It was up to the Cleveland Browns offense to go for the jugular, as the cliché goes.
It was time for the Browns to grab control of Sunday’s game and cement a road victory.
It wasn’t looking promising. The Oakland Raiders pulled to within three points in the fourth quarter and were driving looking to take the lead. The Raiders were first-and-10 at the Browns’ 33-yard line when Carson Palmer looked down the sidelines toward Juron Criner. Sheldon Brown, yes, that Sheldon Brown, leaped in front of Criner for the interception.
The Browns took over on their own 6-yard line. It was time to secure a win.
We’ve been here before this season. The Browns’ inability to close out games cost them wins against the Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens
On Sunday, the Browns finally secured a win.
After Brown’s interception, the Browns drove 94 yards in 14 plays and took 6:04 off the clock culminating in a 3-yard touchdown run by Trent Richardson. The drive, for the most part, was a thing of beauty. Richardson had five carries for 16 yards and the touchdown while Brandon Weeden was 4 of 5 passing for 63 yards. The team even converted a fourth-and-inches.
It was a game-winning drive from a team who has struggled to simply win this season. Better now than never. Twelve games have been played and there is noticeable improvement from certain areas of this team. It showed on that drive, which the Browns manufactured when they needed it the most. Now, the easy thing is to compare this late-season surge in victories to what happened in 2009.
That season, the Browns’ 1-11 start finished with four victories against bad teams. These Browns aren’t beating the league’s best, but these games are just the confidence booster a young team needs.
Heartbreaking losses have been aplenty this season going way back to the season opener in early September. Do not underestimate just how young the Browns roster was a few months ago. Twelve games later, the signs are pointing to a positive future.
The defense continues to play well, cause turnovers and keep the team in games.
The offense is showing signs of producing actual playmakers, the latest being wide receiver Josh Gordon’s big day.
Forget who the Browns are beating. Forget the margin of victory should have been larger the last two weeks. Forget the wins came against a third-string quarterback and a franchise that is worse off than the Browns.
It’s a win. Four of them, in fact, to match last year’s total. The Browns young players are improving. The team is still some pieces away, maybe even a new head coach, from being a bona fide contender. Yet you can see an actual foundation.
Capable quarterback. True No. 1 wide receiver. Dynamic, work-horse running back. Solid left tackle anchoring a decent offensive line. Good defensive line. Top-notch cornerback. And, last but not least, the league’s best place kicker.
The Browns first three wins this season were a result of the team hanging on to win. With 9:31 remaining in Sunday’s game, the Browns went to work and secured the victory. That’s a big step for a young team.