The Browns lead at the half 14-10 in a battle between two evenly matched teams. The strength of the Browns offensive line has been the difference, giving Derek Anderson time to find open receivers in the red zone. Anderson has hit Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards for touchdowns, while the Texans have managed a field goal and one touchdown pass.
That Browns offensive line as the key differentiation between the two teams has been made more evident by an inconsistent performance by Derek Anderson in the first half. Anderson has made some excellent passes when given time, but has also been spotting in missing some open receivers and throwing a key interception.
Superb pass protection against an excellent Texans front four has allowed the Browns to take advantage of weaknesses in the Texans secondary, however, although Rob Chudzinski seemed unenthusiastic about going downfield early in the game.
This contest could go either way as neither team is clearly dominant in either phase of the game. The Browns and Texans are fairly close in terms of their competitiveness, with the Browns offensive line doing a good job of dulling the primary strength of the Texans. Turnovers and special teams could determine the outcome. I am worried about the Browns defensive line tiring in the second half as they have only one backup lineman (Louis Leonard) remaining after Simon Fraser left with an injury. Ethan Kelley was inactive due to a knee injury.
FIRST HALF ANALYSIS
Rob Chudzinski's play-calling to start the game seemed a bit odd, and very conservative. The Texans are strong up-front, particularly in the defensive line, and have a battered secondary, so the Browns have focused on the short pass and running the ball?
Sure, the Browns need to make the Texans recognize the run, but the Browns failed to go downfield at all in their first two drives and paid for it by handing the Texans the ball back twice in short order. Without stretching the field, the Browns couldn't effectively run.
The Texans were more aggressive to start. Schaub was the first to stretch the field, and it paid off with a 7-0 Texans lead in the first quarter.
The Texans, overall, mixed up the run and pass to great effect during the first quarter. Leigh Bodden seemed to have problems in coverage, and the Browns were fortunate that Schaub overthrew Owen Daniel on their second drive. Daniel had gotten behind coverage and would have been open for a TD if Schaub had hit him.
After the Texans score, the Browns decided to go downfield, finally. Anderson seemed locked on Edwards, but with good results most of the time. It's clear that the Texans were rolling coverage over to Edwards, which left Joe Jurevicius open for a 25-yarder and later freed up Jamal Lewis for a powerful run around the right side. Edwards found a hole in the zone and the Browns tied the score at seven. One Chudzinski and Anderson started going downfield, things turned around.
After the Browns score, Grantham stopped blitzing and just rushed three. The net result was that Schaub had time, but good coverage by Brandon McDonald knocking the ball away from Andre Johnson and Brodney Pool, nailing Owen Daniels to knock a pass free, stopped their drive.
Both teams were hurt by poor kicking. A Texans punt gave the Browns the ball in Texans territory in the first, and a poor kickoff by Phil Dawson gave the Texans a short field in the second (which turned into a Kris Brown field goal).
I didn't think Darnell Dinkins would be with the Browns this year after bringing back several returns with special teams penalties. He did it again today. This might explain why the Browns constantly rotate TEs through the practice squad.
DE Simon Fraser left the game with an injury to his right knee, hit return questionable. That leaves the Browns with only four defensive linemen (R. Smith, S. Smith, Roye, Leonard). Yikes.
As reported on the live feed, Browns inactives today were CB Eric Wright, CB Ricardo Colclough, RB Jerome Harrison, OL Isaac Sowells, C Greg Eslinger, DL Ethan Kelley, WR Travis "Why am I here?" Wilson, and Ken Dorsey (third QB). Shaun Smith started at NT. Daven Holly started at LCB for Eric Wright.
FROM THE PRESS BOX
A sign that the Browns are getting more successful... national writers have descended on Cleveland to figure out what's happened here. ESPN's John Clayton is among the writers who have suddenly discovered Cleveland after a decade or so, and he's here today. If they keep winning, there will be more of it.
Here in the press box, they have TVs scattered around, and I'm unfortunate enough to be seated by one that has the CBS pre-game show. The sound isn't on, so that's a help. At one point, I saw a graphic that said "Should Vince Young become a pocket passer?". LOL... yeah, that's why the Titans drafted him. Anyhow, apparently Emmitt Smith called RAC "Romeo Cornell" at some point. I not only don't watch those shows, I actively loathe them to the point where I would like to see everyone involved beaten savagely with croquet mallets. This is an unusual reaction for me, since I'm such a mellow guy, but those network pre-game shows bring it out of me.