Passan: A Pulse! A Pulse!

Rich looks at where the Browns stand after playing the Ravens down to the wire...

It's time to take the Browns off life support.

Put away those defibrillator pads. No need for the heart-lung machine. Cancel that Code Blue.

The Browns have a pulse.

In fact, they have more than a pulse even though they lost Sunday to the Baltimore Ravens. They have life.

For the first time this season, the Browns played a game in which they actually showed passion, intensity, a fighting spirit, a will to win. They unearthed a personality.

Until that 52-yard dagger Matt Stover plunged into their hearts with 20 seconds left, the Browns played the kind of inspired game that a lot of fans were beginning to believe they were incapable of playing.

It was though a thunderbolt struck Berea last week and awakened an entire football team to the point where they were not only competitive, they played well enough to beat one of the good teams in the National Football League.

In fact, they should have. They played relatively mistake-free football and outplayed the Ravens for a large portion of the game. They did not mail in this effort.

It's finally looking as though coach Romeo Crennel gets it. He appears now to understand how important it is to Browns fans for his team to play well against clubs like the Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Everyone arrived at Cleveland Browns Stadium ready to play against a Baltimore team that had manhandled its first two opponents. That included a coaching staff that had produced mind-numbingly dull football on both sides of the ball in the first two games.

It's about damn time.

Sure, the Browns lost, but they won in so many other areas. Only bottom-line zealots don't see the breakthrough the club made.

Two schools of thought here.

A loss is a loss no matter how it's achieved. It still goes into the column on the right in the standings and is forever irretrievable.

Then again, it might be a loss in the technical sense, but with this team, it's more like a moral victory. Normally, I'm not into moral victories, but this one left me with more than a glimmer of hope. It left me with the sense that this team can play decent football.

The Browns showed it with the amazing accuracy of quarterback Charlie Frye, who somehow survived a five-sack first half, strafed the Baltimore secondary for more than 200 yards and helped construct a 14-3 lead. He had to be that good because the Ravens' eight-men-in the box defense rendered the Cleveland running game helpless.

They showed it with Kellen Winslow Jr. becoming, almost ironically, the club's best option on third down. He wanted the coaches to open up and that's what they did.

The loquacious one, however, had better learn to keep his big mouth shut on the field. Officials will yank a yellow hanky every time he opens his mouth at an opponent or tries to show him up.

The coaches have to take Winslow aside and strongly suggest he's hurting the team with his childish yapping. He's got to learn to play the game in a more modest way. The NFL will not tolerate taunting.

They showed it by daring to move the ball vertically on offense, keeping Jamal Lewis relatively in check on defense, tackling well and not beating themselves.

The surprise of the afternoon was the defense. Inspired perhaps by the return of linebacker Willie McGinest, it played as though it wore black and purple, making the Ravens earn every yard.

The soft Cleveland middle of the first two games was a memory, a bad dream. Jamal Lewis and his buddies looked kind a lot like the futile Browns on the ground in the season's first three weeks.

The final stats sheet shows that the Cleveland pass rush sacked Baltimore quarterback Steve McNair just twice. What it doesn't show is a high number of hurries, forcing McNair to throw off target and well before he wanted. It also doesn't show the massive welts McNair surely sustained immediately after releasing the ball.

And if Sean Jones does not drop an easy interception at the Baltimore 35 late in the third quarter with nothing between him and the end zone but green, the Browns are looking at a 21-3 lead instead of the Ravens completing a long drive to make it 14-9.

If, if, if.

If Braylon Edwards establishes better position on Chris McAlister in the end zone late in the game, we would be talking about a victory instead of a loss.

If the Browns had played this way from the beginning of the season, they would be 1-2 today with a chance to pull even this Sunday in Oakland.

It was refreshing to see Jones knock McNair into next week and then practically into next month later with a couple of vicious fourth-quarter hits. Only problem was McNair somehow connected with Mark Clayton for critical third-down conversions on both.

It was refreshing to see the Browns play some solid pass defense with a patchwork secondary, confusing McNair most of the afternoon.

It was refreshing to see Frye carve up a Baltimore defense that had given the word penurious a whole new meaning.

If what happened Sunday is a portent of things to come, a glimpse into what might be considered a brighter future than it was just a week ago, then bring it on.

If this is the way the Browns are capable of playing and not just a one-week aberration, just another tease for the fans, then bring it on.

But to justify how they played against the Ravens, they must to go out to Oakland this Sunday and prove this was no fluke. Prove they can play an inspired brand of football again. Prove they are ready to shed an image that has been foisted upon them for too long.

Anything less than a convincing victory will not be acceptable.


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