You've got to hand it to Romeo Crennel. He borrowed a page from the Bill Belichick book of deception Monday night in that exhibition against the New York Giants and played it to perfection.
How else can one explain an extraordinarily awful performance by an offensive line ranked in the top three in the National Football League; a punt that ricocheted off the hind flanks of the up man in the end zone; the subsequent free kick run back for a touchdown; the club's best cornerback toasted twice by Charlie Frye's favorite college receiver; more than 200 yards on the ground by the Giants; a fumbled handoff by Jamal Lewis at the Giants' 2-yard line that was returned for another score; and a concussion sustained by the starting quarterback on a misdirection play gone very wrong when a blocking assignment was blown.
Was there any question that the Browns lulled the Giants into a false sense of security with the most bizarre 16 minutes not seen in these parts since, well, since 2006. After those 16 minutes, it was 30-3. And the ESPN Monday Night crew was left with nothing but meaningless gum flapping for the remaining three quarters.
What a great game plan by Crennel.
The Browns knew the Giants were on their regular-season schedule. Week 6 in fact. At Cleveland Browns Stadium, where they were 7-1 last season. And on ESPN Monday Night Football no less. What better way to set up the Giants for that game than to play like a college team.
Count on it. The G-Men will stroll into CBS on Oct. 13 so overconfident, so full of themselves, it'll shock the world when the Browns stun them with a nationwide audience as witnesses.
Buy that? No?
OK, how about this.
Blame it on the pants.
That's right. Those double chocolate monstrosities caused the Browns to play in ways that would make Murphy's Law blush.
They're the reason Derek Anderson is walking around today wondering what city he's in. They're the reason Joshua Cribbs, who missed no time to injury last season, is hobbling on a sprained ankle. They're the reason Brodney Pool is also nursing a concussion. They're the reason Michael Adams interfered while Domenik Hixon tried the field a punt. They're the reason Andra Davis couldn't control his temper and tried to slug one of the Giants.
That work for you? No?
OK. Time to get real.
Sure, it was only an exhibition game, but this team still has a long way to go and many questions need to be answered quickly. Like Saturday night in Detroit in exhibition No. 3, the so-called dress rehearsal for the regular season.
It was apparent the Giants didn't take this game nearly as lightly as the Browns. In a game that served as the poster child as to why football games are won in the trenches, the Giants mauled the Browns on both sides of the ball.
Their starting offensive line slapped and punched the Cleveland defensive front seven as though they were little kids. Playing without nose tackle Shaun Rogers (are his knees worse than the Browns are letting on?), the Browns displayed an ole' approach to the running game.
And the pass rush, if you can call it that, was the polar opposite of what the New York front four threw at Anderson. That allowed Eli Manning to survey the landscape and hook up twice with Hixon, the former University of Akron star who beat Eric Wright twice for TDs and scored a third on a punt return.
Considering the fact the Giants' top three receivers watched in street clothes from the sidelines due to injuries, it's kind of scary to think what'll happen in week 6 unless the Browns come up with a pass rush.
The Giants' front liners seemed to be sending a message to the Browns' front liners: Be ready for the regular season on Oct. 13. This is what it's going to be like. For all four quarters.
Anderson was afforded little or no protection and often found himself either throwing off the wrong foot, before he wanted to throw or just before being slammed to the ground as he released the ball. It bore little resemblance to the protection he received last season.
If the club follows the NFL's strict guidelines on concussions, it wouldn't be surprising if Anderson sits out Saturday's exhibition in Detroit and Brady Quinn finally gets his chance to guide the starters. And it wouldn't be shocking if Anderson remains idle for the exhibition finale on Aug. 28 at CBS against the Chicago Bears.
Quinn, working primarily against the Giants' second unit, didn't embarrass himself. Again, he played with poise, threw a couple of nice deep outs and proved difficult to trap in the backfield.
Even though the Cleveland scrubs outscored the New York scrubs, 31-7, all kinds of red flags had better be flying today in Berea as the Browns get ready for the regular season.
There are still way too many problems that need solving – most of them in the trenches – and time is growing short. The Browns were lulled by a bad New York Jets team in the exhibition opener. Monday night, the other New York team force-fed them a massive dose of reality.
Now, it's on to Detroit in five days and the perfect passer rating of Lions quarterback Jon Kitna. How nice.
Let's see. Do the Browns play the Lions in the regular season? No? All right. Time to stop playing around.