Derry: Not in a Long Time

Their last back-to-back wins were only four years ago, but the Browns next steps harken farther back, writes OBR columnist Frank Derry. As the Browns return to Cleveland to prep for the Seahawks, their future looks unlike anything seen in the expansion era...

More often than not when one writes a column about something that hasn't happened for a long time, it'll start out something like this: "The last time so and so did this or that, the price of bread was 25 cents a loaf; gas cost 79.9 cents a gallon; Bob Barker had black hair; Art Modell could walk the streets of Cleveland without a bodyguard; and LeBron `King' James was still just a prince."

When you can say any or all of the above, it indeed has been a long time.

In that regard, the length of time since the Browns last won back-to-back games prior to Sunday's 27-20 victory over St. Louis doesn't seem all that long. Heck, it was "only" four years since the Browns beat Pittsburgh and Oakland on back-to-back Sundays.

When that happened on Oct. 5 and 12 of 2003, the price of bread and gas was already outrageous; the original Mr. Price Is Right was already gray; Modell was already Public Enemy No. 1 in Cleveland; and King James had already assumed the royal position on his throne.

Forty eight months seems like a blink of the eye compared to the 43 years since the last time the Browns won the NFL Championship, which was also the last time the city of Cleveland had a major professional title of any kind.

But for diehard fans, many of whom congregated in St. Louis on Sunday for the annual Browns Backers convention, it's been way too long. These fanatics are tired of all the losing that has happened since the team returned in 1999. To them, 1,476 days is way too long to go without seeing your team do you proud two weeks in a row.

That's why, even though the two teams the Browns have beaten – the Dolphins and Rams -- go into November with a grand total of ZERO victories and 16 losses, no one should discount the fact the Browns have indeed won two straight. In this league, it doesn't matter who you beat or how you beat them. The bottom line, which is the only line that counts, is your win-loss record.

Head coach Romeo Crennel's team is now 4-3, just one game behind the Steelers in the AFC North. The Browns are just a missed Phil Dawson field goal against the Raiders from being tied with the Steelers at 5-2.

The Browns have now equaled their victory total from a year ago. They have nine games to go and most of those are against beatable teams. Their last six opponents of the season were all sub-.500 going into Sunday's action, a combined 13-26. To the surprise of many, including this columnist, the Browns do indeed find themselves in position to make a serious run at the playoffs.

This year's team, despite having a very suspect defense that ranked 32nd in the league going into the Rams game, has captured the attention of most everyone who follows the NFL.

In past years, the Browns would have lost a game like Sunday's against the host Rams. When they'd fall behind 14-0 on the road, as they did in the first quarter to the Steven Jackson-led Rams, it would be pretty much pack the bags and head on home.

But this year's version of the Browns isn't like past teams. The much-maligned defense rose to the occasion several times on Sunday, thanks in part to the fact Jackson, truly a great running back, was forced out late in the first quarter out due to a back injury.

 His absence was critical on an unsuccessful fourth-and-one play run by the Rams early in the second quarter . Then, with the game very much on the line late in the fourth quarter, the defense once again came up with a great effort and stopped the Rams on another critical fourth-and-one play inside the Browns' 20. And when the Rams were making one last-ditch attempt to pull out a win, cornerback Leigh Bodden stepped up and made a great interception to seal the victory.

The offense, meanwhile, made sure it did its part.

Derek Anderson, who has rapidly developed into one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, had zero turnovers and he proved he has definitely learned how to use his talented wide receivers.

When Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr. smell pay-dirt, they have the ability to make incredible catches even when tightly guarded. Edwards had two more touchdowns against the Rams, giving him nine for the season. Winslow also caught a laser over the middle for his third touchdown of the year.

Brian Brennan and Dave Logan were both great possession receivers for the Browns in the 1980s, but Joe Jurevicius is right up there with them in clutch situations. He made at least two on Sunday that kept drives going.

Next Sunday, the Browns will look to win their third straight game against the visiting Seattle Seahawks. That hasn't happened since early in the 2001 season. Again, it's not ancient history by any means, but six years is indeed a long time to wait.

Crennel's job this week will be to keep his team focused on the Seahawks, who are 4-3 and will be coming off a bye week. It would be easy to look ahead to the following Sunday's critical game at Pittsburgh, but if that happens, the second clash of the season between the Browns and Steelers could wind up being a lot less interesting.

The Seahawks are very capable of coming in and knocking off a disinterested Browns team. If Crennel and his staff can keep that from happening, then Nov. 11 could prove to be the biggest game for the Browns since Bill Belichick said Bernie Kosar had diminishing skills.

That, my friends, was just a little more than 14 years ago. Things have not been the same since.


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