Let’s first say the Browns victory over the Saints was a great win. The type of game the Browns of the last decade would have lost. Tom Brady driving for the winning touchdown. A goofy call by the refs at the wrong time. Jerome Bettis breaking free on third down for a big gain. Those are the things that usually happen to the Browns during crunch time. But not this time.
Let’s first talk about why the Browns won. The most over riding thing is the depth of the team. This team won missing some big guns on offense, no Josh Gordon, no Ben Tate, no Cameron Jordon. Yet rookies like Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West, along with veterans like Mike Austin, really stepped up. As I said last week, it is amazing how talented this team is with all the changes in the front office the last five years. The next reason they won was for the second game in a row they were able to run the ball. Credit the above named running backs as well as the offensive line. When you run the ball it opens all phases of the offense. The third reason they won was the defense. For most of the game they dominated, highlighted by Tayshaun Gipson’s 62-yard interception for a touchdown. And, finally, let’s give credit when credit is due, Brian Hoyer did some nice things, especially during the final drive.
Not to take away from the celebration of a big one, but the Browns almost lost a game they could have won very easily. They couldn’t put the Saints away in the first half, allowing a touchdown right before intermission that put the Saints back in the game. An uncharacteristic missed extra point haunted the team, allowing the Saints to take a one-point lead in the second half. And, most importantly for the second game in a row, the Browns had no downfield passing attack. Part of that is not having a home run weapon like Josh Gordon in the line up, part of that is not having a quarterback with a big arm. This is going to start haunting this team very soon. I love Brian Hoyer and the things he can do, and he showed a lot of those skills yesterday, but you can’t win championships in the NFL without attacking the whole field and the Browns just can’t do that with their current quarterbacks.
Speaking of quarterbacks, it was a good thing to play Johnny Manziel just enough to worry defensive coordinators. You can bet this week during practice the Ravens will spend time on defending against the things Manziel does well, scrambling out of the pocket and passing on the run, as well as running some sort of spread option. This will take time away from working against the things the Browns offense does well when Brian Hoyer is in there, like the no huddle offense, the short play action passing game, and, of course, the running game.
The most promising thing about the game to me, for the second week in a row, is the Browns were not out talented. Even with the guys the Browns were missing on offense, the Saints, who are everyone’s pick to make the playoffs, did not have more talent on the field. Jimmy Graham was the best player in the game, but after that the talent was at least equal, maybe even leaning to the Browns.
Let’s get another home win against the Ravens, get to the bye week, and get everyone healthy. Who knows where the season could take us then?
The media, especially the television and radio stations, love to go to the Muny Lot before games to showcase all the tailgating going on. I am often surprised how little attention all the tailgaters attract on the West Side of the stadium, especially down in the Flats. In the Muny Lot you are out in the open, exposed to the elements, and not close to any bars and restaurants. In the Flats on the west side you have bridges and trees for cover if the weather goes bad, close to some great places like the Flat Iron and the joints up In the Warehouse District if the weather really gets unbearable, and you have your choice of walking to the game or take the Lakefront rapid line, which drops you off either at the west end of the stadium or by the Rock Hall.
The first home game of the year we always spend with the Becka Brothers and friends in one of the lots between the Flat Iron Café and the Settlers Landing train station. Our tailgate featured barbeque steak and chicken, corn on the cob, and home mad jambalaya. It was a tasty bill of fare with a lot of great people and old and new friends. The weather was terrific, and it was a great way to start out what turned out to be a fantastic day.
Food was the theme at the tailgates that surrounded ours, as fans cooked treats like alligator, lobster tails, deep fried turkeys, and every type of sausage and bratwurst imaginable. And lets just say there were a variety of complimentary cocktails too.
Let us hope there are more Sundays to come like we had for the first home game.
One final note…Like many sports fans, I catch bits and pieces of the many shows that are on ESPN, whether it is SportsCenter or Mike and Mike in the Morning. All I heard last week is everyone on the network criticizing the NFL in how it has handled the Ray Rice situation and other incidences involving domestic violence.
No one at ESPN has the right to say anything about something as serious as domestic violence as long as they employ Ray Lewis. If there is something worse than domestic violence it could be street violence, especially when it leads to murder. We all know the story, in 20XX during Super Bowl week in Atlanta Lewis was involved in the murder of two young men from Akron. He was arrested and plea-bargained, with the help of NFL lawyers, to a charge of obstructing the investigation. He later settled out of court with the family of the victims to avoid a civil suite. When you plea bargain that means you were guilty of something, and you don’t settle out of court for millions of dollars to avoid a civil suite when you are innocent.
Ray Lewis should never have been allowed back in the NFL, and he should not be working for ESPN. And until that changes, ESPN has no credibility to comment on the Ray Rice situation, or any other domestic violence incidences that involves athletes or former athletes.