However, for me, at this time of year, there is no Browns game – nay, no football – that I am not excited to see. I will watch the 4th preseason game. I will watch the blowout between USC and North Central Idaho State A&M. I will watch 6 kids on crutches playing in a parking lot using a roll of toilet paper for a ball.
Besides, there were about 20 guys on either team to whom this game was VERY important.
I expect this game to suck and to mean almost nothing. (The 2nd half was a painful, excruciating, agonizing exercise of insignificance. However, I refuse to negate what happened in the 1st half, when the 1st and 2nd teams played. I refuse to acknowledge it, but I also refuse to negate it.)
I expect Charlie Frye to have a down game. (He didn’t.)
I expect the Browns’ running D to look better. (Oh, it did.)
I expect the Punt Return unit to yet again lack inspiration. (Sometimes I amaze myself with my own inaccuracy.)
Curses upon the Thursday night game! I have my girls every Tuesday, Thursday, and every other weekend. 8 o’clock games on Thursday nights sadly coincide with my daughters’ bedtime procedure. So there were chunks of the 1st half that I had to watch via the magic of video tape, as I was away supervising various toothbrushing and story reading activities.
Dave Zastudil started his big night by punting to the Bears 10. Living Legend Rex Grossman took over from there. He tossed a screen to Greg Olsen that was shut the hell down by Antwan Peek – gain of nada. Cedric Benson ran for a hard 2, then Adrian Peterson ran for another 2, and the Browns got a 3 and out.
Cribbs waited to field the punt, and Jim Donovan mentioned that he has only had the chance to return 1 punt all preseason. That’s it? One goddam return? Well, he got an opportunity to return this one, fielding it at the Browns 29, cutting to his right, and slicing through the Bears’ defenders for a 24 yard gain. That was easily the most exciting/interesting punt return of the season to date, and suddenly Syndric Steptoe’s tenuous hold on the PR position had become quite precarious.
On 1st down from the Bears 46, Frye dropped back, heaved a beautiful ball up, right into Braylon Edwards arms at the 3. Much to our chagrin, Edwards channeled his inner Steely McHands, and dropped it. It would’ve been a tough catch, but if you want to be considered an elite receiver, that’s the kind of catch you have to make. It might not have been a TD (then again, it might), but it certainly would’ve been 1st and Goal from the (small number) yard line.
The drop effectively killed the drive, as Jamal Lewis ran for 6, and Frye (wisely) overthrew Joe Jurevicius on 3rd down. The Great Zastudil coffin-cornered the punt at the Bears 4, and they took over from there.
Brian Griese was already in, meaning that Rex Grossman finished 1 for 1 for 0 yards. Bears fans were elated – at least he didn’t fumble the snap or throw an interception. Griese led Chicago to a quick 3 and out, and they got the honor of punting again.
Cribbs fielded the boot, but only got 9 on this return, taking the ball to the Cleveland 48. Using the term “only” in that previous sentence indicates the kind of night Cribbs had returning the ball.
Frye’s night was already over, so in came Derek “Dead Man Walking” Anderson, taking most likely his last snaps as a Cleveland Brown. In typical DA fashion, he started the drive: good pass to Winslow, bad pass to Edwards, good pass to Edwards, confusion on the offensive formation, time out.
On 3rd and 4 from the Bears 35, Anderson drilled a pass to Braylon. And… he dropped it. Again. Rumors abound that he switched gloves with Travis Wilson prior to the game. Authorities are looking into it. It would’ve been a tough catch, but if you want to be considered an elite receiver… well, you get the picture.
The Great Zastudil concocted another punt inside the Bears 10, and back out came the Browns D. The game was reminding me of pitcher’s duel. The Bears pitcher was giving up hits, struggling with control, but managing to keep the Browns from scoring. The Browns pitcher, on the other hand, was tossing a no hitter. Regardless, the score was still 0-0.
Up came the Bears, and one… two… three strikes you’re out. Included in this sequence was an excellent sack of Griese by Chaun Thompson, who has solidified his place on this team. The Bears punted, and Cribbs got another 9 yard return. Nothing but positives from Mr. Cribbs on this night.
