Mark Leonard: A Win to Savor

The Browns victory over the Chiefs was a terrific victory for a team that needed one, but showed how even good teams can fail if they can't rush the passer...

A near-sixty-point overtime shootout is about what should be expected when the combatants are a pair of clubs lacking a pass rush. Combined, the clubs' quarterbacks threw for seven touchdown passes.

Browns' fans got to see their kid passers grow accustomed to the type of pocket security enjoyed by the Bengals' Carson Palmer and the Chiefs' Trent Green, two who have put on clinics of what to do behind consistently reliable protection against Cleveland this year. The accuracy displayed by these Pro Bowlers against the Cleveland defense was certainly impressive, even if it came against the home team on the home turf.

So comfy became the Cleveland QBs that the game appeared, at last, to slow down for the embattled second-year Brown passer Charlie Frye, who unfortunately broke his right wrist in the fray. His replacement was similarly able to suggest his quiet time spent in  reserve was not wasted; he seemed ready to strut his stuff without anxiety.

Whereas last week had many calling out the entire organization---top to bottom---for its chronic inability to get it done, to achieve competitiveness within its own division, to regularly represent the region with passion comparable to the support it provides, the Chiefs win was cause for congratulations to all affiliated with Randy Lerner's Cleveland Browns.

There was much to like and there were many who contributed, enabled and empowered by a coaching staff which seemed to take its responsibilities seriously this week and find creative ways to employ a diversity of weapons.

There was the amazingly effective shovel pass to the obscure Jason Wright, with Cosey Coleman having pulled to spring the energetic youngster for 56 yards. There was Joe Andruzzi also out in space, escorting Joshua Cribbs around the right edge, the latter having received a direct snap on the first play after a possession change. There was Joe Jurevicius with a season-high six catches. And the area between the numbers was utilized in the passing game.

There was an important exhibition of defensive leadership and heady, physical run enforcement provided by OLB/DE Willie McGinest, who seemed to set a tone each time he encountered KC's premier runner Larry Johnson. Much of what Willie did seemed to come out of a five-man D-line alignment in what appeared to be an uncommon 5-3, at least a goodly amount of the time.

And, of course, there was the outstanding play of backup QB Derek Anderson and his remarkable fourth-quarter comeback from 14 points down, leading the now 4-8 Browns to 17 consecutive must-have points against a legitimate playoff contender who'd been forced to punt only once prior to 5:27 of quarter four---but then again in its only OT possession.

This was a total team victory. This was the type of back-and-forth, exchange of blows slugfest that melds a fandom to a cadre of performers.

This is what progress looks like, the type of performance that threatens to transform a collection of mercenaries into a memorable unit. 

This is what fans ask for, pay to have and raise their offspring to expect of pro football along the North Coast.

This is what makes customers return, able to realistically salivate in anticipation of the upcoming week's contest.

And, coincidentally, this time the wait is shortened----best to strike again before the means is forgotten---as the Browns return to the stage in Pittsburgh on Thursday, hopeful of reversing the outcome of its last inspired attempt 18 days earlier.

For a brief time, though, this was a win to savor.

When the owner Lerner, GM Phil Savage and head coach Romeo Crennel spoke last week, they seemed to be asking the followers for trust and hope. Trust in their judgments. Hope that they know what they are doing.

When asked about the possibility Anderson might be seen under center, Crennel said to not expect it unless the team were involved in a 30-point blowout, one way or the other. Yet, when Anderson was called upon, he did deliver---though surely KC did not game-plan against him, as the Steelers will be able to do now that Frye has gone down.

Perhaps this could mean young interior linemen Isaac Sowells, Fred Matua and Rob Smith are being adequately developed in time to factor helpfully by summer, along with unseen WR Travis Wilson.

What is probably not being hidden, however, is that pass-rushing 3-4 DE the defense seems to require. The Chiefs show how susceptible a ballclub is to upset without that needed pressure on even modest opposing passers. Their QB rarely missed connecting. Their RB exceeded 100 yards easily, as did two pass-catching targets. Yet KC lost today.

Perhaps it was the KC defensive front that allowed the Cleveland OL to appear capable and its veteran OG tandem young and again mobile. That is a question for another day.

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