Answering the public outcry for yet more pointless yammering about pro football on the internet, I will continue this series. You're welcome.
- Risky move right off the bat by the Browns to throw a pass on their initial punt return. Of course, it paid off in spades, as Eric Wright busts the catch 69 yards and gives the Browns the momentum early. Just as important, though, it gives opponents something to think in future weeks. It's probably not a coincidence that Cribbs' next return was one of his best of the year, 17 yards to near mid-field.
- Some historical analysis shows that the two primary indicators of NFL success for a QB are his winning percentage and completion percentage while in college. If that's the case, Colt McCoy's early success makes sense. He's accurate and even his incompletions are often savvy throws to get himself out of trouble. Daboll is doing a nice job of getting him on the run where he seems to be at his strongest.
- NFL audiopass is worth it just so you can hear inspiring NFL Films music instead of commercials. Of course, Jim Donovan and Doug Deiken are pretty solid as well.
- Scott Fujita's terrific first quarter has folks thinking that he's especially fired up to play his old team. It sure seems that way. This always bugs me, however - if you can play a great game when there's some sort of emotional investment, why can't you play at that level every week?
- I can ask this, because all of my articles are at an identical level of quality. That level happens to be "low", but at least I'm consistent and have come to expect similar consistency of others. Get it together, Fujita.
- Drew Brees with time to throw is basically the same thing was a Godzilla crossed with Chuck Norris. DruBreez the Destructor.
- Ten-zip Cleveland. As the first quarter ends, I feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if ten million football fans noticed the league scoreboard and cried out at once: "What the f***?"
- With the Saints driving as the quarter begins, Scott Fujita steps up once more and picks off Brees near the goal line. When a bad team beats a good team, it's because of things like this. This follows the Saints pulling a TD off the board because their offensive lineman couldn't resist smacking Shaun Rogers upside the head. The key plays are all in the Browns column so far.
- Yamon Figurs stumbles on a reverse, apparently tripped up by a particularly thick piece of grass. With this, he completes his membership application for the Sam Aiken Memorial Temporary Wide Reciever Club.
- The Browns defensive backs have taken some heat this year, and deservedly so, but there is absolutely no one in this league that can drop an easy interception with the mind-bending panache of the Cleveland Browns.
- With the Browns trapped deep in their own territory at the two, Brian Daboll dials up between the tackles runs rather than the commonsensical approach of having an alleged sex offender heave up a wobbling sad little duck of a pass way downfield. That's why Bruce Arians gets the big bucks and Brian Daboll has lost all of his hair.
- With 9:53 left in the second quarter, Scott Fujita breaks up a pass downfield. That youngster could amount to something someday.
- If you had read our reports last Spring from the Senior Bowl and other pre-draft showcases, Saints TE Jimmy Graham's solid performance today would not have come as much of a surprise. He was rapidly improving throughout the Spring.
- As the clock clicks down to 6 minutes left in the half, the Browns remain in the lead, and the Saints tend to be making key mistakes, but the time of possession is very solidly in their favor 16:56 to 7:19. Despite what the scoreboard says, that's very worrisome as we look to the second half.
- Now working on my screenplay, titled Brad Seely: Supergenius. Some very surprising unused entries from the Browns special teams playbook have gotten pulled out and have worked. Reggie Hodges runs 68 yards on a fake punt. Amazing.
- David Bowens proves that it's critical that errant passes be thrown to our linebackers rather than defensive backs. He pulls down a pick, and rambles 30 yards for a touchdown! The first half has been everything but what everyone expected. Browns are now leading 20-3 with less than two minutes left in the first half.
- And now Bowens gets a sack, as another aging linebacker evades the ravages of time. I'm not sure where the Fountain of Youth is supposed to be, but it's probably in Louisiana. The score is not only surprising, but the way we've gotten here borders on unbelievable.
- The Saints end the half by continuing to self-destruct. Brees heaves up a long prayer that is picked off by Sheldon Brown to close the half. Brees not exactly looking like a Hall of Fame quarterback today.