Dead Man Walking was back in, and he directed the Browns down the field, thanks in part to his nice throw to Ryan Krause for 14 on 3rd and 2, and a great rollout toss to Cribbs that went for 21 down to the Bears 11. Sadly, the end zone is like Kryptonite to Derek Anderson, and the drive stalled there. Stalling was probably merciful, since Anderson’s throw on 3rd down was tipped by three Chicago defenders, but fortunately fell harmlessly incomplete. On came Phil Dawson, and the Browns finally got a run home on a sacrifice fly. Browns 3, Bears 0.
That was probably the last pass attempt you will ever see Derek Anderson make in a Browns uniform. It’s a little sad… but that’s life in the big city.
The following kickoff was a comedy of errors. Danieal Manning of the Bears bobbled the ball at the 1, dropped it, picked it back up, ran forward, fumbled the ball backwards into the end zone, and desperately batted it out of bounds to prevent the Cleveland TD. But, by definition, that was a Safety, so the Browns got another run on a Chicago error, and it was suddenly: Browns 5, Bears 0.
Look for this play on a YouTube near you.
The Bears kicked off, Steptoe returned it to the 40, and the quarter was done.
End of 1st: Browns 5, Bears 0.
Brady Quinn was in, and his first drive started with a great run by Jason Wright for 10. Things appeared to be clicking, but Jerome Harrison dropped a wide open screen pass, then couldn’t reel in a 3rd down throw that was slightly behind him. Strange… anytime Quinn comes in and doesn’t score a TD, I find it disappointing. I must make a conscious effort not to let my expectations run amok.
Kyle Orton was in for the Bears, and he fared no better than his predecessors, as he went 3 and out in the face of a strong Browns Defensive attack. Kris Griffin came on a blitz on 3rd down, leaped into the air, and almost snagged the throw right out of Orton’s hands. Too bad – if he’d been able to hold onto it, it would’ve been 6 in the opposite direction.
However, the Bears only delayed the inevitable Cleveland TD. Cribbs fielded the punt at the Browns 30, darted forward, broke a tackle, and just tore into the open. The punter had the angle on him… oh wait… no. Cribbs toasted the poor fool, outrunning the “coverage”, and sprinting into the end zone for a 70 yard TD. Browns 12, Bears 0.
Let’s review: Josh Cribbs – 4 punt returns, 112 yards, 1 TD. That’s 28 yards per return. I think that perhaps the problem of Punt Returner has been solved.
The Bears got the ball back, and, tragically, managed to get their first 1st down. Yes, Garret Wolfe, a very sneaky back, got 5 on 3rd and 1. The Chicago crowd roared their approval. It only took the Bears 19 minutes and 9 seconds to accomplish that arduous feat. Nothing but blue skies ahead.
What’s this? The Bears got yet another 1st down up to their 41 yard line! They were making it rain now. Orton dumped the ball down to Wolfe, who juked Clifton Smith right out of his jock, flying ahead for 14 and yet another 1st down. Ye Gods! Nothing can stop them!
Oh wait… no. On the next play, Orton thoughtfully threw the ball right at Griffin, who tipped it to Smith, who caught the ball for an INT. He ran the ball back to midfield, and the Browns were on Offense again.
Jerome Harrison started off the drive with nice run for 7. In fact, that whole drive was the Harrison Show. Bam! He runs again for 5. Smash! He gets a screen, stiff-arms a would-be tackler, and takes it for 8. Pow! He takes the ball for 5 and a 1st down.
On 1st and 10 at the Bears 24, Quinn threw a perfect slant to Travis “Steely McHands” Wilson, who caught the ball and was immediately sandwiched, yet he hung on to complete the excellent catch. Let’s realize the word association from that: Travis Wilson… excellent catch. It seems odd to use those words together.
On the next play, I got déjà vu as Quinn threw another slant to Wilson, and he made another excellent catch. Obviously, Steely took Quinn aside before the game and slipped him a $100 bill, whispering “Help me look good. I need to make this team.” And from the book of If They Ain’t Stoppin’ It, Don’t Stop Doing It – a third straight slant to Wilson for 9 to the 4 yard line.
The Browns pounded the ball with Harrison on 2 runs, and – viola! – we had a TD. Brady Quinn directed his 5th TD drive of the preseason (counting the Jurevicius TD from the Broncos game). Browns 19, Bears 0.
