Greetings from Columbus. I know it's been a while since I have scribbled some scribblings from the center of our state, but failing to properly chronicle Torry Holt's mesmerizing performance in the booth last week during my first post-MLS weekend made me all the more determined to do a game diary for this week's game versus Miami. Sure, Holt would not be around to offer incomplete thoughts expressed through an inventive vocabulary, but doing a game diary would force me to watch the entire game without my mind drifting off the way Romeo Crennel's used to.
Before we get to this week's game, I suppose I should catch you up on a few things.
* I haven't had much interaction with beard-nibbling Yinzers this fall. If I didn't know any better, I would suggest that having to root for Bad-Touch Ben and Head-Huntin' Harrison has shamed them into silence. Since we both know that's not the case, I can only chalk up my Yinzer avoidance to dumb luck or an undocumented increase in animal trapping accidents.
* My Bengal fan friends have been largely absent from football talk this year. Rob the Bengals Fan sums it up thusly: "I have nothing but apathy. They are rarely on TV and they they've lost nine straight after starting 2-1. Don't get me wrong…I'm glad they got those two wins out of the way early so we didn't have to sweat out a potential 0-16 season like we've had to do in the past. Other than that, it's nothing but apathy."
* In addition to my usual Bengal Fan friends, I have also developed a friendship with a Bears fan. Before the season started, Bears Fan told me that his dream season would be for Jay Cutler to be the founding member of the 30-30 Club for QBs (30 TDs, 30 INTs), and for the Bears to start slow and fire Lovie Smith, then sneak into the playoffs at 8-8, and then win the Super Bowl. He is taking Chicago's 9-3 start pretty hard. Another interesting note about this Bears fan… as a newspaper reporter living in Arizona at the time, he worked the game after which Dennis Green had his famous "THEY WERE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!" meltdown. But he went to the Bears press conference, not the Arizona press conference. I don't know how you ever get over a missed opportunity of that magnitude. I should get him Scott Norwood's phone number.
* I have found this Browns season to be fun, fascinating, and frustrating, all at once. The team has been competitive week in and week out, Peyton Hillis has made trading up for Brady Quinn totally worth it, and Colt McCoy has been a revelation. On the down side, they have lost many winnable games. Then again, that's just honoring the last few decades of Browns tradition. These guys get it!
The fascinating thing about McCoy to me is that he seems to be the most poised of the three quarterbacks. He's adept at buying time and then making the smartest, highest-percentage play. It's been a stark contrast to what we've seen out of Jake Delhomme, who has been mentoring McCoy. In the Panthers game, the announcers said that McCoy and Delhomme ride to practice together, and that in the car, McCoy uses Delhomme as a sounding board. That was a shock to me. I just assumed it was the opposite. I imagined Jake saying, "Colt, how do you avoid pressure, fumbles, and dumb interceptions? Share your wisdom with me!"
When I told Rob the Bengals Fan about the carpooling situation, he said his first thought was that McCoy would excitedly say, "Who wants to go to practice?" and then help tie Delhomme's shoes, and then help him buckle his seat belt, etc.
As his Andersonian decision making and Quinnish QB rating attest, Delhomme has been hard to watch this year. He has thrown more touchdowns to the opposition than he has to his teammates. Last week, when Holt called Jake "Brett Favre-ish", my first thought was, "Was it the two picks? The fumble? Did he text someone a photo of his wiener?"
But since it's McCoy's turn to wear the walking boot after a high ankle sprain, I am about to subject myself to three hours of Browns football with Delhomme at the helm. Here's hoping that nice guys finish first, and that Jake rediscovers his talents in South Beach.
On to the game…
14:56: T.J. Ward loudly crushes Miami's kick returner at the 15-yard line. This is what all of LeBron's drives to the hoop should have looked and sounded like on Thursday.
11:36: After Miami picks up big yardage on a screen to Ronnie Brown, CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf says, "Man, there's nothing prettier than a well executed screen." Charlize Theron should beg to differ. If not, I will vociferously differ on her behalf.
11:02: Browns cornerback Joe Haden swats away a deep ball in the end zone. Somewhere, Austin Carr is excitedly shouting "Get that weak stuff outta here!" since the Cavaliers' newfangled Parting-of-the-Wine-Sea defense has given Carr no reason to shout it this year.
