Derry: Curb Your Enthusiasm?

Beyond the win, the Browns still have a lot of work to do...

Romeo Crennel finds himself between the proverbial rock and a hard spot right now.

The first-year head coach certainly is enjoying the fact his Browns are exciting their fans with their somewhat surprising 2-2 start. But he also realizes that the fans, as well as the media, need to curb their enthusiasm when it comes to talking about the possibility of making the team making the playoffs.

The Browns, even after their 20-10 victory over the visiting Chicago Bears Sunday afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium, still have a long ways to go before they can consider themselves among the NFL's elite.

They have the makings of a solid team, but there are still several ingredients missing.

But Crennel cannot come out and tell fans to cool their jets. He can't tell them to get real.

He can't tell them to let him and his players enjoy the "honeymoon" period that usually comes when a coach takes over a lousy team.

He can, however, let the media know.

When asked prior to the Chicago game whether he was concerned about the Browns taking the 1-2 Bears lightly, Crennel let out a lengthy chuckle, then admonished the inquisitor and said his team has no right to take anyone lightly.

In other words, Crennel is saying this team is still a long, long way from being a Super Bowl contender. He knows it. The players undoubtedly know it. Hopefully the front office decision-makers know it.

The performance on Sunday against the Bears definitely showed some flaws despite the victory.

A good team would have found a way to stop Bears running attack Thomas Jones, thus force rookie Kyle Orton to throw the ball. But Jones, taking advantage of numerous trap plays, ran roughshod to the tune of 137 yards on 24 carries (5.7 average) until a knee injury forced him out of the game midway through the fourth quarter.

Once Orton was forced to start throwing, he proved vulnerable, coughing up a fumble in the final minutes to set up the Browns' game-sealing touchdown.

A real good team would not have put itself in position to rely upon an injury to an opponent to spark the victory.

Browns quarterback Trent Dilfer, who threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Antonio Bryant, admitted, "It was ugly out there. I'll be the first to admit it. Two plays are all we made the whole day."

Dilfer had a horrible first half, tossing two interceptions. Midway through the second half the fans started booing the offense. But all was forgiven thanks to the two late scores, the first of which was Dilfer's 100th career touchdown pass.

Against the Bears, that was enough. But no one will ever rank Chicago among the elite.

Linebacker Andra Davis tried to paint a positive picture when he said, "We won and that is all that matters."

But even he admitted similar efforts like that which was put forth on Sunday probably won't be good enough against a more potent opponent. "We still have a lot of work to do, especially against the run," he said.

Davis knows that a running back with a lot more potential than Jones waits next week when the Browns visit the Baltimore Ravens. Jamal Lewis, who tore apart the Browns in 2003, is off to a slow start for the Ravens this year, but the potential is still there.

"We will enjoy this win tonight and come in tomorrow (Monday) and work hard because we have Jamal Lewis and the Ravens next week," he said.

The Browns are right now in what has to be considered a very weak part of their schedule. After the Ravens, the Browns host the Detroit Lions, a team that struggles on the road; then visits Houston, which already fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer a few weeks ago; and then entertains an average Tennessee team.

All four of those games are winnable. Of course, they are also losable.

At this point, the latter probably is no longer an option for the fans, many of whom filled the post-game talk shows Sunday afternoon with chatter about making the playoffs.

Which is all well and good, providing the fans don't lose sight of the bigger picture. As mentioned numerous times before, this season isn't about winning and losing, it is about growing together as a team; about finding what the current players can do and what holes will need to be filled before next year.

One guy who seems to be having a whole lot of trouble in the 3-4 defense is nose tackle Jason Fisk, who is listed at 6-3, 300 pounds in the media guide, but actually looks and plays a lot smaller.

Crennel had hoped to use the bye week as a way of correcting some of the flaws that showed up during the first three weeks of the season.

But rather than taking a step forward, the defense appeared to take a giant step back. It appeared the Bears discovered the Browns were vulnerable to the trap play and took advantage. And in a copy-cat league, you'd better believe the Ravens, Lions, Texans and Titans, as well as everyone else remaining on the Browns' schedule, took note of what transpired.

And unless they show they can stop the run, Crennel and his Browns won't have to worry about telling the fans to curb their enthusiasm. The performance on the field will do the talking.

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