- Drew Brees starts looking like the Drew Bees of 2009 during the Saints first drive, as he starts finding a groove with Marquis Colston. But Carl Nix gets called for holding and unsportsmanlike conduct, costing his team 25 yards on one play. There is some top-flight self-destruction from the home team today.
- The ticker shows the Bills beating the Ravens 24-20 at halftime, just two hours after I read an article from Baltimore about how the Ravens were taking the Bills very seriously. Perhaps they should have looked past them like everyone else.
- There is 8:35 left in the third quarter and the Superdome is very, very quiet. Colt McCoy now has a very peaceful environment in which to operate, other than the occasional cascading waves of "boo"s.
- There's a long time out after a member of the officiating crew is flattened by Courtney Roby. The man holding the first down marker was hit very hard and banged his head as he hit the ground. Not something you want to see. What a violent game. Robert Reilly might have stumbled onto something in a piece he did last week where he briefly mentioned the barbaric nature of the NFL. It's something that was bothering me a lot last week... will future generations look back on pro football as a primative extension of gladiatorial combat or feeding prisoners to lions? The answer to that is "of course". It probably says something about us as a society that someone really, really smart could put into context.
Meanwhile, the official is put into a cart and he is strapped down. The TV shows a very disturbing image where it almost looks like he bleeding from his eyes. I'm not going to forget that for a while.
- Passer ratings at this juncture: Colt McCoy 72.6, Drew Brees 41.2. Wow.
- The Bengals appear to be losing to the Falcons, as they hoped to turn their season around after the bye. A loss would put them at 2-4, and put Marvin Lewis in a very precarious position.
- The third quarter ends with no scoring (as the Browns like it), but with the usual weirdness as the Saints are unable to get a field goal attempt off, and the Browns are unable to get a challenge to be accepted. And then the Saints challenge the spot of the ball. They win the challenge, and will now go for a fourth down. And I have a burgeoning headache.
- My headache gets worse as the Saints convert the fourth down, and then get stuffed twice on the subsequent series. But on third and goal Brees goes into the gun and Rob Ryan offers up a very strange defensive alignment with no down lineman. He rushes just Roth and Benard, and Brees can leisurely kick back and wait for someone to come open. The inevitable result: touchdown Saints, and the crowd wakes back up.
- Chansi Stuckey doesn't get a lot of love, but he makes a key third-down reception with the Browns trying to hold on to a ten point lead and 12 minutes remaining. He makes a pretty one-handed grab and scrambles for yards after being tripped up. If the Browns had dangerous receivers at the top of the depth chart, Stuckey stats would look a lot better.
- A nine-yard run by Peyton Hillis after Stuckey's catch shows exactly how special he is. The Browns had both tight ends in tight, and Saints had six guys on the line and two more linebackers in tight. Everyone knew what the Browns were going to do, and the Saints had a hand on Hillis one yard deep. The Browns RB shrugs off the initial contact and rambles close to a first down. Wonderful.
- Browns direct snap to Hillis who then throws to Colt McCoy, gaining 12 to create a first down. The Browns have not only plumbed the depths of their playbook, but the obscure plays have worked. First down Browns with 8 minute left. Clutch.
- After gaining only 31 yards in the first three quarters, Hillis has run for over 40 in this key fourth quarter drive.
- David Bowens with the chronologically longest interception return in NFL history puts it away. Dree Brees has a day he would rather forget, with four interceptions, two of which resulted in Browns touchdowns. His 60.4 QB rating at this point is not only lower than Colt McCoy's, it's 58 points lower than the rifle-armed Peyton Hillis.
- People used to think that winning the Super Bowl was the greatest achievement in the NFL. Not any more. Now it just means nine months later, the Cleveland Browns are going to kick your ass.
- Gatorade baths for Ryan and Seely as the game comes to a close. Do Mangini and Daboll feel envy or relief that they didn't get drenched? Either way, they have to feel good about this one. We all do! BROWNS 30, SAINTS 17. FINAL!