REPORT CARD VS. JAGUARS
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- One week after playing poorly, the offense again looked sharp. It's hard to argue Kellen Winslow's talent, but doing without his on-field histrionics might actually help the offense. The Browns' best two games have come with him sidelined. The blemish, and it was a large one, came when the Browns could not score a touchdown despite having first-and-goal from the 2-yard line and getting a half-the-distance penalty. That being said, the offense looked much better than a week earlier against Washington.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Jamal Lewis continues to be productive and efficient. Lewis' 81 yards on 20 carries included several late carries that were very important. The Browns still look to throw too often. When given the ball, Lewis is dependable.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- David Garrard had a huge game, with more than 330 yards in total offense. Many of his throws went to Matt Jones. But the Browns really did not give up a big play, and when they needed to stop Garrard on the Jaguars' last two throws into the end zone, they did. This wasn't a perfect effort by any means, but it was a winning effort. And that is what matters.
RUSH DEFENSE: A -- Led by Shaun Rogers, the Browns bottled up two very good runners, keeping Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor below 2.7 yards per carry. Rogers was a one-man destruction crew in the middle of the line, with nine tackles and many disruptive plays. He faced some backup linemen, but he played extremely well. The Browns' challenge now is to have the same success when the other team has its line intact.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- The grade was earned mainly thanks to rookie Beau Bell forcing a key fumble on a kickoff return late in the game. When Bell punched the ball loose, the Browns were up by three points. The Browns recovered and increased the lead to six, forcing Jacksonville to go for a touchdown on its final drive. Bell's play was one of those that get lost in the stat sheet but figure mightily in a win.
COACHING: A -- There was a lot of turmoil last week with Winslow's suspension. It was a story that didn't die, yet Romeo Crennel managed to bring his team together to win a game. In truth, it was the other way around. The players came together for their coach, who has seen more than his share of criticism this season. Lewis said he plays for a great coaching staff and a great head coach. He, Rogers and Willie McGinest played especially well. All respect Crennel. With all of the criticism, Crennel has never lost his players. A team that does not respect its coach does not play the way it did following so much upheaval.
The Browns feel as if they've put themselves back into the AFC playoff hunt with a win over Jacksonville.
Problem is it's deja vu -- the Browns had the exact same feeling two weeks ago when they beat the New York Giants on Monday night. They then followed it with a loss in Washington.
How they react to the win over the Jaguars could determine the rest of the season, because if one thing is true of this year's NFL, it's that parity has never been more pure.
Several teams are on the edge of the playoffs, and the Browns' next game is against Baltimore, which leads Cleveland by one game in the AFC North.
The Browns (3-4) have won three of four. A win would put them at .500 for the first time this season and give them their sea legs as they look to the second half.
There was a lot of complaining when the Browns started 0-3, but they've played the way they are capable in winning two of the last three games. If they continue to play that way, they will be in the thick of the playoff chase.
Romeo Crennel was correct when he said: "If my guys can come to play the way they played today (against Jacksonville), then we're going to be in it, and we're going to have a chance."
--NT Shaun Rogers dominated the middle of the line for the Browns defense. Rogers was a one-man wrecking crew with nine tackles, a blocked field goal and numerous pressures of Jacksonville QB David Garrard.
This was the guy the Browns hoped to acquire when they traded for him in the offseason. Rogers faced backup linemen, but he did what he's supposed to do: He dominated the interior.
It would be hard to ask more from a nose tackle than Rogers gave.
--TE Kellen Winslow returns to the team this week after missing the Jaguars game when he was suspended, then un-suspended late Saturday night.
Winslow got into a flap with the Browns after spending several days in the hospital. He said he had a staph infection, but GM Phil Savage said the original reason for Winslow's hospitalization was "in a gray area."
The soap opera dragged on for a week, but the players showed they can win without Winslow. In fact, he's missed two games this season; the Browns have won both and played their best offensive games without him.
--QB Derek Anderson hit some big plays and played a more confident game in the win over Jacksonville. Anderson threw for 246 yards and had two completions longer than 50 yards. It's almost starting to look as if the team's offensive failures were less Anderson's problems than those of his receivers.
--TE Steve Heiden again played extremely well in place of Kellen Winslow. Heiden's catch and run on fourth down gained 51 yards and set up a touchdown, and he had two other key third-down grabs. His play when Winslow has been out has been noteworthy.
--WR Syndric Steptoe showed he is growing -- and better-suited to be a fourth receiver in the offense. Steptoe made a nifty run after the catch on a perfect Derek Anderson pass in the second half, turning a medium-range gain into a 53-yarder that set up the Browns for first-and-goal.
--WR Donte Stallworth got his first touchdown as a Brown. Stallworth's presence has made a difference to the Browns offense, as teams have to respect him. His return from injury has coincided with improved offensive play, which does not seem a coincidence.
--RB Jamal Lewis again had another strong game, running for 81 yards on 20 carries. Lewis sets a professional standard his teammates would be wise to emulate.