Kentucky Reign

The Doc takes a look back at the Titans, a look ahead at the Steelers and the always chuckle-worthy Bungles. Catch Doc's thoughts as he revs himself up for this weekend's titanic contest.

EDITOR'S NOTE: It's Pittsburgh Week. Anyone involved with Cleveland Browns football at any level or stage of life knows what that means. Everything else in the universe takes a backseat (where it better shaddup) for those precious three hours Sunday. With a chance to drive a stake through the heart of the Steelers' playoff hopes, all bets are off. Send the wife to the mall, take the phone off the hook, lock the kids in their rooms and tell Gramps those chest pains can wait. It's Pittsburgh Week. Butch, unleash hell.

 

FORT GRATIOT, Mich. – Kelly who?


Tim Couch took a step towards immortality in the annals of Cleveland Browns football history Sunday by rallying his team not only from a 14-point deficit for the second year in a row at Tennessee, but for doing so while under the heavy spotlight of public scrutiny.


Couch not only slammed the door on fishhead critics, he sealed up the doorframe with brick and mortar. Clearly, this team belongs to Timothy Scott Couch. His courage, sweat and blood were the price.


How he plays this Sunday at Pittsburgh could cement his place as one of the team's great quarterbacks.

The Browns, thanks to scheduling quirks, have the opportunity to forge a 3-game lead in the AFC North by beating the Steelers. If they can pull off the upset, it would take another monumental collapse for the Browns not to win the division.


The Judas-goat degenerates who thought coach Butch Davis wrong for benching backup Kelly were shamefaced this week. They'll meekly seek room on the bandwagon. Swine! Ye of little faith, back off. Couch closed the door on critics. Will he open it for opportunity?


His wide receivers, if they continue their stellar play for a fourth consecutive week, will give the Kentucky product every chance. The Steelers have been exposed as a weak pass defense team. Everyone knows what's coming when the Browns have the ball. Can they stop it?


A victory on the strength of Couch's battered arm will elevate him into the national spotlight.


Dangers lurk. Pittsburgh's defense is not without talent. Linebackers Joey Porter and Kendrell Bell are the real deal. And you can bet your filthy Arn City Beer they'll be slobbering and salivating for the chance to embarrass the Browns.


If the Steelers tumble again, they're done. The Browns' scheduled lightens a bit with home games against the Ravens and Texans in a span of three weeks. It's almost too good to think about, so let's get back to bragging about the quarterback.


Couch is making a habit of rallying his team in very tough situations. Last year, he pulled out victories over Jacksonville, San Diego and Tennessee in the waning moments of those games. As a rookie, the Browns' only two victories came courtesy of Couch, when he hit Kevin Johnson on a Hail Mary at New Orleans and when he lead the team into field goal range at Pittsburgh.


Although the season situation was not nearly as critical, Couch's effort Sunday was very reminiscent of perhaps the greatest rally in team history – the 23-20 double-overtime playoff victory against the New York Jets in 1986. That was a win-or-go-home game, and the Browns trailed by 10 with about four minutest left. Bernie Kosar rallied the team to tie before a Mark Moseley straight-on style field goal won the game and turned old Municipal Stadium into a madhouse.


Other rallies come to mind … Vinny Testaverde at Los Angeles in 1993, when he pitched the ball to Eric Metcalf for the winning score … Mike Pagel's overtime fake field goal pass to Van Waiters against the Vikings in 1989 …Don Strock against Houston in the 1988 season finale with a Wild Card berth on the line … Mike Tomczak tossing a scoring pass to Scott Galbraith as timed expired at New England in 1992 (Huh? Where'd that one come from?).


All this history talk has me thinking. After three weeks of the 2002 season, veteran Browns watchers are quickly beginning to see shades of a different era of team history.


Uh, oh. The light's hit me. For better or worse, the 2002 Cleveland Browns are the Kardiac Kids, V. 2.0.

 

Strap your helmet on (and leave it on!), and grab a six-pack because this promises to be a wild ride.

