OK, OK, will the real Cleveland Browns please stand up?
Time to stop playing with the fans' emotions and declare which team are you. Your Jekyll/Hyde routine is beginning to catch the attention of more than just a few people.
Are you the plodding, seemingly non-caring, we-think-we'll-show-up-and-go
Or are you the juggernaut that piled up 51 points against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday in a game that left many of your fans slack-jawed in total astonishment? The same fans who witnessed your yawner in the opener had to be dumbfounded at your performance on offense against the Bengals.
The first week of the season, you play the game of football as if you're in an introductory class to the sport and push many in your anxious fan base to the brink of jumping off a bandwagon. Several fans on this Web site said they in fact hopped off. For the time being.
Then you go out and blow the Bengals into next week. And some of those fans who vacated the bandwagon are at least beginning to reconsider their decision.
Can't figure you guys out. You are making it very difficult to get a handle on what to expect from you. It's difficult to believe that even you know what you are capable of doing from week to week.
Your act is turning your fans into a bunch of manic depressives. How else can one explain the morose lows after the season-opening loss to the Steelers and giddy highs after the crushingly awesome display of offense in the startling upset of the Bengals?
You guys have your fans wondering what you are capable of doing in any given week. They surely had to wonder "where in the world did that come from?" after you dismantled the Bengals' defense. Fans around Browns Nation had to be blinking their eyes in disbelief as you flogged the Cincinnati defense for more points than a Browns team has scored in nearly 20 years.
Your bipolar football act is interesting to some, amusing to others and baffling to the majority. But Sunday's performance did manage to answer a few questions circling above.
Yes . . . the Browns traded the right quarterback to the Seattle Seahawks last week. Not a scintilla of doubt. There is no way on this mortal coil that Charlie Frye would have been able to beautifully imitate Sammy Baugh and Otto Graham as Derek Anderson did with his nearly flawless performance against Cincinnati. Sort of makes you wonder how Anderson lost the starting job to Frye in the first place.
Yes . . . the offensive line really can play a strong game even though the unit has been together for only two games. Anderson's uniform was spotless at the end of the game and Jamal Lewis saw more holes to run through than he did in Baltimore all last season.
No . . . Lewis hasn't lost it. Not after running for more yards than any Brown in more than 30 years. Wonder what they're thinking in Baltimore now.
No . . . the Browns' defense cannot stop anyone. They proved that against Pittsburgh and reinforced the notion against the Bengals. At the same time, you can't ignore the three turnovers they created against Cincinnati.
Yes . . . Romeo Crennel has wrenched himself free, at least temporarily, from the clutches of those who wish to see him in an unemployment line. His team was finally emotionally ready to play a game. But he can also thank Rob Chudzinski for the effort the offense put forth.
No . . . this is not necessarily a sign of things to come. It's far too early to draw a bead on the club's immediate future. Not with four very good defenses dead ahead in the next month, some of them playing the dreaded cover 2, a defense that has handcuffed the Browns in the past. Check back after those four games are played.
Yes . . . the Browns are finally beginning to maximize the receiving talents of Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr. Chudzinski appears to have seen the wisdom of playing Winslow as much at wide receiver as at tight end. That'll make opposing defenses think twice about stacking the box.
But the Bengals victory begs other questions.
Why can't the Browns' offense look like this all the time? If it can play this well for one game, what's to prevent it from playing on the same plane again? It's all a matter of execution. If nothing else, the offense proved it's capable of such feats.
What happened to the improved defense we've heard so much about? Carson Palmer picked apart the Browns' secondary as if it was standing still. Wasn't that supposed to be the strength of the defense? And the pass rush once again failed to materialize. Think that might have been the reason the secondary was strafed so badly? If there isn't come concern here, there should be. Ditto with the papier-mache defensive line.
How much longer will Anderson's play keep rookie Brady Quinn tethered to the bench? That depends on how much longer Anderson keeps this up. How well he plays against Oakland this Sunday will offer the best answer to this query.
If the Browns can play with this level of passion against the Bengals, especially on offense, why can't they do it week in and week out? It's only a 16-week season. Is that asking too much?
So while basking in the glow of the Cincinnati victory makes it easier to look forward to the Oakland game, be forewarned: Be careful what you expect from this team. What you get might not be as pleasant as you hoped. Cautious optimism is required. Why? Because at any time, Steelers redux can show up.
Then again, it might be exactly as you hoped. With this team, it is extremely difficult to tell.