Passan: A Defining Moment

Rich saw something on Sunday that he feels is long overdue, and it didn't happen on the field. Here's Rich's latest Rant...

It was a defining moment in a game that answered yet another question for the Browns' offense.

No, it wasn't Braylon Edwards going Dwayne Rudd with a thoughtless and selfish act born out of raw emotion in the fourth quarter of their victory Sunday in St. Louis, somewhat soiling another great performance.

And no, it wasn't the laser by Derek Anderson that sliced through the air like a missile and slapped into Kellen Winslow Jr.'s hands for the touchdown that gave the Browns a lead they never relinquished late in the first half.

No, it was when that jolly rotund man who wears the title "Head Coach" turned his back to the field late in the first quarter and showed us another side of his personality, one that many people didn't think existed.

Yes, that was normally calm, even-tempered Romeo Crennel who had reached his wit's end with his defense, the men who play on the side of the ball he knows the best.

Only this time, he wasn't so jolly, engaging his defense in a conversation that was explicitly one-way. Livid is not a descriptive enough adjective to portray Crennel's feelings at the time. The invective that undoubtedly flowed spoke volumes.

Up and down the bench he went, spewing who knows how many expletives in the faces of the miscreants, who played defense in a most offensive way in the first two series against the Rams.

The much-maligned (and deservedly so) defense had taken right up where it left off before the bye. An anemic Rams offense fired two shots at the feeble Cleveland defense, which played as though it was comprised of holograms, and scored bull's-eyes. Ten minutes into the game, the Rams had a 14-0 lead, scoring with consummate ease. The defense hemorrhaged points. Crennel applied the tourniquet.

Whatever he said worked. It was an attention-getter.

After his outburst, the Rams manufactured only six more points in seven possessions and got no closer to the Cleveland goal line than the 16-yard line. Two crucial fourth-and-inches stops, one in each half, put a defensive exclamation point on the afternoon.

Maybe it was because Rams running back Steven Jackson missed the last three quarters with back spasms. Then again, maybe it was because the Rams' injury-riddled offensive line was reduced to spare parts. Or maybe it was Crennel's stern lecture that readjusted the defense's focus.

The one thing Crennel feared coming out of the bye was a letdown and the defense let him down early on. Time to haul out the gasket and blow it.

When fans and critics of the Browns look back on the 2007 season, this might be considered a seminal moment, one that finally woke up a defense that has slumbered way too long; one that has underachieved far too often this season.

It has become clear now that the defense needs a swift kick every now and then. And it's significant that Crennel, not coordinator Todd Grantham, administered this rebuke.

One question: What took him so long? This dressing down should have taken place after the second game of the season against Cincinnati.

In any case, it's nice to see the defense has a pulse and responded the way it did.

Now if it can somehow match the game-in, game-out intensity with which the offense plays, maybe we have something very special here. Which brings us to the answer to that other question.

Yes, the Browns have definitely proven they can come from behind because they own an offense that spits in the face of adversity. Prime example, the opening drive of the second half.

It took 12 plays to go 80 yards, but Anderson and his men weathered three false starts (where was the concentration?) and converted three third-and-longs before Anderson, playing flawlessly once again, connected with Edwards for the tie-breaking touchdown.

In the past, that drive would have bogged down and ended in a Dave Zastudil punt. But this offense has a quiet confidence, a silent swagger that translates into success. It is dangerous no matter where it is on the field.

There are three levels of confidence in sports. I hope I can; I think I can; I know I can. Anderson and his offense have reached that third level. This offense is capable of striking at any time. No lead is safe against the Browns.

No longer will a 14-0 first-quarter deficit elicit, "Here we go again." After years of being bailed out by the defense, the offense now bails out its brethren on the other side of the ball. No longer will it need to rely on the defense to keep a game close.

Despite the concentration problems, this offense is becoming something special. And Anderson is the main reason. Because of the creative play calling of Rob Chudzinski, who stumbled slightly and dialed up the conservative pages of his playbook down the stretch against the Rams, the offense does not require any outside help from Crennel. It hasn't since game two.

It might not be as potent as New England and Indianapolis, but it has certainly caught the attention of the professional football world. The Browns are no longer a joke in National Football League circles.

The offense is not broken and does not need to be repaired. The defense is and does. Crennel applied a temporary Band-Aid. Let's see how long it remains temporary.

We'll get a much better read on the Browns in the next three weeks against Seattle, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. It'll be most interesting to see how they play in Pittsburgh, given what took place against the Steelers in the season opener.

This Sunday, it'll be Charlie Frye and the Seattle Seahawks. And if the Seahawks try to get an edge on the Cleveland offense by gleaning some insight through Frye, they'll be barking up the wrong brain.

It's the Cleveland defense they should concentrate on. Crennel has seen to that. Let's see how much of a residual effect his butt-kicking has on the defense and its quest to become as aggressive as its brethren on offense.

The Seahawks game is a good place to start.


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