Derry: Performance Delayed

OBR colunist Frank Derry is delighted with today's performance by the Browns, but one little thing is bothering him. It's bothering him a lot, actually, and it's in today's post-game instant analysis...

Who'd have thunk it!

Fire (oops, accept the resignation of) the offensive coordinator and suddenly the offense looks like a well-oiled machine.

Change coordinators and suddenly the offensive line, despite missing two key components, looks like it has played together for years.

And give the fans something to cheer about and suddenly those who either slept through or departed early from most of the previous games at Cleveland Browns Stadium become a key factor.

Happy days are here again!

The Browns, fresh off Sunday's thrilling 20-13 victory over the New York Jets, look like a totally different team now that offensive line coach Jeff Davidson has replaced Maurice Carthon as the offensive coordinator.

But there's one thing that bothers me. I mean it really, really bothers me. A lot. A whole lot. A whole heck of a lot.

Why, I ask, didn't we see this same enthusiasm, this same fire, this same resolution from the players, in particular the offensive linemen, with Carthon at the controls?

These are professional athletes we are dealing with. These are guys who, no matter who is coaching them and no matter what their record, should go out and give everything they have on every play of every game.

As place-kicker Phil Dawson told me earlier in the week, "When you sign your name on the contract, it doesn't say you will do your job as long as things are going well. It says you get 16 chances to go out and represent the Cleveland Browns and it is your job to go out and do that."

So, why weren't all of the Browns players doing that during the first six games of the season when Carthon was calling the plays? They might say they were, but there actions say otherwise.

Why did it take the firing (oops, accepting the resignation) of Carthon to get the offensive line motivated? I hate to think it. I hate even more to say it. But one has to wonder if subconsciously they wanted to get the unpopular Carthon fired?

When you dislike your boss as much as the offensive linemen apparently disliked Carthon, maybe you don't always give it your all. Maybe you want to give it your all, but you lack the motivation to do so.

All week long in the locker room, the offensive linemen talked about the renewed enthusiasm which came from having their buddy, the highly-popular Davidson, take over as the play-caller. And the fact they were indeed fired up was obvious against the Jets. But, as I said, that bothers me. A lot. A whole heck of a lot.

Making the line's performance even more impressive was the fact that most of the success was accomplished without veteran right tackle Ryan Tucker, who is out indefinitely with an undisclosed illness, and veteran guard Joe Andruzzi, who left early in the second quarter on the meat wagon with what looked to be a serious knee injury.

From what I could tell, the plays Davidson called were pretty much the same ones Carthon called. The difference was the crispness of the blocks, which in turn allowed Reuben Droughns to have an excellent first half. I also though there better utilization of the talented core of receivers.

Droughns, who had 69 yards before intermission, finished with 125 yards and one touchdown on 33 carries.

So how good was the offense compared to previous games this year. As we pointed out last week, the Browns ran positive plays 43.5 percent of the time under Carthon.

Against the Jets, the Browns ran positive plays on 20 of 28 snaps in the first half (71.4) and 12 of 33 (30.3) in the second half. In the second half they were 10 good and five bad on their first two drives. But after those two drives, they switched from being an aggressive offense to one that was playing not to lose. On their final five drives, they ran two positive plays and 16 negative ones.

That meant, for the game they had a success rate of 52.5 percent and hat's why the Browns scored 20 points after coming into the game with a league-low 14.6 scoring average.

Somewhat overlooked because of the extra attention paid the offense was the outstanding effort of the Browns' defense which, after the Jets' first drive, pretty much controlled the action all day.

Leigh Bodden's return at cornerback was a key factor, especially with veteran cornerback Gary Baxter sidelined for the year with knee injuries. Bodden played an excellent game as did fellow cornerback Devon Holley, who continues to impress, and safety Sean Jones, who picked off a couple of errant Chad Pennington passes and had a key tipped pass late in the game.

About the only thing that disappointed me Sunday was the special teams performance. Josh Cribbs' problems as a punt return man continued. For the past two Sundays, Cribbs has replaced injured Dennis Northcutt (ribs) in that role and both weeks he had serious problems.

He muffed a punt against the Broncos and then nearly did the same against the Jets. If Northcutt isn't healthy for next Sunday's game against the Chargers, head coach Romeo Crennel had better have someone else available to do the job. Sean Jones is a possibility.

It was also disappointing to see the kickoff coverage team give up a 99-yard touchdown return just when it appeard the Browns had the game under control at 20-3.

That return seemed to ignite the Jets' defense, which came out on the next series and sacked Frye two times. And it also sent the Browns' offense into mothballs, which was not appreciated by the fans, who had been extremely supportive throughout the day.

But all's well that ends well and, for the first time this year, things ended well at home for the Browns.

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