The Browns lost a game but won a lot of admirers Sunday.
Cleveland overcame a terrible second half to force overtime, then suffered as the Jets completed a 37-yard pass-and-run that sent New York to an overtime win and sent the Browns to 3-6. But nobody in the New York locker room was dismissing Cleveland.
"I don't want to do this game over," Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
"That is a good team over there," defensive lineman Trevor Pryce said.
Even Braylon Edwards, who had said he could not wait to get out of Cleveland, praised his former team.
"I like what they are doing," Edwards said. "I definitely think they're a team on the rise."
A year ago at this time, the Browns had one win, and that was a miserably played 6-3 decision in Buffalo. This season, they have beaten New Orleans and New England and come within 16 seconds of tying the Jets.
The key for Cleveland is to sustain what it has built, as a loss in Jacksonville on Sunday would make for an ugly 3-7 record. It will not be easy coming off such a difficult defeat, but the Browns at last have revived some hope in their beleaguered franchise.
REPORT CARD vs. JETS
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- It's hard to find much to criticize about Colt McCoy's game, though the Browns did struggle to move the ball in the second half. McCoy, though, matched Mark Sanchez throughout the game even though he's a year and many starts less experienced. Sanchez had more yards, but he's also working with three wideouts who are all probably better than the McCoy's. Too, the Browns near-refusal to look to the wide receivers limits McCoy's options. It sure seems as if the Browns have a keeper in their third-round draft pick.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Peyton Hillis had 47 yards in the first quarter and 60 in the first half. He finished with 22 the rest of the game as the Jets loaded up and beat the Browns back. Once New York did that, it illustrated a problem with the Browns offense: Without Hillis, the team's approach and wide receivers are not good enough to win. The Browns came close, but other teams now will start to take away Hillis at all costs and force the passing game to win. The running game will present the young quarterback his next challenge.
PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Browns were hurt when Sheldon Brown went out early. That put nickel back Joe Haden outside and forced the Browns to use guys like Ray Ventrone in key coverage spots. Then on the key play of the game, the Browns curiously gave Santonio Holmes cushion to not only catch the ball but break away with the game-winning touchdown. The Jets made no secret they were merely trying to get 10 yards on the play, but the Browns played off as if the situation were third-and-17. Decisions and plays like that cost teams games.
RUSH DEFENSE: D -- The Jets ran for 172 yards. That would be enough said, except that the Jets also held the ball for 47:08 compared to the Browns' 27:36 time of possession. The reality was the Jets beat up the Browns pretty good, especially in the second half. If not for the foibles of their field-goal kicker, the Jets could have won this game easily. It's to the Browns' credit that they hung in, but hanging in should not mask the problems the Browns faced.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus -- Its a shame that Chansi Stuckey took away the chance for Phil Dawson to win the game in overtime. The injury to Josh Cribbs could have hurt the Browns' return games, but Joe Haden did a nice job. Dawson made his field goals, and Reggie Hodges punted well. But the Browns were hurt on the last punt by a good return, which set up the Jets' touchdown. That return was not a breakdown as much as the result of the Browns having to protect as the Jets went after Hodges in the end zone.
COACHING: B-plus -- The Browns played hard and well, and a week after beating a team with the best record in the league took another team with a top record to overtime. A fumble cost them a chance to win, and a last-second pass cost them the game. The only argument that could be made with the Browns' approach came on their last possession, starting at their own 2 with 1:35 left in overtime. The Browns didn't seem to play consistently, passing, then running, then letting the play clock run down and then passing again. It was admirable to play for the win, but the Browns were not consistent in their approach. One play it looked as if they were playing to win, then it looked as if they were running out the clock. Bottom line: The Jets made a play at the end, but it does not take away from the effort or the fact that the Browns have shown great improvement.