s really frustrating.”

With the Browns, it seems like it’s never, ever enough.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

Browns vs. Bengals – Week 12

The Browns start a stretch of five division games over the next six weeks as they travel to Cincinnati on Sunday to take on the Bengals.

The Opposition

Cincinnati record: 6-4 (3rd in the AFC North)
Offensive rank: 18th overall/17th passing/19th rushing
Defensive rank: 6th overall/11th passing/3rd rushing
All-time record: Bengals lead 40-36; the Browns are 14-24 in Cincy, with their last win coming in 2008
Last meeting: Cincinnati won 27-17 in Week 1
The line: Browns (+7.5)

What to Watch For

This game may not be as one-sided as some people believe.

The Bengals were an early season flavor of the month as they grew fat on a weak schedule that included wins over Buffalo, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Seattle and Tennessee (combined record of 17-33). Somehow the Bengals were supposed to be good because they beat those teams, but when the Browns scored wins against some of those same teams it was a sign of their abject incompetence.

When the Bengals stepped up in class the past two weeks, against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, the results were predictable losses.

Of course the Browns aren’t in the category of the Steelers and Ravens, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance on Sunday.

The Bengals offense is good, but hardly a powerhouse, although they do average 23.6 points per game, which is a problem when you consider the Browns only average 14.5.

Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton comes into the game with five interceptions the past two weeks, (3 against Baltimore, 2 against Pittsburgh) and one thing that Browns quarterback Colt McCoy has avoided is multiple interception games.

After dropping at least three interceptions last week against the Jaguars, this might be a good week for Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown to focus on holding onto the ball. If the Browns defense can force Dalton to make mistakes and give the offense a short field to work with, that would go a long way toward a win.

The Browns may be able to focus on Dalton because running back Cedric Benson hasn’t been much of a threat in the running game. After hitting the Browns for 121 yards in the opener, Benson has broken 100 yards only once and hasn’t gone over 78 yards in his last five games.

This seems like a good opportunity for the Browns 29th-ranked run defense to actually step up and help out for a change.

One thing that would definitely help the Browns is if Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty can both play today. Hardesty is expected to play and Hillis says he’s ready, and if true, adding them to Chris Ogbonnaya can only pay dividends against a Bengal defense that is giving up just 88.6 yards per game on the ground.

A strong running game will help McCoy, who has played his best the past two weeks as it seems like the coaching staff has finally figured out how to put him in situations that maximize his abilities.

“I’m looking for him to lead the charge in terms of ‘show improvement and win the game’ and I think that’s what we’re looking for as we go forward,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said this week. “The way I look at it, we’re 4-6 and we’re trying to win this game as we push into the second half of this season. Hopefully we get on a roll here and then we can do something beyond January 1. We’re putting all our efforts into beating the Bengals and Colt is no different.”

That’s nice that the coach is throwing out the challenge, but let’s not forget it’s a team effort there, Pat, and that includes the coaching staff.

The Prediction

With the Bengals coming off consecutive losses in the division, and with another division game next week in Pittsburgh, today could be a good day for the Browns to pick up an unexpected win.

However, the Browns have lost 11 of their last 14 against Cincinnati, including six of seven on the road (including two ugly losses under super coach Eric Mangini).

The best chance for the Browns will be to minimize mistakes and keep the game close (where have we heard that before?) as Cleveland is 3-1 this year in games decided by four points or less.

The Browns are still a struggling work in progress, but the Bengals have crashed back to earth, so we like the Browns and the points this week.

Record picking the Browns (using the point spread) this year: 6-3-1.

(Photo by Cleveland Browns.com)

The "education" of Colt McCoy

Another day, another reason to be thankful that the Browns are no longer saddled with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and his brand of “motivation.”

For reasons we don’t totally understand, Michael Silver at Yahoo! Sports decided to revisit the story about how Daboll treated Browns quarterback Colt McCoy during his rookie season. And even though it seems odd to bring this up again – it made sense the week before the Miami game – that doesn’t make it any less disturbing.

