Mondays always seem a little bit easier following a Browns victory. Couple that with how the Browns won yesterday and the fact that the win helped them keep pace with the Steelers and Ravens atop the AFC North and the win is even sweeter. The Browns, 2 and 1??? Don’t anyone dare pinch me. I swear to god, if this is a dream and one of you jerks wakes me up heads will roll.
Yesterday’s game was amazing, well at least the end was. Despite the fact that the Browns offense played like crap for three quarters of the game, Colt McCoy and the offense showed up when it mattered. Trailing by a score of 16-10, Colt McCoy rallied the team around him and marched down the field for the end zone. In all, the drive covered 80 yards in 13 plays (and one key penalty by Jason Taylor).
McCoy looked like a man possessed. It was almost as if someone had kidnapped the Browns quarterback, stole his uniform, and then proceeded to go out onto the field and win the game. That’s how bad he was early and great he was late. I am not overexaggerating this point. His touchdown pass to Mo Mass with 40 seconds left was beautiful; his overthrown pass to a wide open Josh Cribbs in the 1st was hideous. These are the types of things we have to learn to live with when it comes to playing a young QB. He won’t have the same meticulous, almost machine like precision of a Brady or Manning. his development is going to take time. What really matters is that when we needed him to come through at crunch time, Colt McCoy did just that.
What more could you want in your quarterback? Yes, McCoy lacks the size and arm strength you typically want in an NFL quarterback, but the kid has moxy. He has that swagger at the end of games that lets his teammates know, “Hey, get on my back. Let’s do this thing.” He’s a leader on a team that desperately needs someone to step up and take charge. That’s something Derek Anderson never could do and as a result, his cannon arm and statuesque physique can be found in the scrap heap of Cleveland QB’s past. I’ll take McCoy’s weaker arm and diminutive stature any day of the week. So far, he has the look of a winner and that’s something else this team has sorely missed since 1999.
Anyways, yesterday morning I listed my 5 points for how the Browns could beat the Dolphins. I guess this is the point where I take a look at those points and figure out how well they did or didn’t do. Such is life in the NFL. Enjoy victories for 24 hours, and then back to reality.
1. Joe Haden and company need to contain Brandon Marshall: Joe Haden accomplished this task and then some. As the primary corner in charge of covering Marshall, Haden was outstanding. Marshall, who typically goes for over 100 yards and can turn a 10 yard out route into a 65 yard touchdown was completely held in check. His end game totals, 4 receptions for 43 yards, no touchdowns. None of those 4 receptions had any type of big impact on the game and at least two came in the early stages. It’s no surprise then that the Dolphins only put up 16 points. In a related note, former Buckeye, Brian Hartline, had a great game yesterday, 4 receptions for 87 yards, one of which was highlight caliber.
2. The Browns have to pressure Chad Henne: This Browns defense is good, and I mean they’re damn good. Did they pressure Henne? You bet you ass they did. The Browns sacked Henne 5 times and had him running for his life a lot of the day. The pressure helped lead to an interception and also kept Henne off-balance all day. Combine that with Joe Haden’s coverage on Marshall and Henne had virtually no options. Yes, Colt McCoy led the march down the field late, but the Browns defense gets credit for this win. They kept the Browns in it until the very end. Side note: The Browns a #2 in the league in sacks so far this season. When was the last time we could say that?
3. Balance the offensive attack: This is where things start to get tricky. I said the Browns needed to have a balanced attack on offense, much in the same way they did against the Colts. That didn’t happen yesterday. McCoy ende up throwing the ball 39 times. That’s way too many and probably explains why the offense stalled and looked lifeless at times. The Browns don’t have the personnel to be throwing the ball 40 times per game. But, and this is a J-Lo sized butt here… Peyton Hillis wasn’t able to play yesterday. With Montario Hardesty getting the start, there was no chance anyone knew what to expect from the running game. The result, 19 rushes total as a team. However, Hardesty looked great. He finished the day with 67 yards on 14 carries (4.8 per carry). If nothing else, Hardesty showed that he is a legit NFL running back and deserves a larger role in the offense moving forward. What that means for Peyton Hillis, we’ll have to wait and see.
4. Take advantage of turnovers: The Browns didn’t fo much in way of turnovers yesterday afternoon. They forced a fumble on Reggie Bush late in the first quarter, but were unable to get anything out of it. That was it until the final Miami possession when Henne was intercepted to ice the game. I guess this one becomes a moot point.
5. Score early and often: This was a failure of epic proportions. Once again, the Browns were held scoreless in the first quarter. For the season they’ve still yet to score in the first quarter and they’ve also failed to rack up 100 yards of total offense in the first quarter. Like I said on Sunday, if the Browns want any type of sustained success they need to figure out a way to score in the first quarter. They can’t keep falling behind. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Overall, despite the offensive issues early, yesterday was a great day to be a Browns fan. The Browns now have some serious momentum heading into next week’s matchup at home against the Titans. Hopefully, it’ll be a day where we see more sight like this…