Some thoughts on Sunday's slop fest, where a new owner gets his first win and an embattled Head Coach picks up perhaps one of his last.
But first, a question:
So, did Sunday's game qualify as a "throwback" to old school football "tradition" – when games were decided in the trenches and affected by inclement weather?
And if so, were people that easily entertained?
I kid. Not since the days of Eric Mangini has a Browns' team taken such advantage of a free-falling opponent. For once, the often mythical home field weather advantage combined with a skeletal offensive attack and rugged defense to produce a most unique – and unexpected win.
1. I finally realized that Trent Richardson is a classic Belichick/Mangini Browns' era running back. At times yesterday, Richardson wore down the Chargers defense similar to that inexplicable stretch of 2009. Combining Richardson's burst and quick cutting abilities with a suddenly mobile offensive line gave the rushing game a spark not seen in the Shurmur era.
2. Again the Browns' offensive line moved well – including embattled guard Shawn Lauvao and Pro Football Focus' darling of the week, John Greco. While the improvement in pass protection has been clearly noted over the past few weeks, Sunday's game delivered the O-line's best run blocking performance of the season – at a most opportune time.
3. And speaking of moving, Brandon Weeden looked mobile on the endless called roll outs and play action plays. Although I'm not sure of the overall design or effectiveness of the calls – since most seemed kind of stuck in some playbook vacuum – Weeden at least showed some skills not displayed before.
3a. But then again, is Weeden the kind of quarterback who NEEDS to be continually rolling out? Once again, Weeden is succeeding in an offense that still isn't taking advantage of his specific skills.
4. Yet again, Josh Gordon's transformation into an NFL wide receiver is remarkable. After getting trashed by Shurmur long ago in preseason and getting lost in the Browns' early offense, Gordon is proving to be a solid contributor and could be a lot more in a more progressive offensive system. As Gordon better learns that body position and his bigger size are huge assets, his production should continue to grow.
5. More on "receivers"….Gordon could be special and Josh Cooper is worth keeping for third downs. Yet clearly, another prime receiver is needed. However, yesterday was the classic game for Greg Little to be used as Percy Harvin-lite. It kills me how comically inept this coaching staff is regarding Little – a guy who could be unstoppable if used more as a hybrid runner/receiver.
6. I've been criticized for not fully endorsing GM Tom Heckert, who I see as elevated based on the GM's that preceded him in Cleveland. However, the Gordon move is paying off – along with finding Billy Winn in the 6th round. Winn will never be a dominant D-Lineman on his own, but is a prime contributor to what's becoming a strong and energetic defensive line rotation.
7. Although the Browns' defensive performance superlatives should be tempered thanks to the weather and a regressing Chargers' offense, the Browns' linebackers probably delivered their best game of the year. Craig Robertson continues to show the natural ability that could be refined into something better and D'Qwell Jackson's value as an on field defensive coordinator is immeasurable.
8. Likewise, Buster Skrine is making his case to be included in next year's cornerback grouping. Since getting picked on in Joe Haden's early absence, Skrine has steadied his play. Over the last several weeks, Skrine has tightened up in coverage and occasionally looks like a sure tackler.
9. And of course, the Browns' caught some big breaks – including some dropped Chargers' passes and an offense so bad that the Browns' first quarter touchdown FINALLY was enough to cover for the entire game. Have we not been waiting over a decade for that to happen?
10a. Finally, who loves this quote from Weeden on his headset giving out?
"Yeah, I couldn't hear anything…I called one play on my own in the huddle and I was just waiting to get chewed out by Pat. . . . It worked. I should call plays all the time."
10b. And the description of the Browns' post-game locker room was unique in the fact that AN ACTUAL BROWNS' OWNER was a participant. Of course, Shurmur's post-game toss was an errant pass (probably a four-yard dump off) that should be an omen for his future employment. But at the least, Shurmur gets to experience a couple wins before the inevitable.