According to Silver, Daboll had a special plan for McCoy:

  • In what became a running joke in the Browns’ locker room, Daboll disparaged McCoy loudly and relentlessly – sometimes to his face, sometimes through the earpiece in the quarterback’s helmet.
  • Another time, says one Browns offensive player, “It was during a walk through, and they chose Colt to stand in at fullback, for whatever reason. I guess he kind of ran the wrong route; how the hell should he know what the fullback was supposed to run? Daboll flipped out. Colt was livid. He’d never had a coach talk to him like that.”
  • Several Browns recalled a meeting early in the 2010 season in which Daboll told McCoy, “I just watched [tape of] your last college game, and you were terrible. What the hell were you throwing out there? That was one of the worst games I’ve ever seen. Why the [expletive] did we draft you?”

Now we’re getting somewhere. With team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert calling the shots, the power base of coach Eric Mangini and Daboll had dwindled. Unable to talk back to the bosses, Daboll decided to pick on the Holmgren-selected rookie quarterback instead.

Because that’s what bullies do, and there’s no way to classify Daboll as anything other than a bully.

“The simple reason (people bully) is it shows that they have power over others,” according to Marlene Snyder, Development Director for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in the United States, based in Clemson, S.C. “The reason that they do it repeatedly is that they are getting away with it. Nobody is calling them on their bad behavior (nice leadership from Mangini, there). When they aren’t called on it they think, ‘Well, it must be O.K.’

“A person who bullies intentionally picks out someone that they know is weaker than themselves so that they can intimidate, harass or humiliate them to do their bidding. It is a misuse of their power. This behavior is usually repeated and of course this power differential is there.”

The fact that McCoy was the All-American quarterback from a major college football power, while Daboll was one of the worst offensive coordinators in the NFL, probably played a role as well.

As to where Daboll got his sense of entitlement from, who knows? He, of course, would not talk to Silver for the article.

To his credit, and showing the kind of mental toughness you want in a starting quarterback, McCoy took the high road when Mangini and Daboll were shown the door after a second consecutive 5-11 season.

“When those guys left I walked up and shook their hands,” McCoy told Silver. “I really did appreciate them. It made me stronger as a man. It taught me a lot about how to handle things.”

McCoy may not be the answer at quarterback for the Browns, but he definitely proved he is the better man in this situation.

“There was a lot of pressure put on Colt, and some of it was over the top,” said tight end Evan Moore. “He was coming off winning 45 of 53 games in college, and it was the first time he was dealing with adversity. It was a whirlwind for him. He stepped right into a buzz saw. It rocked his world. I knew it was tough for him, and there were a lot of times when he was frustrated. But he did a good job of not really showing it, and he handled it well.”

One thing we probably need to do is stop reading these kinds of stories. We are so tired of talking about last year and what was, to some, the brief Camelot of the 10-22 Mangini era.

Those days are gone and, thankfully, they are not coming back.

A Cleveland sports fan gives thanks

It’s hard sometimes as a Cleveland fan to find things to be thankful for.

With no championships since 1964 and a collective 135-year drought among the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers, things have definitely been tough through the years.

But there are still moments that have us feeling thankful …

Dick Snyder on the dribble drive.

Nate Thurmond

World B. Free

Roy Harper for Brad Daugherty

Trading for Mark Price

The Coliseum for Cavs games in the late ’80s

Lenny Wilkens

Brian Sipe to Dave Logan

Bernie Kosar to Webster Slaughter

Mark Gastineau

Clay Matthews chasing quarterbacks

Run William Run

Gerald McNeil returning kicks at Three Rivers Stadium

51-0

Phil Dawson

Eric Metcalf returning punts at Municipal Stadium

Josh Cribbs

Mark Mosley

Joe Carter for Sandy Alomar and Carlos Baerga

Omar Vizquel and Roberto Alomar turning a double play

Albert Belle’s grand slam against Baltimore

CC Sabathia in 2007

Cliff Lee in 2008

Orel Hershiser in Game 5

Fausto Carmona in Game 2

Manny being Manny

Dick Jacobs

Midges

Kenny Lofton scoring from second on a wild pitch

Jim Thome deep to right

Tony Fernandez batting against Baltimore

Chuck Knoblauch

That we don’t worship at the altar of a college football coach

Joe Tait

Nev Chandler

Tom Hamilton

That there was once a gleam along the shores of Lake Erie

Finally, we’re thankful for a vibrant, thoughtful, opinionated and far-reaching online Cleveland sports community. The collective IQ of the average Cleveland sports fan fell in the fall of 1995, when the combination of the Indians making the World Series for the first time since 1954 and the news that the Browns were moving to Baltimore short-circuited the brains of most fans.

