Q: Were you surprised by the play of the Browns Monday night against the Super Bowl champion New York Giants? I read your inbox article on Monday and wondered why you thought the Browns would do well?
LA: I was surprised to a point, but not to the point of disbelief. Like I noted, I did not see anything over the course of the first four games of the season that led me to believe this is a bad team - just one which has struggled to overcome various issues.
We are looking at an offense which has not executed with any consistency. From the offensive line to the receivers, the Browns' offense has been out of sorts. The penalties, dropped passes and mental errors have kept this offense from achieving at a higher level.
The Browns' offense has been close to making plays in recent weeks. We are talking about a missed or poor block here and a penalty and poorly-thrown pass there, as being more than a passing example of miscues this team has suffered with.
While talking to various members of the team and organization, I gained a sense of confidence within the team in the days leading up to the game. To a man I kept hearing Derek Anderson was alright, he is good and the importance of this game -- in the national spotlight -- could either make or break the 2008 season for this team.
Also, this team had something to prove. The Giants manhandled them in the preseason and this was something that did not sit well within the ranks. While some of those within the organization stopped short of stating they were embarrassed, I sensed a different level of focus and demeanor in some of the players.
Q: Besides getting the season record to 2-3, what did the game against the New York Giants do for this team? A win is a win, but for a team struggling such as the Browns you would have to think there could have not been a better confidence builder.
LA: Getting to 2-3 was a huge step for this team. Granted the Browns remain a couple games behind the Pittsburgh Steelers, but this could be a season in which the AFC is wide-open and anything may transpire. There does not appear to be that dominant type team in the conference, despite the unbeaten record sported by the Tennessee Titans.
Watching the offense grow and gain confidence was monumental -- as was the play and leadership of QB Derek Anderson. As the battle against the Giants progressed, Anderson was playing care-free football; he was making correct reads and trusting not only his ability, but those surrounding him.
A return to the lineup by WR Donte Stallworth was welcomed. The speedy WR did create a presence and threat in the passing game, as the Giants simply did not spend the entire evening doubling Braylon Edwards or keeping a safety locked in the box.
The offensive gameplan was solid and executed for this first time this season for an extended period of a game. Just the threat of a downfield passing game changes the complexion immensely, coupled with focus and desire this team and staff showed in trusting the rushing game, this team had the look of the 2007 model.
With Ryan Tucker stepping into the RT spot, the right-side of the Cleveland offensive line was a powerful entity. The pass-blocking did not suffer with Tucker seeing his first game action of the season -- it actually was an improvement -- while the run-blocking was obviously more physical.
Q: The Browns win, the Browns win. But, what can be done about the lack of focus and discipline with this team. Every week the offense is penalized for more false starts than should be acceptable for a team a the professional level. Despite the penalties, the Browns played well, but something needs to be done to correct this issue as this team cannot play as well as it did on Monday night every week.
LA: Penalties have possibly been the most consistent facet of the 2008 season thus far. False starts are relatively inexcusable-type penalties and this is a relation to focus or reaction to the defense. Many times a defensive linemen will move or enter the neutral zone; while not an excuse, this is the reality of the situation. The players along the Browns' offensive line are no different than the QB or WR; they are pressing, which leads to mistakes.
I know the staff has spent a considerable amount of time on the details and is almost dumbfounded with this ongoing issue. We are not looking at a new offensive system here, nor has this team had a rash of new linemen on the field.