This is fun.
Harrison secured his roster spot with that drive. What that means for Chris Barclay is yet to be seen.
But after the Browns kicked off, the Bears took over with 2:15 left in the half. You know what that means, don’t you? Yes, of course you do. Yep – it means it’s time to give up a quick easy scoring drive. Our 2 minute Defense is offensive.
The Bears drove the ball right down the field, thanks in great part to that slippery Wolfe dude. He seems harder to grab than a greased eel. And the Defensive Pass Interference call at their own 3 yard line didn’t help Cleveland either. However, the Browns D finally “stiffened” there as Clifton Smith batted the hell out of the pass with 4 seconds left in the half, and Chicago was forced to settle for a FG. Browns 19, Bears 3.
Halftime: Browns 19, Bears 3.
The 2nd half of this game was about as interesting as M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village (and if you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to have to sit through that dog, you know what I’m talking about). I will not bother with being overly thorough with the 3rd and 4th quarter. In fact, there were a bunch of drives, the Bears scored one TD, the Browns won.
Alex Rodriguez… I mean, Chris Leak took over at QB for the Bears in the 2nd half. Yes, he who recently won the National Championship and will be looking for Sales jobs next week.
The Browns stopped his first drive, and Quinn came back in for Cleveland. Unfortunately, seeing Leak on the field, he felt that he was back at Notre Dame, playing against Florida, and reverted back to Brady-Quinn-In-Big-Collegiate-Games form and threw his first pro INT. I think we’ll be fine with Brady at QB as long as he’s not playing a college opponent. We should definitely bench him for the Arizona game. Matt Leinart’s presence might cause him to implode.
It wasn’t that it was such a bad throw. A Defensive Lineman batted the ball into the air, and it was an easy pick. It just proved that, yes, contrary to national opinion, Brady Quinn is a human being.
After the turnover, Leak managed to drive the Bears down the field. Babatunde Oshinowo (I spelled that right without even checking) made some nice defensive plays, but the Bears still were able to move down to 1st and Goal at the 5. The Browns forced them to 3rd down, but Leak made a nice toss to Mike Hass for a TD.
The Bears went for 2, Leak dropped back, threw the ball to the corner, but Brandon McDonald easily intercepted the awful pass. It was so bad that Bernie Kosar let a “Jesus!” slip, which is probably not considered kosher for network broadcasting. Rock on, Bernie. Browns 19, Bears 9.
Special mention to Bears WR David Ball, who made a spectacular one-handed catch on 2nd and Goal of the previous Chicago drive. However, it was out of bounds. Tsk tsk.
When the Browns got the ball back, Quinn quickly got a 1st down on a nice throw to Travis Wilson (notice I’ve laid off the derogatory nickname). But a False Start and a miscommunication on a 3rd down throw thwarted their advance, and a punt ensued. That was it – Brady’s last drive of the night. When will we see him next? No one knows. It was fun while it lasted.
The Great Zastudil and the punt team pinned the Bears back at their own 1, but Chicago managed to get a 1st down, and the quarter ended with them at their own 16.
End of 3rd: Browns 19, Bears 9.
This quarter was even more enthralling than the last. The Bears continued their drive, moving the ball all the way to the Cleveland 36, where Leak threw the ball high to his receiver, who tipped it, allowing Brandon McDonald to intercept it. It wasn’t that great of coverage, but B Mac will take the gift.
The Browns took over at their own 22, and Ken Dorsey came in. No offense to Ken, but yawn. Barclay was the RB, and had a nice run on 1st down (he had a couple of nice runs on this night). Obviously, the coaches’ mission at this point was to get the game the hell over with, so the Browns ran and ran and ran until they got a 3rd and 7, where Dorsey dropped back and promptly got sacked.
The Bears started the next drive at their own 5. Chicago had terrible, just atrocious field position all night. They managed to move the ball again, but got only as far as their 40 when they were finally stymied and forced to punt with 1:36 left in the game.
Cleveland took over at their own 28, and Dorsey just handed the ball off. Barclay had a 14 yard run to get a 1st down, and then, with 46 seconds left, Dorsey assumed the Victory Formation, and the clock ticked down to 0:00.
Final: Browns 19, Bears 9.
~The key to this game was that the Browns emerged relatively unwounded. That is where the real win is found.
