Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

The legend of Brian Hoyer continues to grow

browns beat titansThe Cleveland Browns were back at it again on Sunday in Tennessee, turning the improbable into the probable in beating the Titans in what has quickly turned into the most entertaining and unexpected season since 2007.

And with the victory, the legend of Brian Hoyer continues to grow.

There is plenty of love to go around after the Browns pulled off what was not only the biggest comeback in franchise history (surpassing a 1966 win against the New York Giants), but also the biggest road comeback in NFL history.

How about Travis Benjamin? Far too many Browns fans wanted the third-year wideout to be released on the spot after he fumbled a punt, but Benjamin came back to catch two touchdown passes, including the game winner.

Then there was running back Ben Tate, who returned from an injury that caused him to miss three games and rushed for an NFL career-best 123 yards on 22 carries, part of an overall team effort that saw the Browns rush for 175 yards on 36 carries.

There was also the defense, which despite struggling (again) to stop the run, held the Titans to six first downs, 126 yards of offense, no points in the second half, and came up with big when the Titans went for it on fourth-and-one late in the fourth quarter.

It’s become clear now, four games into the season, that these dogs simply don’t know when to quit.

“We talked about how to win on the road is to be a team. To me, we showed that the mental toughness that we’ve been talking about, resiliency,” Browns head coach Mike Pettine said on Monday. “Football’s about, just like all sports are, it’s how do you handle adversity? As I said, we prefer not to have that much heaped on us and dig that big of a whole, but at the same time, I just think it really did speak to the character of the men that were in the room, coaches and players.”

Sunday was just another day at the office for the comeback kid himself, as Hoyer rallied the Browns back from a 28-3 halftime deficit to pull out the win, finishing the comeback off with a four-play, 42-yard drive the closed with a six-yard touchdown pass to Benjamin.

“From the very get go when coach Pettine named me the starter, he told me: ‘Don’t worry about getting pulled; go out and play. I have your back.,’ ‘” – Brian Hoyer

Hoyer has been his best when the Browns have needed him the most this season, as his completion percentage (64.9 vs. 58.2), average yards per attempt (8.56 vs. 6.35), touchdown passes (four vs. two) and quarterback rating (103.8 vs. 89.1) are all better in the second half of games than the first.

In addition, in the second half of games this year Hoyer has:

  • Led four scoring drives (three touchdowns and a field goal) against the Steelers
  • Led two scoring drives (a touchdown and a field goal) against the Saints
  • Led two scoring drives (both touchdowns) against the Ravens
  • Led three scoring drives (two touchdowns and a field goal) against the Titans

“I think what Brian does a good job of – I think this is also the entire offense because I hear the communication throughout the game – is they do a good job of kind of building a book on the opponent throughout the game,” Pettine said on Monday. “You’ll go into a game with a scouting report, but a lot of times defensive plans are set very opponent-specific, so, ‘OK, what’s the plan specifically for us?’ You might not know that until after the first quarter, after the second quarter. It’ll take you some time, but I think our guys do a real good job of gathering that information throughout the game. This front equals this coverage. If this guy lines up here, that means this. As he gathers that information throughout the game, that only makes him better.”

Ever since being named the starting quarterback, Hoyer has grabbed hold of the job in a way that makes it unlikely that he will be relinquishing it anytime soon.

The Browns still have plenty of problems – the run defense allowed 149 yards against the Titans; the secondary remains a bit of a mess, especially Buster Skrine, who allowed five catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday – but for once quarterback is not one of them.

“Our big challenge is moving forward and looking to be more consistent,” Pettine said. “I think as you’re installing new systems you’re going to have those moments of inconsistency. Sometimes, it’s over games. You’ll be poor for one game and then good for another one. It’s occurring for us within games where we have our issues and we get them corrected, but that’s our biggest thing, especially on the defensive side is lack of consistency and getting a lot of our little details cleaned up.”

If the Browns can get those “little details” cleaned up in time for Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh, it could be quite an afternoon on the lakefront.

And if they don’t? No worries. Hoyer still has plenty of room to add to his legacy.

(Photo courtesy of The Plain Dealer)

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