William Green Breaks Through

It took a while for him to get going, but the Cleveland Browns are convinced the real William Green has finally arrived. And it couldn't have come at a better time. <P><I>David's column tonight is courtesy of the Ravenna Record-Courier</I>

NEW ORLEANS - It took a while for him to get going, but the Cleveland Browns are convinced the real William Green has finally arrived.

And it couldn't have come at a better time.

Just two weeks after what appeared to be a devastating loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns have put themselves right back into playoff contention with back-to-back wins over the Cincinnati Bengals and the New Orleans Saints.

The common thread in those two victories is the emergence of Green, who is running with a new-found confidence that is helping to ease the burden felt by Tim Couch in his first four years as the Browns' quarterback.

"When you don't have a running game, every quarterback is going to force throws because you feel like you have to be the one to go out and win the game," said Couch. "I feel a lot more confident out there right now. I feel like I'm finally playing the way I'm supposed to be playing. Now that we have a running game going for us, the offensive line is giving me time to throw and I have receivers. I have a ton of confidence that we are going to move the football and score some points.

"William means so much to this team right now. He is giving us a chance to run our whole offense. In the first (half) of the season, we didn't have a running game, so we were playing against a cover-two (defense) the whole game and we were forced to dink-and-dunk the ball down the field. With William running the ball the way he is, teams are forced to bring that safety up into the box, and that allows us to get those big plays down the field."

When Jamel White was sidelined by a separated shoulder against the Steelers on Nov. 3, Green became the focal point of the Browns running game. He responded with a 96-yard performance against the Bengals last week.

Green showed that game was no fluke by and breaking the 100-yard mark for the first time in his career. He finished with 114 yards on 28 carries against the Saints, adding his second career touchdown run - a 1-yard plunge in the first quarter to give the Browns a lead they would never surrender.

Green's 210 yards in the last two games more than doubled his production in the first half of the season. After nine games, Green managed just 161 yards 71 carries.

While he struggled during those first three months of the season, Green refused to talk to the media, saying "I want to wait until I do something worth talking about."

According to the soft-spoken Green, all of the success he is enjoying is a result of hard work in practice and hours of studying game films.

"It's a matter of getting in there and understanding I have to watch more film," said Green. "It's not like college. You have to get in there and take that step. I'm learning."

Green said it felt good to finally break the 100-yard mark in a game, but the real highlight was a big block in pass protection that allowed Couch the time he needed to conmplete a 9-yard, third-down pass to tight end Darnell Sanders.

With Dale Carter bearing down on Couch, Green stepped in and sent the blitzing cornerback flying backwards with a punishing block.

"Those are the kinds of things we talk about all week in meetings," said Green. "The (coaches) are always saying, `who is going to get that big hit?' ... I can't wait to watch that one on film this week."

Green's improvement in pass protection, his 100-yard performance, the 1-yard touchdown run and other explosive runs of 23, 18, 17 and 10 yards all helped to confirm what his teammates knew all along.

"William is the real deal," said left tackle Ross Verba. "I knew he was the real deal when I first saw him in minicamp. (Running backs coach Todd McNair) always said just give him time to get his confidence and do all the things that go into being a good player. He is young, too. He didn't redshirt (in college) and he came out early (for the NFL Draft). That has a lot to do with it, too. As an offensive lineman, I'm just starting to play well, consistently, and I've been in the league six years. It takes a while to develop."

PLAYOFF PICTURE ... With five several winnable games in the final five weeks of the season, the Browns are very much in the playoff picture.

Sunday's win over the Saints kept the Browns just a half-game behind the first-place Steelers in the North Division.

The Browns are now also just one game out of in the race for the Wild Card. If the season were to end today, the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders, both at 7-4, would own the the two Wild Card berths. The Browns, Indianapolis, New England and the New York Jets all sit at 6-5.

The Browns currently own the tiebreaker with the Jets on the strengh of their head-to-head win Oct. 27. The Colts play the Browns Dec. 15 in a game that could decide a tiebreaker. The Patriots do not play the Browns this season, and the two teams are currently tied for the No. 2 tiebreaker with 5-4 conference records.

According to Butch Davis, it is still too early for this team to be thinking about the playoffs.

"These are one-week crusades for the next five weeks," said Davis. "(Sunday) will become somewhat insignificant if we don't maintain this momentum, if we don't take the next step next week. What we did against Cincinnati and New Orlenas is insignificant if we don't keep taking care of business."

The Browns final five games are against Carolina (3-8), Jacksonville (5-6), Indianapolis (6-5), Baltimore (5-6) and Atlanta (7-3-1).

INJURY REPORT ... When the Browns return to action against the Carolina next week, they might be without starting cornerback Daylon McCutcheon, who is convinced he broke his right thumb late in the third quarter.

"The (doctors) haven't told me anything yet, but I saw the X-ray myself and I know it is broken," said McCutcheon, who's hand was in a cast after the game. "I've dislocated the thumb a few times before, and this felt different."

BACK IN THE SWING ... After intercepting 10 passes in his rookie year, it took Anthony Henry 11 weeks before he picked off the first pass of his second season with the Browns.

Henry intercepted Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks twice. He ended a drive deep into Cleveland territory late in the second half with an interception at the 1-yard line. The second pick helped seal the game late in the fourth quarter.

"It felt good," said Henry. "I hadn't gotten one all year. I was finally able to get in here and get a pick and in a big-time situation."

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