Colt McCoy was not supposed to play for the Browns this season. The plan when he was drafted in the third round was to have him sit for a season and learn.
But injuries thrust him in the lineup, and now there is no reason whatsoever for the Browns to put him back on the sideline. McCoy has brought calm and a presence to the position that was lacking, and he's beaten New Orleans and New England in consecutive games -- with a chance to hit the "New" trifecta this weekend against the New York Jets.
"I have been in that spot," the Patriots' Tom Brady said, "never as a rookie like he is. But he is obviously doing the right things out there. He is getting the ball to the right guys and making accurate throws. He did a great job."
McCoy threw for just 174 yards but completed 14 of 19 as the Browns beat New England 34-14. He made several nice throws on the run while avoiding the rush, and he also scored a touchdown on a 16-yard run.
He's now won two games as a rookie. The most wins by a Browns rookie quarterback came in 1985, when Bernie Kosar won four. McCoy also joins Ben Roethlisberger and Mark Sanchez as the only rookies to beat Bill Belichick.
McCoy's overall passer rating is 83.5, which is not as good as Seneca Wallace's 88.4. But McCoy is the future, and there seems little or no reason to go back to Wallace or Jake Delhomme other than injury.
McCoy did not expect to be given an opportunity this season. He got one, and he's seized it.
REPORT CARD vs. PATRIOTS
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Colt McCoy played the same kind of smart, patient game he's played since he took over as the starter three games ago. There is a danger, especially in win-starved Cleveland, to anoint McCoy after three games when he's thrown for a total of 529 yards (177 per game). But McCoy has brought excitement by being smart with the ball, and by being patient. No game has seemed too big for him, including New England's confusing array of coverages. There is a growing feeling the Browns have their quarterback; now it's up to McCoy to prove it.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A-plus -- The Browns rolled up a season-high 220 yards rushing, and they steamrolled the New England defense in doing so. The offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, and Peyton Hillis had 29 punishing carries. Hillis' 184 yards were all earned, especially the last 60. New England knew the Browns would try to run to run out the clock, the Browns did it anyway, and Hillis carried six times for 60 yards on a 60-yard touchdown drive. It doesn't get a lot better.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes -- one on a tipped ball -- and had moments with 224 yards passing. But the Browns never let Brady have the big play, and they tackled well when the Pats did complete a pass. Whether New England's struggles were an indication of the Patriots' struggles without a true deep threat or because of the Cleveland defense is immaterial: The Browns held the top-scoring team in the league to 14 points.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- New England is not a great running team, but its running game became less relevant after the Browns jumped out to a 10-0 lead. The Patriots ran 18 times and instead relied on Brady, who threw 38 times. It's not tough to stop an average running game when the other team is not committed to running, but that does not change the reality that the Browns contained New England and limited the Pats to 14 points.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Solid, but not great. Reggie Hodges' punting was acceptable, Phil Dawson made two field goals, the return game was OK and the coverage good. The Browns will rarely lose a game on special teams, and sometimes will win one. Against New England, they were not beaten.
COACHING: A -- Eric Mangini and his staff have had some bad games. Sunday they had an outstanding one. The Browns were prepared and poised against one of the best teams in the league. Perhaps the best thing the Browns have done is not allow McCoy to play like a rookie. Instead of falling into the trap of calling a careful game to minimize mistakes, the coaching staff has allowed him to play without being overly aggressive. It's worked. Defensively, Rob Ryan's schemes have stopped Drew Brees and Brady in consecutive weeks. The Browns started the year dismally, but for whatever reason, things seem to be coming together, which could make for a very interesting second half of the season.