Those links prove that there is still some brain power out there among the fan base.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Brownie Bites

Here are a few Brownie bites to serve as appetizers on a pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday.

According to Cold Hard Football Facts:

  • The Browns were effective moving the ball against the Jaguars on Sunday, as their last four drives all went at least 60 yards. Colt McCoy led touchdown drives of 87 yards and 85 yards, one 60-yard drive that ended with Phil Dawson’s field goal that was good but was ruled incomplete, and a 69-yard drive that ended with a McCoy interception.
  • McCoy and the Browns may not be putting as many points on the board as we’d like, but they are doing a good job protecting the ball, especially McCoy, who has yet to have a multiple-interception game this season. Meanwhile, 34 of the 44 starting quarterbacks this year have a multi-interception game. Add in relievers Mike Kafka and Jon Kitna, and there’s 36 quarterbacks in total who did that. Overall, only three teams haven’t thrown multiple interceptions in all 10 games: the Browns, Rams and 49ers.

According to Pro Football Focus:

  • Left guard Jason Pinkston seems have turned a bit of a corner. Pinkston had a negative grade in through the first eight games, but against Jacksonville he posted his second consecutive solid performance. He pulled left (something missing from the playbook since Eric Steinbach went out) to cut block Paul Posluszny on Chris Ogbonnaya’s touchdown run and only gave up one pressure in pass protection – a season low.

A few nuggets to chew on:

  • Even though he wasn’t in the starting lineup until recently, receiver Greg Little is first in the NFL among rookie receivers with 42 receptions. That’s three more receptions than former second-round pick Brian Robiskie has in his entire career.
  • Defensive tackle Phil Taylor is fifth in sacks among rookies (first among defensive linemen) and ninth in tackles (second among defensive linemen), while defensive end Jabaal Sheard is 11th in tackles (fourth among defensive linemen).
  • The Browns are eighth in the league in red-zone defense. Cleveland has given up 12 touchdowns on 28 drives inside its own 20-yard line. In the Browns’ four wins, they’ve allowed 12 points in the red-zone.

That’s probably too much positive stuff for some to take, however. Because if you listen to some fans, the Browns are losers, Pat Shurmur isn’t qualified to coach a junior high JV team and every decision Mike Holmgren makes is wrong.

Yep, no progress is being made at all.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Reds leave Chelsea feeling blue

Time for a quick look around the football world.

Liverpool came up big on Sunday at Stamford Bridge, handling Chelsea a 2-1 defeat. Glen Johnson’s goal at the 87-minute mark extended Liverpool’s unbeaten run in the league to seven matches and lifted the team above Arsenal into sixth place, level with Chelsea at 22 points.

“It’s not easy to collect the points, but we’ll keep doing everything we can,” Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said after the game. “If we do have a secret, you can guarantee one thing, it’ll not be announced.”

While the Reds have been on a nice run, we still that they have left too many points on the pitch that they will need later in the season – most notably at home to Swansea City, Norwich City and Sunderland, but also even against Manchester United and Stoke City.

Hopefully they can roll out the secret again on Sunday, when Manchester City, currently resting comfortably at the top of the table in the Premier League, visits Anfield.

***

Congrats to David Beckham and the Galaxy for winning the MLS Cup on Sunday night.

We like Beckham as a player (we wish we could have seen him in his prime at Manchester United) and winning a title was a nice way to close out the final year of his contract with the Galaxy.

Beckham wants to continue playing and it seems likely he will make a return to Europe after the first of the year as he has been linked to Paris St. Germain, which currently sits at the top of the table in Ligue 1.

