Derry: Reality Bites

The Browns should celebrate their win against the Raiders today, Frank Derry writes, but there shouldn't be anyone doing cartwheels in Berea. The long-time Browns columnist offers more of the fast and objective commentary OBR subscribers expect...

It wasn't pretty a lot of the time. And it certainly wasn't decisive.

But for a game that started so sour, this one certainly had a sweet, sweet ending

In fact, veteran wide receiver Joe Jurevicius, who caught the go-ahead touchdown in the Browns' 24-21 come-from-behind victory over the lowly Oakland Raiders, labeled it his sweetest touchdown reception in his nine-year NFL career.

"Coming home and winning my first game as a Cleveland Brown is pretty cool," added Jurevicious, who was forced to miss the past two games with a rib injury.

While this game had a happy ending and certainly made the jet ride back to Cleveland feel a lot shorter, it's hard to imagine anyone at the Browns' training facility in Berea  doing cartwheels over the way the team played.

In fact, it's safe to say that if it's consistency Browns head coach Romeo Crennel is looking for from his team, he won't be smiling today.

I'm convinced there is no team in the NFL that is as consistently inconsistent as much as his Browns.

For one quarter or one half, they'll look like a respectable unit, a team capable of playing with the best the NFL has to offer. The next 15 minutes they'll look like a bad college team. Or maybe I should say an average Division III team. Or, to put a positive spin on it, let's call them a very good high school team.

I jest, of course, even though there was nothing funny about what took place in Oakland in the first half of the game Sunday afternoon.

Playing against the team most NFL experts regard as the worst in the league, a team with little talent, one that had a first-time starter at quarterback and one that has been awash in internal controversy, the Browns found themselves on the short end of a 21-3 score late in the first half.

The Raiders were running at will, piling up staggering numbers that had them on pace for a 312-yard ground day.

But there's an old cliché that says, "Bad teams find a way to lose." And the Raiders did just that, allowing Charlie Frye and Company to put together a couple of drives that resulted in Frye throwing two scoring passes, first to Kellen Winslow Jr. and then the game-winner to Jurevicius with less than two minutes to play in the third quarter.

Then the game took on an eerie resemblance to the previous week's game against the Ravens.

First there was a great fourth-and-inches stand by the Browns that found Orpheus Roye making a critical stop to give the ball to the Browns in excellent field position. Against the Ravens, linebacker Matt Stewart had made a critical stop in a similar situation.

Then, just when it appeared the Browns were going to put the game away, Frye threw a pass that was intercepted in the end zone. It was a horrible throw, one which Frye should never have made.

Against the Ravens, his fourth quarter end zone interception was converted into a game-winning drive. Fortunately, the Raiders are not even close to being in the same league as the Ravens, thus the Browns were able to hold on for the victory.

Fans wearing rose-colored glasses will point out that the Browns' first three opponents were a combined 9-0 heading into Sunday's action. And they'll be quick to note that if not for the fourth quarter interception thrown by Frye, the Browns might very well have beaten the now 4-0 Ravens a week earlier.

But good teams find a way to win when they are playing bad teams, and the worst team in the league can find a way to lose when it is playing a not-so-good team.

From a positive standpoint, the Browns managed to protect Frye fairly well. In other words, he didn't have to do his Fran Tarkington impersonation all day. 

Defensively, after the horrendous performance against the run in the first half, the Browns settled down and played very solid ball over the final two quarters. Raiders quarterback Andrew Walter looked every bit like a first-time starter. He finished hitting just 9-of-23 for a mere 68 yards.

Amazingly, the defense came up big in the second half despite losing yet another key player, cornerback Leigh Bodden who left in the first half with what looked to be a high ankle sprain. That meant the Browns were without their top three corners – Bodden, Gary Baxter and Daylon McCutcheon – and yet Randy Moss was held to just one catch for five yards.   

Probably the main reason the Browns were able to rally for the victory was the tremendous play by the special teams. Every unit contributed in one way or another, including a couple of long kickoff returns by exciting Joshua Cribbs, who came within inches of returning one all the way.

While the Browns had plenty of reason to celebrate after this game, the reality of the matter is they will have a much tougher foe next Sunday at Carolina. Depending upon which Browns team shows up, it could be a long afternoon, or it could be the first-ever two-game winning streak in the Crennel era.

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