~I know I didn’t mention rookie DE Melila Purcell above. I am now. He had 9 tackles and generally was in on every play. I like what I saw out of him.
~When Stats Lie: Anderson vs. Frye. I know, it sounds like some bad Fox News special, such as When House Pets Go Bad. But stats do lie – they are chronic liars. People will take stats and use them to further their agendas and then say stupid things like “The stats don’t lie.” Those people are lying about the stats not lying.
For instance, Charlie Frye was 2 of 5 for 19 yards in 2 series. Derek Anderson was 6 of 9 for 53 yards in 2 series. The stats say that Derek Anderson had a better game. The stats are lying.
If Braylon Edwards makes the catch on the long throw by Frye, the stats would be much different. In the end, the eye, not stats, should tell you who had the better game, and the answer is Chaz Frye. Derek didn’t do that badly, but he was maddeningly blah, which is what will cause him to be wearing different colors by Monday.
~You know you’re obsessive when you’re fuming in the 4th quarter of a meaningless game about the potentiality of our 4th stringers giving up the lead to their 4th stringers. It’s the uniform, people. It’s still Browns players fighting against players from some other team.
~Last week I stated that Syndric Steptoe had probably won the Punt Returner job. That was by default, since we really hadn’t seen Josh Cribbs get many opportunities. Well, due to the defense’s pride, and the generally horrible field position for Chicago throughout the 1st half, Cribbs finally got his chances, and, well, you saw what happened. We now have our Punt Returner. Couple that fact and the impressive effort given by the Receiver Formerly Known As Steely McHands, and Steptoe is on a serious bubble.
When you’re on a bubble, you make certain of your every move. You don’t want to burst that bubble. If said bubble were to pop, no saying how far that drop to earth is.
~And now my flawed prediction for the final 53:
QB: Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey
RB: Jamal Lewis, Jason Wright, Jerome Harrison
FB: Lawrence Vickers, Charles Ali
WR: Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicius, Josh Cribbs, Travis Wilson, Tim Carter
TE: Kellen Winslow, Steve Heiden, Darnell Dinkins
OL: Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach, Hank Fraley, Seth McKinney, Kevin Shaffer, Nat Dorsey, Lennie Friedman, Rob Smith, Fred Matua, Isaac Sowells
DL: Ted Washington, Robaire Smith, Shaun Smith, Orpheus Roye, Melila Purcell, Baba Oshinowo, Simon Fraser
LB: Kamerion Wimbley, Andra Davis, D’Qwell Jackson, Leon Williams, Antwan Peek, Willie McGinest, David McMillan, Chaun Thompson
CB: Leigh Bodden, Eric Wright, Daven Holly, Brandon McDonald, Kenny Wright
S: Sean Jones, Brodney Pool, Justin Hamilton, Mike Adams
P: Dave Zastudil
K: Phil Dawson
LS: Ryan Pontbriand
IR: Gary Baxter
PUP: LeCharles Bentley
Suspension: Ryan Tucker
Possible Practice Squad Fodder: Clifton Smith, Chris Barclay, Syndric Steptoe, Steve Sanders, Chase Pittman, DeMario Minter
The unfortunate cuts are guys like Clifton Smith and Kris Griffin, victims of the depth at LB. Part of me says the Browns should be bold and cut Willie McGinest, who is hurt and may be hampered all season, and is holding a roster spot that could go to a Clifton Smith, who played very well at times. But I highly doubt that Romeo is gonna axe his boy Willie, so there you go.
Chris Barclay is also an unfortunate cut, but I don’t see how we can possibly carry 4 RB and 2 FB, and we probably will carry 2 FB since Vickers has the power running skills and Ali is the blocker.
Part of me would like to see the Browns keep Gary Baxter as the #4 Safety instead of Mike Adams. Adams hasn’t done anything to impress me, and, if healthy, Baxter would surely be an improvement. The “if” part is what scares me.
I’m also scared of Baxter’s reaction if they try to IR him. I wouldn’t be at all shocked to see him demand a release instead.
That’s it. That’s the last of the practice games. Next time the Browns take the field, we get to see the real team. In the recent past, that has been an unpleasant surprise. No one – absolutely no one – truly knows what to expect at this point.