Now that was what I expected to see from the 2006 Browns.
Before you assume I'm talking about winning, let me be clear that I expected the Browns to struggle this season, just not to the level of ineptitude we had seen up to this game. I expected an offense that would move the ball but still make mistakes. I expected a defense that would generally do well, but with lapses, especially when the backups are in. And through all of this, I expected the Browns to win some games. Not a majority of them, but some. This was a step forward. Let's look closer at what happened.
Just as many of this season's losses started with the offensive line, this win also started there. It looked to me like new offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson simplified a lot of the blocking schemes and used extra tight ends to help. I thought Kelly Butler did a very solid job filling in for Ryan Tucker during his mystery illness. And despite the best showing of the year by Joe Andruzzi before his injury, I thought the Browns might have been better with Lennie Friedman. I'll go as far as to say that perhaps this line is the one the team needs to stick with the rest of 2006.
Given the line's ability to push the Jets around, it allowed the Browns to run effectively, at least until it became obvious they'd run every down. The Browns also got the ball to their playmakers, especially Kellen Winslow. The line also managed to keep Frye from getting hit until he ended up in some obvious passing situations late in the game.
Charlie Frye had an OK day, especially considering the wind. His one interception was a poor decision. Frye threw into triple coverage deep, but I also think that the fact he was standing in his own end zone didn't help. It appeared to me that receivers were open underneath. Regardless, the Jets did not do anything with the good field position. Frye's touchdown throw to Kellen Winslow was a bullet through the wind, though.
After a shaky first series, the defense settled down and held the Jets to only three more points on offense. With Orpheus Roye out due to a hamstring and the Jets running a no-huddle attack to prevent substitutions, the front part of the defense largely held its own. Granted, Ethan Kelley and Nick Eason on the nose struggled some. There were far too many rushes of five or more yards. Still, Simon Fraser continues to show flashes when he gets playing time, and Alvin McKinley has raised his level of play in the last few games. The D-line could have done better at holding the point of attack at times, allowing the Jets to get good running yards many times.
The linebackers did not make as many plays as you would like to see, but they did come up with some big ones. Kamerion Wimbley played hard even on plays where he did not make an impact. He was a good part of the pass pressure the Browns got in this game. Before leaving with an injury, Willie McGinest was doing his best to be disruptive. Chaun Thompson came in for McGinest and had a big play. Andra Davis did not do that much, and D'Qwell Jackson was largely invisible.
With Gary Baxter now gone for the year, the return of Leigh Bodden was critical. Bodden looked like he had not missed any time at all. Meanwhile, castoff Daven Holly continues to improve and impress as the other starting corner. Even the much-maligned Ralph Brown made a play or two. Likewise, Sean Jones has emerged as a force on defense. He had two interceptions and nearly came up with a third. I also thought Brian Russell might have had his best game of the season, and Brodney Pool made a game saving tackle on the final play for the Jets. Given the injuries, defensive backs coach Mel Tucker has done an amazing job.
Special teams have kept the Browns in games, and even largely won the game in Oakland. The special teams have carried the Browns in several games. That's why all the special teams gaffes in this game stand out so much. One wonders if it is the apocalypse when Phil Dawson misses a 26-yard field goal, and misses it badly. With a strong wind, Dawson struggled some on his kickoffs, too. The normally reliable Josh Cribbs had his second week of Adventures in Punt Returns. Luckily, he missed the ball so badly, it worked to the advantage of the Browns. The kick coverage teams, which have been very good, gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown and a long punt return as well. The lone bright spot on special teams was more solid punting by Dave Zastudil.
Jeff Davidson had the offense looking like they wanted to play. They seemed organized, motivated, and energized. Davidson committed to the run, a wise strategy against the defense of the Jets. Given the success of the screen pass in earlier games, I expected to see one, especially at the end. I suppose with the changes on the line, it might have been wise to not go that route. I was a bit surprised the Browns went quite so conservative at the end, but I guess that was probably a reaction to how the Ravens game ended up. The Browns needed this win badly. I wonder if Romeo Crennel or Davidson made the decision to run every down.
The biggest thing Davidson did, in my opinion, was to give the players a leader they believe in. Clearly, they hated Maurice Carthon and it showed in their play.
Todd Grantham continues to do a good job with the defense, especially given all of the injuries to date. I thought Grantham did a nice job of mixing in blitzes, especially late in the game. Once again, backups are playing above the level that could reasonably expected of them.
Despite winning the game, it just appeared that Crennel wasn't all that happy. There was plenty to be upset about: the bad field goal, the kickoff return, settling for field goals rather than touchdown, and so on. I was left wondering if Crennel was almost disappointed to see the offense have so much success after the departure of his friend Carthon. It certainly doesn't bode well for Carthon to find another offensive coordinator job anytime soon.
The Browns face a huge challenge, traveling to San Diego to face the Chargers. This will be an interesting test for this young team.
The season is short. Bark hard!