 

See you in San Diego.

 

GUS WATCH: Capping off an excellent and most satisfying weekend of football was the ESPN matchup of the Atlanta Falcons and the Gus Frerotte-led Cincinnati Bengals. Truly Must-See TV. I'd hoped to make this spot a weekly roundup of Gusicle's Gaffes, but he was benched after starting the game by going 0-7 passing with an interception. The almost-equally goofy Jon Kitna took over, and finished with a pedestrian 136 yards on 18-of-36 passing. Of course, he was also intercepted in the 30-3 defeat. I can't recall who said it, or wrote it, but in the preseason someone said the Browns were not even the best team in Ohio. Nice, dude. The national media doesn't see this team enough to know it will suck on a biblical scale until Mike Brown takes his last, skinflint breathe (which is hopefully a long, long time from now …). And we're not done yet: Akili Smith gets the start Sunday. Too much, too much! Suck away, guys!

 

THOUGHTS OF THE WEEK: Am I wrong, or does Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher look like a used car salesman, especially with his "cool" sunglasses? Perhaps his sexy specs are rose colored … C'mon, you know you weren't surprised Randy Moss tried to run over a meter maid. … So when does the bubble burst for the false gods known as the Chargers and Panthers? Soon, daddio, soon. Any team relying upon a bloated Rodney Peete is a time bomb. … Are they still playing baseball? I hadn't noticed. Or cared. … Don't rent "Blade II." It sucked. … Best thing about Kurt Warner's imitation of Paul MacDonald? No more television time for that awful wife and her freakish hairdo. "Mrs. Warner, the Unitas family would like John's hair back now." … Media "experts" dubbed Washington's Steve Spurrier a genius of Billickian proportions the moment he came to Redskins Land. The Top Gator immediately installed his over hyped offense in Foggy Bottom with Danny Awful and Shane Mildew as his quarterbacks. What? Genius? Spurrier will be coaching Notre Dame or Michigan State in two years. … Notice how all CBS' quick cuts to Kelly Holcomb disappeared in the second half Sunday? I miss the days of being able to tune out of the Cro-Magnon television commentators and cranking up Nev Chandler and Doug Dieken on the radio. Good old Nev would have had a ball with this team. I can almost hear his unique voice on the radio now … "Couch fires deep down the right side … he's got a man open … KEVIN JOHNSON HAS IT AT THE 6-YARD LINE … TOUCHDOWN BROWNS!"

 

Here's my report card:


COACHING: B

They let Couch throw. They showed faith in Fumblin' Willie. They didn't castrate Diamond Dennis Northcutt. Patience and trust. Called a ballsy reverse onsides kick. Won two challenges when most needed. ‘Nuff said.


QUARTERBACK: A-

Only the boneheaded second-quarter attempt to force a pass to a double-covered Kevin Johnson lowered this grade, and then only slightly. Under siege behind a sagging offensive line all day, Couch stood in there like a man and took a pounding yet never wavered. Any doubts about his ailing right arm were erased with a career-high 50 pass attempts and 36 completions. In three drives running the 2-minute offense, the Kentucky Wonder connected on 18 passes in 22 attempts, including a trio of touchdowns, for nearly 200 yards. More than enough to get me my first victory in my other Yahoo fantasy football league, and that's really all that matters, right?

RUNNING BACKS: D+

Things ain't so hot down in Dogpatch. Ol' Willie G. can't seem to hang onto the dang ball. Team's got too much invested in him to not play him. Yet Jamel White shows a burst every game. White did it again in crunch-time Sunday. Something has to be done. I certainly don't have the answers. It's far too early to call Green a bust. Every NFL veteran says they eventually reached a point that first season where the light finally went on. They played instead of thinking. Willie is thinking. And it's still pretty dark in William Green's world. When the switch is flipped, people will forget those fumbles. If only the fans could show the patience of Davis and Co. Besides, this team doesn't need to run the ball Pittsburgh style. The Bus runs that offense because the team is terrified to put the game into the hands of Kordud Stewart (Dude, you're getting a KorDell!).