10:36: Dierdorf uses the term "bugaboo" to describe Miami's touchdown scoring struggles. Personally, I think it's just that they get the heebie-jeebies.
8:15: The Browns fail to convert on third down and therefore go three and out. Congratulations to Jake Delhomme for seeing the Browns' first drive through to a natural death.
7:46: As Reggie Hodges' punt flies through the air, we are treated to a wide shot of a Miami sports crowd. I would like to congratulate Marlins fans for turning out at almost twice their normal rate.
7:41: Hodges pins the Dolphins inside their 20. I may alter my #2 Tim Couch jersey so that it is a Hodges jersey.
7:41: On the flip side of the commercial break, the broadcast resumes with a shot of a talents-taken-to beach. Just as Greg Gumbel begins saying, "There you can see one of the many nice sights of South Florida", the shot immediately transitions to a low angle view of scantily-clad Miami Dolphin cheerleaders. Hilarious. Dan Diedorf's trousers presumably remain un-tented at the sight of leggy and buxom cheerbabes, as he prefers well-executed screen plays.
6:58: One a single play, the Browns didn't tackle Chad Henne when they should have, then tackled him when they weren't allowed to. Brilliant. A missed sack leads to a scramble and an illegal hit by Eric Barton as Henne slides. Somewhere, Pittsburgh's James Harrison is whining that he expects to be fined for Barton's hit.
3:18: Delhomme throws a deep ball on third down, which falls incomplete in a vast expanse of empty grass. Clearly, this was the result of a missed read. Delhomme went downfield after misreading the situation, which calls for all Browns receivers to run third-down routes two yards short of the first down marker.
2:35: Dierdorf with high praise for Dolphins left guard Incognito. If that's his real name. I think it would be awesome if Icognito had joined the Witness Protection Program after testifying against Tony Sporano. Of all the teams to get drafted by…
1:17: Dierdorf says, "This may be one of the only games in the NFL today where the fans are comfortable in their seats." No doubt. Fans have plenty of elbow room on either side and can stretch their legs into the empty seat in front of them. Looks cozy.
0:00: The quarter ends 0-0. Penalty kicks loom.
14:09: Ben Watson becomes the first Browns receiver to not fumble after making a third down conversion since, like….uh…somebody call Elias Sports Bureau.
12:46: Delhomme's next third down pass is swatted at the line of scrimmage. Somewhere, Austin Carr yells "Get that weak stuff outta here!" again. Don't be mad at Austin. Due to the Cavaliers' Dorn-esque ole defense, he's got a lot of pent-up catch phrases. Any release is a welcome release.
12:22: The Dolphins are discouraged that Delhomme is not throwing any interceptions, so Chad Henne underthrows a long ball that Joe Haden picks off. It's a strategic play by the Dolphins, hoping that a refresher course will make something to click in Delhomme's head.
10:53: Delhomme throws the ball away on third down, rather than trying to force a completion as he gets hit. The Dolphins strategy has gone for naught. But the intentional interception was a low-risk strategy anyway. Miami just had to wait four downs to get the ball back, instead of the hoped-for one or two.
9:44: Dierdorf notes that Miami offensive coordinator Dan Henning "has forgotten more about football than most people will ever know." It's a common saying, but one that Rob the Bengals Fan and I have always found perplexing. What good is forgotten information? Why is that a point of bragging?
Or am I misinterpreting the phrase? Does it mean that most people will never know how much about football Dan Henning has forgotten? Is it meant to imply that the extent of his knowledge loss is unfathomable? Can it be translated to mean, "Trust me, you have no fucking idea how much football knowledge Dan Henning has forgotten. There's a whole section of his playbook dedicated to 6th down. I shit you not."
8:24: Dierdorf says, "The one thing you can say about Peyton Hillis is that he's decisive." But they've already said many things about Peyton Hillis. And if that's the one thing you can say, why is it finally coming up now?
