Never has an ugly win meant more to a team. The Browns beat the Bengals 20-12 Sunday in a game made for the remote control, as it was so hard to watch.
The Browns committed nine penalties and had to struggle like crazy to beat a winless team without its starting quarterback. But they won.
"We grew up a little," coach Romeo Crennel said.
That's one way to put it. But the Browns needed a win after an 0-3 start. If they are to make anything of a season that started with high hopes, they had to beat the Bengals.
They did it by forcing three turnovers in the fourth quarter and scoring 17 points. Braylon Edwards caught a touchdown pass, and Derek Anderson righted himself in the final quarter after a poor start.
The Browns now have a bye week to get players such as Donte Stallworth healthy, and to get their bearings. When they return, they face a brutal stretch of games that includes the Giants at home on Monday night and trips to Washington and Jacksonville.
How they fare in those three games could determine what kind of season they have.
--QB Derek Anderson survived a week of speculation about his job and a very poor start to finish the game against the Bengals and win. Anderson had gone 4-for-10 for just 27 yards in the first half, then started the third quarter with a red-zone interception.
At that point, coach Romeo Crennel toyed with the idea of pulling Anderson for Brady Quinn, but he decided to give Anderson another chance.
"He took advantage of it and finished the game on a good note," Crennel said.
It would appear that it will take either a major injury or a significantly bad game for Anderson to lose his job.
--WR Donte Stallworth may return after the bye week. Stallworth has not played after pulling a quad muscle in pregame warm-ups prior to the opener.
Coach Romeo Crennel finally said that Stallworth's injury has been diagnosed as one that needs 2 1/2 to four weeks to heal. Stallworth was right at 2 1/2 weeks for Sunday's game.
"If a guy is injured, he's injured," Crennel said.
--OG Eric Steinbach was a surprise starter at left guard. Steinbach had a shoulder injury and did not expect to play until he woke up Sunday and felt good. His presence was a definite boost to the team's running game, which totaled 134 yards.
--RB Jamal Lewis ran six times for 36 yards on the first drive of the game. Though he only had 43 yards the rest of the game (on 19 carries), his start set the tone for the Browns, who played a physical game against an inferior team.
--OT Kevin Shaffer left the game in the fourth quarter with a concussion. The bye week should help him recover.
--WR Braylon Edwards showed his good and bad again. He made a great one-handed catch for a touchdown, then did an over-the-top celebration that was way too much for a team trying to win its first game. He also had another ridiculous penalty with a cheap-shot block after a run.
--LB Kamerion Wimbley got his first sack of the season and also forced a fumble, as Wimbley showed up in the big-play way the Browns need for the first time this season. The team takes that as another sign that perhaps the Bengals game can be something to build on.
REPORT CARD VS. BENGALS
PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Things were ugly for a long time, but the Browns finally came up with enough plays to win the game, which is what matters. Braylon Edwards' touchdown reception was his first of the season, and Derek Anderson's 74.7 rating was closer to what it should be. For a long time though, the Browns struggled -- so much that many watching thought it was time to go to Brady Quinn. But coach Romeo Crennel stuck with Anderson, and though his numbers were not huge (15-for-24 for 138 yards), he did win the game.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Mainly because of a fast start. The Browns opened the game by running on their first seven plays. That moved the ball from their 33 to the Bengals 5. They did not score a touchdown, but it did set a tone. And though the running game was not as effective the rest of the game, it was persistent. For the first time this season, the Browns had more runs (40) than passes (25). That ratio will serve them well as the season continues.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- Nothing like a backup quarterback to make a secondary healthy. When Carson Palmer was ruled out, the Browns suddenly looked like a better team. And they played like it. The secondary intercepted three passes and held Ryan Fitzpatrick to 156 yards on 35 attempts.
RUSH DEFENSE: A -- If not for some Fitzpatrick scrambles when passes broke down, the Bengals would have gained next to nothing on the ground. Cincinnati's Chris Perry ran just 12 times for 28 yards, a 2.3-yard average. The number of carries is curious given the Bengals started a backup quarterback, but the Browns also did a good job of taking away the run and forcing the backup to beat them. That's pretty much the exact way a defense is supposed to play in that situation.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Josh Cribbs finally broke free for a 44-yard kickoff return, another sign that perhaps the Browns are settling into some form of normalcy. Cribbs' return set up the Browns with good second-half field position, though that possession ended with an interception. Dave Zastudil did not have a great day, but Phil Dawson made his only field goal and the coverage teams were solid.
COACHING: C -- The grade could be lower, but the Browns won. However, Romeo Crennel seemed to be walking a dangerous line with his quarterback. Anderson struggled into the third quarter, yet Brady Quinn never warmed up. Crennel stuck with Anderson, who has had a horrible start to the season. In Cincinnati, against a bad team, Anderson rewarded his coach's faith with an 80-yard drive that ended with a touchdown, which made the decision the right one. But until that drive, it sure seemed as if the game could have gone either way. One major problem: The Browns continue to commit inane penalties. They lined up in the neutral zone on defense four times, and Edwards had a cheap-shot late block on a run. Good teams do not commit those penalties.