“I have a decision to make and I haven’t made it yet,” the 36-year-old Beckham told The Daily Mail. “I’ve got options, which is amazing at my age. A couple of big European clubs are after me. I need to decide what’s best for me.

“Whenever a big club comes in for you it’s a temptation. At 36, to still have a big Euro club after me means a lot.”

It will be interesting to see if Beckham can make the transition back to top-flight football in Europe. We’re still on the fence about the quality of play in the MLS, which seems the equivalent of AAA baseball compared to the top leagues in Europe.

And when you consider that Beckham, at 36, and Thierry Henry, at 34, were named to the league’s Best XI squad this year, we wonder about the overall talent in the league.

***

The group stage of the Champions League is nearing an end, with Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Benfica all punching their tickets to the knockout stage on Tuesday.

The news isn’t so bright, however, for the two Manchester Clubs.

Because of its 2-2 draw with Benfica, Manchester United needs at least a point at Basel in its final game to advance to the knockout stage for the sixth year in a row.

Meanwhile, Manchester City is in a tough spot following its 2-1 loss at Napoli. Now, Napoli only needs a win at Villarreal to grab the second spot in Group A and leave City on the outside looking in.

“I think we have a 30 percent chance of going through but if we don’t, we will make do with the Europa League,” Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini said in published reports. “Our life does not finish if we don’t go through. I’m disappointed with the result, but not the performance.”

***

Finally, if you are an NBA fan wondering how to fill your time with no games being played, why not check out the Premier League?

Browns just can’t win with some fans

“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” – Vince Lombardi

After watching the Browns for more years than we care to admit, we know all about the habit of losing that surrounds the franchise.

And in some ways this year is no different as, even after Sunday’s win against Jacksonville, the Browns still sit at just 4-6 on the season.

But there is a subset of fans who have decided that, even when the Browns win, that the team are losers, Pat Shurmur isn’t qualified to coach a junior high JV team and every decision Mike Holmgren makes is wrong.

What we don’t understand is why? What did people realistically expect out of this team this year? A division title? A playoff game?

The Browns entered the season off of consecutive 5-11 seasons (and the year before that they were just 4-12) with holes to fill and questions to answer all over the team.

So far, the team is what they should be – they lose to teams that are better than them, and beat, or at least are competitive, against teams of equal talent.

Should that really be a surprise?

The angst has reached such a low that some are longing for the days of Eric Mangini and his 10-22 record (33-47 career mark). The common refrain is that under Mangini the Browns were “competitive.”

But was that really the case?

In their six losses this year, the Browns have lost by an average of 10.6 points. Last year in the 11 losses, the margin was 9.2. In 2009 it was a ridiculous 15.2. Is that really a regression for the current team?

People moan about the offense, as if the Browns were the reincarnation of Air Coryell under former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. But after finishing 32nd (2009) and 29th (2010) the past two years, the Browns currently sit at 29th overall. The passing game is 23rd (after being 32nd and 29th). Only the running game – hit hard by injuries – has dropped, from 20th last year to 29th this year.

But that hasn’t really impacted scoring. Even with all their troubles getting into the end zone this year, the Browns are right in line, averaging 14.5 points per game this year, compared to 15.3 in ’09 and 16.9 in ’10. Add in a couple of Phil Dawson field goals and the Browns would be right where they have been the past few seasons.

There’s no question the defense is better, ranking 5th overall and 1st against the pass. For someone who was sold as a defensive genius, the Browns finished 31st and 22nd overall in defense under Mangini, and never higher than 18th against the pass. The one constant has been the Browns inability to stop the run, no matter who the coach is.

It’s expected the defense should be improved, however, as the Browns have focused on defense in the last two drafts. But by saying that, isn’t that a sign of progress?

The bottom line in all this is the Browns are still not a good team. After four years of Phil Savage and his “talent evaluation” plus the infamous 2009 draft by Mangini – where the Browns had four of the first 52 picks and somehow only walked out with one NFL-caliber player and a No. 3/4 wide receiver – left this team in a serious hole.

