A win feels good, but OBR's fan commentator Joe Browlee makes sure the imperfections from last Sunday's 23-20 win over Cincinnati are addressed.
For the first time this season, the Browns were able to make a fourth quarter lead stand up. The Browns got plays in all phases of the game that contributed to the victory. While winning cures a lot of ills, this game was far from perfect.
Here are some random thoughts about what I saw:
Seneca Wallace once again played a solid game. His touchdown throw to Evan Moore was right on the money. Wallace used his feet to extend plays, something I thought we would see more in the previous weeks. Of concern are two out routes that could easily have been intercepted and run back, much like in the Kansas City game. Wallace has to work on that going forward.
The defense did pretty well. They did a solid job against the run. In fact, two plays on the final Cincinnati possession actually make the numbers look a little better than they really were. Once again, despite four sacks, the Brows struggled to generate pressure. That led to blitzing and the Bengals figured that out, consistently throwing to the vacated spot. As a result, DBs were out on an island a lot of times with unpleasant results. Yes, the Browns won, but giving up 400-plus yards is not a recipe for consistent success.
Peyton Hillis not only was the every-down back, he was pretty much the only back. His tough, physical style will make him a favorite in Cleveland. The rushing numbers were not great for Hillis, especially in terms of average, until the final drive. But with 4:41 left, the Browns were able to hand the ball to Hillis and run out the clock while seeing his rushing total finish with more than 100 yards.
On the other hand, what does it say about Jerome Harrison's status when his only action was on special teams and in the victory formation at the end of the game? Harrison not only did not get a touch, he did not even see action on offense at all until the game was decided. While Hillis was great, I thought hitting the Bengals with some quick outside runs might have helped in the second half.
So not only can Eric Wright be toasted, but Sheldon Brown got singed as well. Mike Adams also had some bad plays, especially on third down. The blitzes are aggressive, and I like that, but they are also killing this secondary that is young and not so deep. In particular, the Browns were doing things like blitzing Wright and running Abe Elam up to cover a receiver. While it did not burn the Browns horribly, opposing teams are going to notice this tendency.
If Chansi Stuckey can step up his game like we saw today, it will really help the offense. He had nice footwork on a sideline catch and had good run after the catch. On the other hand, another tendency we've seen is for Stuckey to not catch a ball clean, leading to an interception. He's got to work on that.
Nice game, Kenyon Coleman. Two fumble recoveries? Wow! He had a high-motor game, that's for sure.
Josh Cribbs ran three times and also caught two passes. While he had no punt return yards, it was very encouraging to see two nice kickoff returns late that helped the offense with better field position.
Special teams were critical in this game. Phil Dawson had three field goals. Reggie Hodges punted well, though some directional kicking that Dave Zastudil does so well would have helped. The coverage units were great. The capper was the blocked field goal. That play may have won the game.
It was good having Marcus Benard back, but the second of Matt Roth's two sacks saved the game on defense. Also worth noting was the play of Scott Fujita. It appears to me that he is starting to get comfortable in this scheme.
Yet another nice game by Benjamin Watson. But for the second week in a row, he got a dumb penalty, this time for jumping into the stands. Keep your head in the game, Ben.
T.J. Ward had another solid game, but he is going to be remembered for the brutal hit he laid on Jordan Shipley in the end zone. It was a bang-bang play, but given the game situation, that play cost the Browns four points, as they had stopped the Bengals on third down. The good news is that opponents will now be wary of Ward.
Once again, the offensive line with Floyd Womack at right guard and Tony Pashos at right tackle allowed to Browns to run effectively, especially when they needed some tough yards. You have to also give an assist to Lawrence Vickers. He had some really nice blocks.
One catch by Mohammed Massaquoi is not a great day. Perhaps when Jake Delhomme returns, Massaquoi will become a more important part of the offense.
OK, we won, but once again we ran just a handful of Wildcat plays. I would really have liked to see what the Browns had in mind when they trotted out Cribbs just before halftime. I suppose it could have been a decoy.
The Browns drew the same officiating crew as last week, and once again, there were some strange calls. It took until midway through the fourth quarter to get a false start penalty on Carson Palmer despite him moving throughout the afternoon. While the Browns will take the defensive holding penalty on their final drive, that seemed like a ticky-tack call. And how could the officials rule Peyton Hillis inbounds right before the two-minute warning?
Last week I bemoaned moral victories. No moral victory here, but the Browns could easily have lost this game. Once again, the passing game died in the fourth quarter. It was a gutsy call to accept the pass interference call on Chad Whats-his-name, especially the way the Bengals were hurting the secondary. Matt Roth's sack made it hold up. Then the running game took over when everyone knew what was coming. Running out the final 4:41 was impressive.
All that being said, there were still some questionable play calls, especially after the second fumble recovery. Brian Daboll and his crew needed to come up with seven points instead of settling for three in that situation. You also have to wonder if the gambling style of defense is just too much for the personnel the Browns currently have. I know it is Rob Ryan's style. Let's also remind ourselves that Ryan's defenses with other teams did not rank well statistically. Nevertheless, the Browns won the game, and that's the bottom line.
Kudos to Brad Seely for the play call on the blocked field goal.
Let's not overlook the fact that the Bengals contributed to this victory with two turnovers and some really dumb penalties. The blocked field goal was huge. Still, the Browns had to take advantage of these mistakes, and they did that.
I had said last week that I had hopes that the Browns could steal a game during this difficult stretch. The team still faces five tough games. They need to win a least one more of these. Otherwise, the calls to make coaching changes will heat up. If the Browns are going to continue to demonstrate that they are improved, it won't be easy given the opponents. But if not, Eric Magini's seat will continue to increase in temperature.
The Browns face an Atlanta Falcons team that has not lived up to expectations, but is still 3-1.
The season is short. Bark hard!