Browns Look to Advance Against Winning Teams

One week from the midpoint of the season and the Browns are about to find out what kind of team they really have. Wins over Miami and St. Louis around a bye week have given Cleveland its first back-to-back victories since 2003. Now the Browns face three winning teams in a row -- two on the road.

Seattle comes to Cleveland on Sunday, and the Browns then make trips to Pittsburgh and Baltimore. All have at least four wins. These games should give the Browns a good indication whether they are playoff worthy. Few expected the Browns to be 4-3 at this point, but beating good teams -- especially on the road -- will be important.

Coach Romeo Crennel said it will be important for his team to understand it has not accomplished anything yet. He referred to his team as "a work in progress."

"As long as we keep working, we'll continue to progress," Crennel said.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Derek Anderson has had consecutive games without an interception. In both games, he has had passer ratings over 140. These are numbers usually reserved for the Tom Bradys and Peyton Mannings of the world. But coach Romeo Crennel did his best Bill Belichick when asked if Anderson's progress and consistency are encouraging.

"It is encouraging," Crennel said. "He still has room to grow and develop. He'll continue to work on that. If he does, maybe we can get better."

--Braylon Edwards is approaching a team record for touchdown receptions. That record is 13, held by Gary Collins. In seven games, Edwards has nine, which means he not only should break the record but shatter it.

Edwards' play has been impressive. But so has his maturity. He apologized to his teammates for taking his helmet off after a reception, saying he didn't realize it was the end of the quarter and it would not happen again. "He's playing like a top receiver," coach Romeo Crennel said. "We need him to continue to do that."

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--RB Jamal Lewis was a surprise starter in St. Louis. Lewis missed most of the week of practice with a foot injury, but gained 61 yards on 17 carries. Lewis' workload should increase in the coming weeks.

--QB Derek Anderson did not panic when the Browns fell behind 14-0. Instead he threw two touchdown passes in the first half and led the Browns to 17 points in a row. His calm demeanor has been a team strength.

--TE Kellen Winslow continues to impress. His day in St. Louis included a 21-yard touchdown, but Winslow was upset he did not get more than two catches.

--WR Joe Jurevicius came in for special praise from his coach for his clutch catches. Jurevicius' catches converted third downs and set up a touchdown. His role within the team continues to grow.

--S Sean Jones came up with a crucial stop on fourth-and-one as the Rams were driving in an attempt to tie the game late. Jones has not had a lot of big plays this season, but that was one.

--CB Leigh Bodden had his fourth interception of the season, and the second that sealed a win. Bodden's picks against Cincinnati and St. Louis ended the last-chance drives for both teams.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. RAMS

PASSING OFFENSE: A -- No interceptions. Three touchdown passes. Seventy-two percent completed. Two hundred and forty-six yards. Is there much more to ask for from a quarterback? Doesn't seem so. Derek Anderson has really got things clicking in the Browns passing game.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The best news of this game wasn't the production, but that Jamal Lewis returned to play after missing most of two games. Browns running backs gained 112 yards, but the most important factor was the running game worked well enough to maintain offensive balance. The Browns finished the game with 29 runs and 25 passes.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- Marc Bulger returned from injury to throw for 310 yards and a touchdown and give his team a 14-0 lead. The Rams' chances dwindled when Bulger hurt his thumb and he had to miss time in the second half. He had a solid game, even if the Browns won.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- For the first time this season, the Browns did not have a back top 100 yards against the defense. But that only happened because Steven Jackson left the game with a back injury. Jackson started very well, and appeared headed to a big day. Injury stopped him; the Browns defense did not.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Phil Dawson made both his field goals, including a 45-yarder. Dave Zastudil's punting was outstanding -- a 45-yard average. He appears to be over the back problem that sidelined him earlier this season. And Joshua Cribbs continues to be a threat on returns. This area of the team is very strong.

COACHING: A -- It would be easy to drop this grade given the Browns started by giving up first-quarter touchdowns and trailed 14-0. But that was when Romeo Crennel showed more emotion than he ever has. He went up and challenged his beleaguered defense, and they gave up six points the rest of the way. Players respond to good coaching when they are down. They did that Sunday.


SeahawkFootball.com Top Stories