TSX: Browns' Week 13 Grades

Ugly win or not, the Cleveland's defensive earned high marks for its stout performance

The Browns have been plenty unlucky the past few years.

So when they get a break that wins a game, they will take it. Happily.

"It's about time for us to win like that," said safety Mike Adams, who benefited from a propitious bounce that saw a tipped pass land in his lap for an interception that set up Phil Dawson's game-winning field goal in a 13-10 decision over Miami.

As Adams said: "Merry Christmas."

This was not pure luck, though. The Browns were able to take advantage of Chad Henne's tendency to lock on to a receiver and his low delivery. Linebacker David Bowens knocked down three of Henne's passes, including the one that landed in Adams' hands that he returned to the 3-yard line with 54 seconds left in a 10-10 tie.

The play was a fitting end to a game that had 16 punts and very few real positive plays. To say Cleveland won ugly might not do the phrase justice. But the defense played well, and the Browns gratefully accepted the win in the final minute.

Given the way the Browns have lost some games over the years, they'll take good fortune when it's in a win.

 

REPORT CARD vs. DOLPHINS

PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Jake Delhomme's rating of 97.3 shows how little value there is in a single-game passer rating. Delhomme completed 24 of 34 passes for 217 yards and a TD, but he almost had a disastrous, game-losing interception on the Browns' last possession. Delhomme led the Browns on some good second-half drives, but Cleveland scored just 13 points, and on the last two drives, the Browns gained 9 and 13 yards, five on penalties. This was hardly effective offense at a time when the Browns needed a drive to win a game.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- As Peyton Hills goes, so goes the Browns offense, and in Miami, Hillis did not go too far. The Dolphins held him to 3.1 yards per carry, and 3.1 yards per reception -- an odd symmetry that clearly limited Hillis' effectiveness. The Dolphins sold out to stop the run, so the Browns turned to the short-passing game. Problem was, when the Browns really needed Hillis, they could not rely on him. On their last two drives, the Browns ran Hillis twice for 8 yards. In a typical game, that is the time when Hillis is most needed and is most effective.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- Chad Henne, who leads the league in fourth-quarter interceptions, always helps the cause. But credit the Browns for taking advantage. The Browns intercepted Henne three times and limited him to 5.4 yards per attempt. The Dolphins were without Brandon Marshall and eventually lost Brian Hartline, but the Browns still stifled Miami's passing attack, with rookie corner Joe Haden leading the way.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus -- The Dolphins ran for 114 yards, more than twice what the Browns gained. But the runs did little, as Miami scored just 10 points. With Henne struggling, Miami tried to rely on the run by using the Wildcat formation more often. It did little good and made little difference, as the Browns limited Miami to 3.2 yards per carry and 4-for-14 success on third-down conversions.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- It's a given that the Browns will not give up a long kickoff or punt return. Cleveland's coverage units are among the best in the league. Shaun Rogers' blocked field goal proved huge as the game went on, and Phil Dawson was able to accept a gift and convert a 23-yard field goal on the final play. Reggie Hodges rounded out a special day for the special teamers with a 43.3-yard net on his nine punts.

COACHING: B-minus -- But for the grace of the football gods, Eric Mangini would be hearing a lot of day-after criticism. The offense sputtered, but the defense saved the day. The Browns didn't exactly play a great game, but they did play hard and compete, which is a good sign for a team that started the game 4-7. With trips to Buffalo and Cincinnati coming up, the Browns are looking at a legitimate chance to get to .500. Given the way the Browns started the past two seasons, that would be a major accomplishment.


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