But more importantly, this isn’t a finished team.

This team is still playing catch-up after not having a normal off-season of OTAs, mini-camps and training camp that would have provided a young quarterback and wide receivers about 1,000 snaps of practice.

Through 10 games of the season so far, the Browns have had 653 snaps on offense, so you don’t think those 1,000 snaps would have helped? The simple fact is there’s no replacing that missed time that the team desperately needed.

General manager Tom Heckert has done a nice job in his first two drafts, and with two first round picks next year and multiple picks in later rounds, the team should keep adding young talent.

Judging from the past two weeks, Shurmur may have figured out what Colt McCoy does best and started fitting the game plan around those skills (we would have liked to seen that sooner, but as Mick Jagger once said, you can’t always get what you want).

The franchise is finally going about things the correct way, something fans have been waiting for for we don’t know how long, but people still want to piss and moan and take a micro-view of the team. There’s no guarantee that things are going to work out, but the important part is the Browns are doing it the correct way.

We don’t get to see wins around here very often, let’s just try and enjoy them when we do.

(Photo by Cleveland Browns.com)

Browns win? Browns win!

The Cleveland Browns finally sent the faithful home with something to cheer about, beating the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, 14-10.

It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty, but the Browns found a way to get the job done.

“Everybody played their hearts out and it’s about time it went our way,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said in published reports. “We knew it was up to us. Right there. We had to make the play and we did.”

In typical Browns fashion, the team should have gone up 17-10 when Phil Dawson kicked a 38-yard field goal that was probably good but the refs ruled was a miss with 2:49 left in the game. Jacksonville then marched down the field all the way to the Browns 3-yard-line, where Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert’s third-down pass was incomplete as time expired, sealing the win.

“A lot of games come down to the last drive in the NFL,” said Browns coach Pat Shurmur. “That’s just the way it is. You stop them, you win. You kick your field goal or score your touchdown, you win. I think we were on the good end of it. I think as we move forward, and that’s what we’re doing, we’re moving forward into the second half of our year. As we move forward, we can try to build on this victory. I think that’s where we’re at.”

So how did the Browns hold up to pregame questions?

Can the Browns score a touchdown in the first quarter? Nope, still 0-10 on the year.

Can the Browns score a touchdown in the third quarter? Nope, still 0-10 on the year.

Can the Browns score a touchdown at home? Now we’re getting somewhere. Chris Ogbonnaya scored from the 1 in the second quarter and Josh Cribbs caught a 3-yard pass from Colt McCoy in the fourth.

“The play to Cribbs, he is my second read,” McCoy said. “The nickel-back played outside of Greg (Little) when he ran his route and so Josh has to win one-on-one in the end zone, and he did a nice job, and made a nice catch.”

Can the Browns stop the run? Cleveland held Jacksonville to just 3.7 yards per rush and limited Maurice Jones-Drew to 87 yards. They also stopped Jones-Drew twice inside the 5-yard-line on the final drive of the game.

Can the Browns move the ball against the Jaguars? The Browns had 334 yards and 20 first downs against the No. 4 defense in the NFL. In addition, Ogbonnaya had a career-best 115 yards (with a long run of 40) and a 5.5 yard per carry average against a solid run defense.

“It felt good. It was a good atmosphere,” Ogbonnaya said. “The fans are really nice in Cleveland. They really get into the game, regardless of what is going on. That definitely helps somebody like me as a running back. Once I get into a rhythm and get comfortable, you hear the energy of the crowd and that gives you a little more incentive to play well.”

Does the Browns offense and McCoy have the proper amount of “lust for the end zone?” Against the 5th-best pass defense in the league, McCoy spread the ball around to seven different receivers, with Greg Little catching a team-high 5 passes and Jordon Norwood pulling in a catch-and-run for 51 yards.

“Jordan has done a really nice job,” McCoy said. “He made some really nice catches for us today. He continues to grow each week. Jordan is a guy who is going to do the right thing every time. We run a lot of option-routes with him. He is really smart and the one big play that he had they blitzed off of the edge and that’s his choice. He can sit, he can go out, he can go in and he made a really nice play.”