7:45: Dierdorf—"If you talk to anyone about Peyton Hillis, the same phrase, ‘He just loves football.'" I thought the one thing you could say is that he's decisive. And last week, Torry Holt spoke about Hillis' "athletixism." Dierdorf obviously didn't talk to Torry Holt. This is confusing. But who am I to judge? Dan Dierdorf has forgotten more about consistency and football announcing than I will ever know.
5:57: Reggie Hodges and the special teams unit pin Miami at the one yard line. Gumbel notes that it is Hodges' league-leading 13th time pinning an opponent inside the ten. Somewhere in the depths of my bedroom closet, the Tim Couch jersey is getting nervously excited for its refurbishment.
3:24: Abe Elam intercepts a pass after Chad Henne sails a throw like he's playing third base for the Indians. The Browns are already in field goal range, Delhomme willing.
2:29: Ben Watson with his second consecutive fumble-free third down conversion, becoming the first Browns receiver to accomplish the feat since Ozzie Newsome. Or something. I am only allowed to bug Elias Sports Bureau about soccer questions. Sorry.
1:43: Phil Dawson splits the uprights to give the Browns a formidable 3-0 lead. The clock is now Miami's enemy. The Dolphins have just 31:43 to find an equalizer.
1:28: In continuance of the NFL's insatiable unilateral persecution of Steelers headhunter James Harrison, Browns linebacker Matt Roth is flagged 15 yards for hitting Henne in the helmet.
0:14: The Dolphins have forgotten more about clock management than most people will ever know. For example, with the clock already stopped and just 14 seconds to play, the Dolphins forgot to have a play ready and had to burn their final timeout.
0:02: Dan Carpenter nails a 60-yard field goal, setting a franchise record. A low scoring half has morphed into a 3-3 shootout as we head into halftime.
* Here in Columbus, we are treated to a commercial that begins with the phrase "Get into the NFL experience at Paul Brown Stadium!" and concludes with "Good seats are still available! Be there! Call for Bengals tickets today!" The middle parts were funny too.
* The phrase "sacks him for a six yard loss" is hilarious when Shannon Sharpe says it.
* Just saw a commercial for Undercover Boss. Do you think they've already filmed the episode with Mike Holmgren?
* Forget Script Ohio. In Miami, they actually form a giant dolphin on the field. It's a prestigious honor for whoever gets to be the blowhole.
14:40: Dierdorf informs viewers of Mangini's four stages of team growth—working, competing, winning, and then winning consistently. Dierdorf laments that the Browns are still only part way "in Stage III." It's a good thing that this yearning for Stage IV didn't take place in October when everyone was wearing pink for breast cancer.
11:17: Dierdorf: "And Chad Henne is buried like a Chilean miner!" Wait, no, that's what the football announcers from the first season of South Park would have said. Dierdorf just said Henne was buried and left it at that. Oh well. On the bright side, the sack forces a Miami punt.
9:34: Ben Watson with his third catch of this drive, and I am getting caught up in the excitement. The Browns have never had a #82 like this! At least not at tight end!
8:02: A highlight montage of the Hillis Hurdle. Like I tweeted last week, would-be tacklers have to pick their poison. If you go low, Hillis hurdles right over you. If you go high, Hillis lowers his shoulder into you with malicious intent like LeBron does to his coach.
7:12: Phil Dawson, the most accurate kicker in Browns history, gives a demonstration of his pinpoint accuracy by kicking the ball squarely into the face of a skinny yellow pole from a distance of 47 yards. Most impressive. Still 3-3.
4:56: Auditioning for the Cleveland Indians, punt returner Josh Cribbs drops a lazy pop fly after calling for the catch. The fact that he was able to bend over and pick the ball back up without kicking it several feet away really impressed the Tribe's scouts. A holding penalty on the punt moves the Browns back to their six. As Gumbel glibly and gleefully notes heading into the commercial break, "Oh good! Another offensive challenge!"
2:00: Massaqoi with his second huge reception of this drive. The Browns have first and goal at the three. What is this "red zone" that the announcers speak of? Sounds important. You'd think they would have mentioned it before now.
1:16. Ben Watson catches a 3-yard TD pass from Jake Delhomme! 10-3 Browns! It is the 2nd TD pass in Delhomme's Browns career, moving him past Eric Metcalf on the Browns' all-time TD pass list. With his next TD pass, Delhomme will finally overtake Doug Pederson!
