Passan: Don't Fall For It!

Is this the team your mother warned you about? The one that would make you feel, at times, like your walking on air just to bring you crashing down? Rich Passan thinks it might be...

Falling into traps can be dangerous to one's emotional health.

That's why the Browns' impressive 21-13 victory over the Detroit Lions Saturday should be taken with one massive grain of salt.

Of course, the Browns looked good. Damn good, for the most part.

The running game was better. So were the passing game, run defense (except when Jeff Garcia took off), tackling and attention to detail. It even appeared as though some of the newcomers to the defense got a handle on the 3-4. They seemed to be in the right place at the right time much more this week. Relatively few assignments were blown.

Ben Taylor, except for one small error on pass coverage, had a solid game, and Orlando Ruff once again did nothing to hurt his chances for crashing the starting lineup. Andra Davis had better watch out.

Josh Cribbs looked as if he had been returning kickoffs all his life and virtually assured himself a spot on the roster. Fellow rookie Brandon Rideau, the gangly gazelle who is all arms and legs, made two clutch grabs of Charlie Frye passes on the winning TD drive. Ethan Kelley did not look out of place at nose tackle.

Safety Michael Jameson hit the trifecta in the second half – forced a fumble, picked off a pass and turned a purloined lateral into the final touchdown as the defense forced five Detroit turnovers.

Holy mackerel, was this the same team that looked so awful the week before against the New York Giants?

Before you go overboard, however, check your frame of reference. The Browns couldn't look any worse than they did the week before when they looked like an expansion team against the Giants.

Judging from the overwhelming positive fan reaction, one would think that maybe, just maybe, this team isn't as bad as a lot of people thought just last week. Doesn't take much to turn on the positive nature in fans.

Browns fans are so frustrated with the loser label pinned to their team since their return in 1999, they'll latch onto any piece of positive they can. An epidemic of tunnelvision breaks out.

Shoving reality out of the way and creating a false image in the mind seems to be a trap into which a lot of fans on this Web site have fallen.

Fact of the matter is – and this might prove a bitter pill to swallow for the zealots who actually believe what they saw against the Lions will be the norm – the Browns still have a long way to go.

As good as they were, there remain several vital areas that stand in their way of becoming even mediocre.

For example: Where was the Browns' pass rush against the Lions? They had better put one together in a hurry.

The first three quarterbacks they face in the regular season – Carson Palmer, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning – will need towels to wipe up the drool when the thought of facing the Browns meanders into their minds.

With receivers like Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Javon Walker, Bubba Franks, Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Brandon Stokley frothing at the mouth when thinking about facing the Browns' secondary, how can anyone be so sanguine about this team?

And how about the never-ending rash of penalties? Holding, false starts, illegal formations. Offensive tackle L.J. Shelton better start paying attention. Maybe Dennis Green was right about him in Arizona.

When is this penalty nonsense going to stop? Disciplined teams – winning teams – minimize the number of penalties.

There are still many questions that need to be answered before Romeo Crennel chooses the 53 men with whom he's going to war this season.

Can Reuben Droughns run in this offense like he did with the Denver offense last season? The jury's out on that one, but the early returns look good after the Lions game.

Can Frye, who played with a calm and poise beyond his years, supplant Doug Johnson as the No. 2 quarterback? Is the coaching staff secure enough to trust Frye as Trent Dilfer's backup?

How long will it take Braylon Edwards to jump from the fourth team to the starting lineup? He has to start whether he deserves it or not. He wasn't drafted to sit on the bench.

It's time for Crennel to elevate him to starting status and get him hooked up with Dilfer. The sooner, the better. These two need to work together to be effective.

Sure, it's easy to feel good about what you saw Saturday. But to keep it in perspective, keep telling yourself these games don't count. Remind yourself the first three games of the regular season are against Cincinnati, Green Bay and Indianapolis.

Then take into consideration that a lot of players you saw against the Lions will be looking for work in a couple of weeks.

Believe if you want that the Browns will be a surprise this season based on the Lions game. In doing so, you're setting yourself up for a big fall and that can be dangerous to your emotional health.

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