Derry: Hell Freezes Over

The veteran columnist opines that you may think you saw frozen tundra today, but no....

Hell froze over Sunday afternoon.

Sure, most of you who watched the Browns beat the Bills, 8-0, thought you were witnessing a game being played on the frozen tundra of Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Guess again.

That was hell, baby.

How do I know?

I'm sure most of the players, coaches, fans, officials, grounds crew and photographers who were subjected to the blizzard-like conditions that left the field covered with several inches of snow, would vouch for the fact that this was a day fit for neither man nor bison.

But the obvious reason this was hell was because of what most everyone said before the 2007 season began.

When asked if the lowly Browns had a chance to make the playoffs this year, the near-unanimous response was, "Yeah, right, when hell freezes over."

Hell froze over Sunday afternoon.

Ok. It's not officially official that the Browns have made the playoffs. That won't happen until the Browns beat either Cincinnati or San Francisco, or Tennessee loses to either the New York Jets or Indianapolis Colts.

But for all intents and purposes, by beating the Bills, the Browns have all but guaranteed themselves a playoff berth either as a wild card team or possibly even as the AFC North Division champions. 

Right now, both the Browns and Steelers are 9-5, but rapidly-slipping Pittsburgh, which lost to Jacksonville on Sunday, holds the advantage due to their two head-to-head victories. The Steelers finish with road games at St. Louis and Baltimore.

A division title would be nice for the Browns and would clinch a home game in the first round of the playoffs. And home field certainly has been huge for the Browns, who have now won six straight in Cleveland after dropping the season-opener to the Steelers,

But the reality of the matter is that just getting to playoffs in any form this year is an incredible accomplishment for head coach Romeo Crennel's Browns, who have been the laughing stock of the NFL since last making the playoffs in 2002.

The Browns won every aspect --- offense, defense and special teams -- of Sunday's game to unofficially clinch their spot in the post-season party.

One guy in particular who looked to be enjoying the Winter Wonderland-like conditions was Browns place-kicker Phil Dawson, who split the uprights from 35 yards in the first quarter and from 49 yards in the second stanza.

Dawson's second kick was truly amazing as it flew through snowflakes and swirling wind and landed on the "Dawson" support bar that holds up the goal post.

The ball hit in almost the exact same spot on the upright as his game-tying field goal did in Baltimore to tie the Ravens game at the end of regulation time several weeks ago. That kick, which first bounced off the left upright, was incredible and led to the Browns' overtime victory.

But this one was just as dramatic, if only for the fact the blizzard-like conditions seemed to dictate there was absolutely no chance either team would even attempt to make a field goal from 49 yards, much less be successful on one.

For whatever reason, snow and cold seem to bring out the best in some players. That certainly was true in regards to running back Jamal Lewis, who carried 33 times for 163 yards and surpassed the 1,000 yard mark in the process. He was an unstoppable force throughout the game, thanks not only to his own effort but also the fine blocking of the offensive line.

Wide receiver Braylon Edwards had a great first half, making several catches that he at times has a hard time holding onto in perfect weather. Joe Jurevicius, who grew up in Northeast Ohio playing in this type of weather, also made some fine catches.

The same cannot be said for tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr., who had a tough day and acted like he had never played ball in winter weather. Maybe it wasn't an act. He grew up in California and played his college ball in Florida, so he probably hasn't had too many opportunities in these conditions. He'd better get used to it.

Quarterback Derek Anderson has statistically had better games, going just 9-of-24 for 137 yards. But his most important stat of the day was the fact he had no interceptions and no fumbles. And, compared to Bills quarterback Trent Edwards, Anderson's performance was hall of fame caliber. Edwards was just 13-for-33 for 124 yards, the majority of those coming on the Bills' final drive.    

The Browns' defense was outstanding all day. The line had one of its best performances of the year, allowing just 108 rushing yards on 32 carries. Take away a 29-yard run by Marshawn Lynch and a 12 yard scramble by Edwards, and the defense allowed an average of just 2.2 yards per carry.

In addition to the defensive linemen, another guy who had a great game was inside linebacker Andra Davis, who was all over the field in turning in probably his best game of the season.

It's hard to say how well the defensive backs played since most of  Trent Edwards' passes were so far off the mark that they didn't have to break up many passes or make many tackles.

All in all, it was a helluva' day in hell as the Browns all but put a playoff berth on ice.  

 


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