10:27: The Dolphins methodically wildcat their way down the field, and then Henne drills Anthony Fasano in the numbers for a Dolphins touchdown. Against all odds, both teams have reached double digits on the scoreboard. With over 10 minutes to go, anything is now possible. Well, almost anything. The NFL doesn't have college's stupid overtime rule, so the odds of this game ending 83-81 are slim.
9:30: As Hodges boots his 7th punt of the afternoon, Gumbel suggests that the Browns "are going to have to put Hodges' leg in a sling." Somewhere, former Browns MVP Chris Gardocki is scoffing at Hodges' light workload.
8:06: Dierdorf says that Browns rookies Joe Haden and T.J. Ward are going to be pro bowlers someday. Here's hoping they don't join the tour until after they have had long and successful All-Pro careers with the Browns.
7:11: Delhomme scrambles Kosar-style. Trying to make the tackle, two Dolphins crack each other's helmets Harrison-style.
4:32: Henne spins out of a sack and picks up two yards. The Browns' tackling problems seem to amplify when quarterbacks are involved. It seems that every opposing QB magically turns into Santonio Holmes when surrounded by orange helmets.
3:54: After escaping another sack, Henne's pass is batted down by David Bowens. If he hasn't fallen asleep in his recliner, Austin Carr surely gave a "Get that weak stuff outta here!"
3:48: The Browns defense has successfully contained the Dolphins like a tuna net. After a three and out, the Browns will get the ball back with 3:39 to play. It's time for Make or Break Jake. I am hoping for the former, but dreading the latter.
2:29: A Browns receiver catches the ball two yards short of the first down marker. For once, this happens on first down instead of third down. Massaqoi's catch gives the Browns a tantalizing 2nd and 2 as we hit the two-minute warning.
1:53: Delhomme is sacked for an 8-yard loss. When I said 2nd and 2 was "tantalizing", it was supposed to mean for the offense, not the defense.
1:44: There it was. Delhomme's gift-wrapped Pick-6 is dropped by a Dolphins defender. The Browns are playing with house money at this point. Miami should have just won the game.
0:54: Henne out-Jakes Jake! On 3rd and 9, David Bowens tips Henne's pass to Mike Adams, who returns the ball to the two yard line!
0:51: The Browns go into the victory formation despite being tied. They are going to kneel it out until just a few seconds remain.
0:04: Phil Dawson caps Delhomme's triumphant four play, minus-four yard game-winning drive by nailing a 24-yard field goal as time expires. Browns win! In this week's North Coast vs. South Beach battles, Cleveland won the game that actually mattered most to Clevelanders.
Well, that's all for now, Barry. WBNS has already decided that Bengals-Steelers will trump Browns-Bills next week. Seeing as I watched the Browns-Jags game with a bunch of degenerate Molson-swilling gamblers in downtown Toronto, I suppose it will be no trouble to watch the Browns-Bills game with other Browns fans here in Columbus. Even better, with the Steelers on broadcast TV, Yinzers will have no reason to venture out of their filthy, critter-infested hovels to befoul local eateries with their incessantly rackety nattering, thus continuing my successful avoidance of them.
On and off the field, things are looking up.
Until next time,
Steve Sirk, once Art Bietz's co-conspirator at the TruthCenter, has taken to sending occasional letters to OBR Headquarters about life as a Browns fan struggling in the NFL mixing pot of Central Ohio. At some point in life, Sirk determined that suffering through the nexus, dips, valleys, and various low points of being a Cleveland sports fan within geographic proximity of Cleveland itself did not create sufficient emotional pain. Sneeringly dismissive of even basic survival instincts, Sirk elected to reside in Columbus, Ohio, so that he could better be surrounded by fans of winning franchises who could mock his very existence. If you wish to contact an individual of such clearly questionable judgment, you may do so at email@example.com or via twitter @stevesirk. His first book, "A Massive Season: Sirk's Notebook Chronicles the 2008 Columbus Crew", is available at Amazon.com. It's about soccer, but we thought we'd be nice and mention it anyway.