Sometimes the presence of a player can help a team. So it was with the Browns with Willie McGinest on the field for the defense against Baltimore.
McGinest missed the Cincinnati game with a calf muscle injury and was questioned about it after he appeared as probably on the injury report. He wasn't happy about the questions, and played the entire game after being questionable all week.
He played extremely well.
McGinest anchored the run defense, and provided a huge spark in the pass rush. On consecutive plays early, he got pressure on Steve McNair. Once he got a sack, the second time he got a hit.
Those plays seemed to ignite the defense, which played its best game of the short season by far - holding the Ravens to one touchdown and three field goals and putting some serious pressure on Steve McNair.
The Browns lost, but McGinest provided the Browns a lift they needed. Even with a sore calf muscle, he was the best player on the defense.
BROWNS REPORT CARD
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Because of Charlie Frye's intestinal fortitude. The Browns pass protection was not good Sunday, but Frye hung tougher than most could have expected. Frye found his playmakers - Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards - for more than 200 yards, and did it when the Browns had almost a complete absence of a running game. Having a quarterback sacked seven times is never good, but Frye's ability to withstand the onslaught was more than impressive.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D-minus -- The Browns struggled to run the ball, gaining just 38 yards on 19 carries. But it was not unexpected. Reuben Droughns missed the game with a sore shoulder, and the Browns were facing a tenacious defense. The lack of success was not good, but it was not unexpected.
PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- The defense put good pressure on Steve McNair, with Willie McGinest providing a major spark with his play and Kamerion Wimbley providing good pressure at the other linebacker spot. But when the Browns needed a stop to win the game, they couldn't get one. The Ravens somehow managed to dink and dunk their way down the field and kicked a 52-yard field goal to win.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Jamal Lewis gained a very quiet 86 yards. The Browns made a slight adjustment with their defensive linemen, moving the ends inside the offensive tackles. That allowed the ends and nose tackle Ted Washington to tie up blockers and clog up running lanes. That led to the defense's first decent against the run this season.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Nothing special, nothing terrible. Dave Zastudil continues to be stellar in his kicking - he averaged 44.8 yards on his kicks. Joshua Cribbs was solid in kickoff returns. And Phil Dawson did not have a kickoff returned the entire day.
COACHING: B -- Somehow the coaching staff got the team ready to play when they were without four starters. The offensive plan was the most sound it has been all year, as Charlie Frye got the ball in the hands of his playmakers. Frye threw for 298 yards on a day when the offense had no running game and the defense limited the Ravens to one touchdown. The Browns did a lot right, but missed the key fact -- they lost.