So after all the injuries and the ups-and-downs of the season so far, the Browns find themselves one ridiculously botched kick from being at .500 after 10 games for the first time in what seems like forever. The team still has a very long way to go, but they are competitive against the teams they should be competitive with.

And, at least for one game, the offense shook off some of its problems and did enough to help the team pull out a win.

“The game isn’t over, especially with Browns football and the way things have been going for years (someone has been paying attention), we’ve got to keep playing,” Cribbs said. “It (the win) doesn’t take any pressure off, we still have to go. We still have to have the mentality that we are playing down and we have to keep on scoring. It seemed like that at the end. We didn’t make the field goal but we have to keep on scoring and have that scoring mentality every time we have the football.”

(Photo by The Associated Press)

Browns vs. Jaguars – Week 11

The Cleveland Browns are home again on Sunday to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars it what is probably one of only two games left on the schedule that the Browns have a realistic chance of winning.

The Opposition

Jacksonville record: 3-6 (3rd in the AFC South)
Offensive rank: 32rd overall/32nd passing/11th rushing
Defensive rank: 4th overall/5th passing/14th rushing
All-time record: Browns trail 4-9; the Browns are 1-5 at home against the Jaguars, but they did win the most recent home game, part of the mirage that was the four-game winning streak to close the 2009 season
Last meeting: Jacksonville won 24-20 in 2010
The line: Browns (+1)

What to Watch For

Can the Browns score a touchdown in the first quarter? They haven’t done it this season.

Can the Browns score a touchdown in the third quarter? They haven’t done it this season.

Can the Browns score a touchdown at home? They have gone 123 minutes without one at home – the last touchdown coming with 11:36 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Oct. 2 game vs. Tennessee.

Can the Browns stop the run? The defense has given up 568 rushing yards – the most in the NFL since Oct. 30 – during its season-worst three-game skid. Jacksonville is averaging 121.4 yards per game on the ground. Maurice Jones-Drew has rushed for 854 yards, 4.5 yards per carry, this season. The Browns are giving up 142.8 yards per game on the ground.

Can the Browns move the ball against the Jaguars? Jacksonville is fourth overall in defense, but near the middle of the pack against the run, giving up 107.1 yards per game. Of course, the Browns can’t run the ball, they are averaging 87 yards per game (30th in the NFL) as they struggle with giving playing time to their 4th-string running back.

Montario Hardesty “leads” the Browns in rushing with 244 yards, but he probably won’t play on Sunday. Peyton Hillis is second with 211 yards and he definitely won’t play Sunday. Chris Ogbonnaya is third with 170 yards and Colt McCoy is fourth at 120. Unless you are Denver or Philadelphia, having your quarterback be one of your leading rushers is not a good thing.

Does the Browns offense and McCoy have the proper amount of “lust for the end zone?” If the Browns can’t run the ball they are going to have to find a way to pass it. Mohamed Massaquoi should be back for the Browns, and Jacksonville’s top cornerback, Rashean Mathis, is out for the season with an injury. Will that be enough to help a Browns team that has scored touchdowns on just 44.4 percent of its trips into the red zone? That’s the 23rd in the league, if you are scoring at home.

The Craziest Browns vs. Jaguars Game We’ve Seen

The 2001 “Bottlegate” game, although last year’s game, when the Browns forced six turnovers and still managed to lose, is a close second. And let’s not forget the 2002 game when Tim Couch hit Quincy Morgan – there’s a tandem – with a Hail Mary pass for the win.

The Prediction

This may sound like a bit of a cop-out, but who knows with this team anymore?

Injuries have robbed the Browns of the kind of running game they needed to help McCoy and the receivers, but somehow the Browns keep fighting and, against teams at their level, find themselves in the game at the end.

But the Browns also make mistakes at the worst times and just are not talented enough to overcome those mistakes.

Maybe today’s the day, however, and the Browns can send fans into the holiday week with something to be thankful for – a win (and even a touchdown!).

Record picking the Browns (using the point spread) this year: 5-3-1.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

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