The city of Cleveland can take a collective sigh of relief. The Browns are off the shnide for the 2011 NFL seasons and looked a lot better in the process. Did they look like the New England Patriots? Not so much, but they didn’t look like the same team that dropped the ball against the Bengals in week 1. Is this the start of better things to come? Probably not. Is it a sign of progress we can build on moving forward? Totally. So how well did the Browns follow what I thought were the keys to victory?
1. Run the ball with Hillis and Hardesty and wear down the Colts front seven: Mission Accomplished
2. Rush Collins into submission and beat him up to create mistakes: Mission Accomplished
3. Balance out the offensive attack. 50/50 or 60/40 run/pass: Mission Accomplished
4. Solid kick returns from Josh Cribbs resulting in good starting field position: Mission Accomplished
5. Minimize mistakes, aka fewer penalties and fewer mental lapses on the defensive side of the ball: Mission not so accomplished…
Look at that. The Browns accomplished nearly everything they needed to do to win the game and… crazy coincidence… they won. Who would have thunk it?
Hillis was a beast on Sunday afternoon. He hit the holes with force and beat up the Colts defensive front. He finished the day with 27 carries for 94 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also played a role in the passing game snagging 4 for 23 yards. He had a very solid day and it was exactly what the Browns needed. It helped take the pressure of Colt McCoy and allowed him to operate a little more freely without threat of dying in the pocket. This helps tie into point number 3…
The Browns had a nearly 50/50 split of run versus pass. In total the Browns rant the ball 34 times for 106 yards and threw 32 times going 22/32 for 211 yards. I said on Friday that part of their downfall against the Bengals was they became a little too pass happy. Sure enough, they brought everything back a bit and magically the offense looked a lot better. It also helped that Colt McCoy was a lot more accurate. Against the Colts he completed 68% of his passes, right in the sweet spot I said he would have to be if they wanted to win.
The only part that didn’t come true was the absence of Montario Hardesty. He only ran the ball 3 times for 1 yard and managed to have a fumble down by the goal line. Judging from the way he’s been used thus far, it’s cleat that the coaching staff either isn’t confident in Hardesty’s abilities yet, or they aren’t quite sure how to use him yet. It’ll be interesting to see how his role evolves as the season moves along.
As for point #2, the Browns got after Collins and beat him up. Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, and Jabaal Sheard were beasts on the defensive line. They wreaked havoc all game long and never allowed Kerry Collins and the rest of the Colts offense to get comfortable. The result, one forced fumble on Collins and an interception by Usama Young. The best part of yesterday’s performance? The Browns kept the Colts out of the endzone. They scored one touchdown late in garbage time once the game was decided but other than that, the Browns held them to field goals. Excellent game all around by the defense.
Josh Cribbs also asserted his authority and is quickly reminding everyone that he’s one of the best kick returners in the history of the league. With the Browns struggling again in the first quarter, Cribbs brought a second quarter kickoff return back 52 yards and immediately jump started the offense and they never looked back. He did the same exact thing against the Bengals. For good measure, he also returned a punt 42 yards. Now, if he can stay healthy and keep this going he greatly improves the starting field position of the Browns and becomes the X factor that he was a few years ago.
Lastly, when it came to minimizing mistakes, well… the Browns still didn’t do so good. They fumbled the ball four times on offense. Thankfully they only lost one of those fumbles, but that’s still not a good sign moving forward. In terms of penalties, there was an improvement. This week the Browns only committed 3 for 49 yards. I’m not 100% sure but I think all three were called on Joe Haden. As a matter of fact, I think he just had another penalty called on him. anyways, despite the attempted turnovers, the Browns did enough to protect the ball and put it in the endzone.
This was a good win by the Browns. They couldn’t afford to fall to 0-2, especially when they were playing two teams pegged to be among the worst in the league. Now they find themselves right in the mix of things in the AFC North as all four teams are sitting at 1-1. Hopefully they can build on the things they did Sunday and take advantage of a home game against a Miami team that isn’t believed to be very good.