WIDE RECEIVERS: A

Remember when we all complained the Browns were silly for taking wide receivers with their No. 2 pick in the last four college drafts? Perhaps we'd best shut our pie holes now. Three out of four ain't bad. Kevin Johnson, Andre Davis, Quincy Morgan (and Dennis Northcutt!) have put on a helluva show. The Stillers can't be too thrilled at the thought of this Wild Bunch riding into town Sunday. They all seem to be on the same page as Couch, and that's made all the difference in the world. Couch has the weapons, they've got their quarterback. Bruce Arians, take this Porsche out of the garage Sunday.


OFFENSIVE LINE: C-

A difficult unit to grade. The team is biding its time until center Dave Wohlabaugh and right tackle Ryan Tucker are healthy. In the meantime, the team's done a nice job with its protection scheme to mask the deficiencies that the subs don't yet have the experience to make up for. If Tucker and Wohly can't go Sunday, it will take a max effort to keep Couch alive because the Steelers will be coming. Against Tennessee, it's difficult to know if the holes were adequate for the running backs because the friggin' ball was on the ground every other play. Heinz Field will be a better scorecard for progress. On the upside, the subs are getting invaluable playing time.


DEFENSIVE LINE: B

Any time you limit Eddie George to under 60 yards rushing, it's a victory. Even hobbled, George is dangerous and has made a feast of the Browns in the past. Not Sunday. He did score, but that came after a turnover on a short field. No sacks, but the line did pressure Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair into high throws. If the pressure is there, that's all that counts.


LINEBACKERS: B

See above. Tennessee was held to 187 total yards. Ya gotta like that. There will be a bigger (and far more annoying) load to handle next week with Jerome Bettis. Earl Holmes should feast on his former teammate and prove Cleveland made the right decision by signing him away from Pittsburgh. Dwayne Rudd thought he had a fumble recovery Sunday, but when George was ruled down, he managed to stay cool and kept his brain bucket on his head.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: B

The Titans' wide receivers just didn't want to catch the ball in the first half. Even when erratic McNair's passes were on target, the wideouts seemed more concerned as to where the Browns' corners and safeties were. McNair completed just 15-of-23 passes for 107 yards. Robert Griffith is not-so-quietly amassing another Pro Bowl season. He hits somethin' fierce, I tell ya. Smart, too. Thane Gash ain't got nothin' on him! Hell, after watching the Buckeyes' corners look mystified and stupid against the Bearcats, anything would be an improvement on Sunday.


SPECIAL TEAMS: B

Mr. Automatic had his streak of 21 consecutive field goals made come to a screeching halt with a wide-right effort Sunday. Phil Dawson should be P-O'd at the coaching staff for asking him to try it. The team just didn't seem to have the emotion or momentum at that moment. There are Greater Forces at work on NFL Sundays, and it's silly for the team to challenge them. Case in point: the onsides kick. That was a tidbit from the  Football Gods, who finally quit chuckling over Rudd's Dud in Week No. 1. Northcutt muffed a punt that the Titans recovered inside the 10 inside the fourth quarter, and the gaffe nearly cost the Browns the game. Yikes. Davis could clearly be seen saying something to receivers coach Terry Robiskie seconds after the mistake. Northcutt is hard to stay mad at because he had the long punt return in the third quarter to get Cleveland back in the game, giving them the spark to pull the game out. The run also seemed to demoralize a Tennessee team that knew it wasn't playing well. Of course, you read in this spot last week he was going to "bust one soon." Score one for the Doc. This week, it's Andre Davis' turn.

 

Doc Gonzo is a former Ohio newspaper reporter and editor that lived for several years in that Xanadu known as Pittsburgh while an elementary school pupil, where he learned such vernacular oddities as "gumband" and "worsh." He now lives in Michigan's remote, mysterious and exotic Thumb, where he is safe from fools, knaves, Ratbirds and indecipherable Western Pennsylvania pidgin-English. He can be reached at docgonzo19@aol.com.


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