Perhaps hate is not a strong enough word. How about loathe? Or abhor?
Their very existence is putrid to me.
It's not just that they are stolen spawn of the Old Cleveland Browns. It's not just that they delivered a championship to Adolph Modell. It goes much deeper.
It's their players: a bunch of loud-mouthed annoying gyrating flagellating drug-addicted attention whores dressed in purple. "Look at me! Look at me!" they bleat. Yeah, I see you. You're a horse's ass in violet.
It's their fans: a passel of hypocritical apologists with memories shorter than their DNA code.
It's their coach: an egotistical egomaniacal egomaniac that causes humanity irritation more pungent than an infected hemorrhoid each time he opens his germ-infested mouth.
It's their organization: no longer run by the Evil One - who hopefully is off in some hovel dying slowly and painfully alone with his shame - it is nonetheless eternally tainted as an ill-begotten treasure. And they had the wisdom to name their new team after a poem by a man that overdosed and died in a Baltimore gutter. That must be honor in the City That Penicillin Forgot.
A thousand years of hardship exiled in Siberia is too good for this odious franchise.
But I'll settle for a win and a 40 ounce mug of Shut Your Fetid Piehole. Here Ray. Here Brian. Here Bart Scott. Drink up!
I expect Derek Anderson to struggle somewhat - although not terribly - and for a few chants of "Brady" to be heard by the end of the game. (Thankfully - no.)
I expect Jamal Lewis to average about 1.6 yards per carry. (Other than one long run - that was pretty accurate. Although his running accomplished the goal, so this development was just fine with me.)
I expect the Browns to win. Why, you ask? Because I expect them to lose. And every time I expect them to win, they lose. And every time I expect them to lose, they win. So I'm going with reverse logic on this one. (And now I know how to beat Vegas!)
My girlfriend's family had a little get together on Sunday. My girlfriend knows me well enough at this point to not even bother asking me if I was going to go. There are 17 Sundays in an NFL Regular Season, my dear. Those 17 days are completely off limits to family events or picnics or fairs or hayrides or bingo tournaments or... you get the picture.
So she took my daughters and went to her mother's without me,
Whatever shall I do?
I will admit that I didn't have the regular anticipation for this game. I was about as disinterested in this game as I can recall in many a moon. I'm sure it was a defense mechanism to the idea of once again watching the team I love lose to the team that I like least amongst all the teams of all the sports in all the world.
It didn't take long for that to change.
Promptly, they went to 3rd and 1, but a quick handoff to Laurence Vickers netted the Browns a 1st down at the Baltimore 40. The Browns pounded Jamal Lewis a few more times, then, on 3rd and 3, Derek Anderson hit Kellen Winslow on a little out that Winslow turned upfield for a 25 yard gain to the Ravens 8.
On 1st and Goal, Anderson threw a pass to Braylon Edwards, who had won position on Chris McAllister, but unfortunately Derek is prone to excitement adrenaline, and the easy TD throw sailed over Braylon's head out of bounds.
The thing I've liked a lot about Anderson this year is that he doesn't haul around mental baggage from his mistakes, and, on 2nd and Goal, avoided the heavy Raven rush and improvised by shoveling a nice toss to Edwards down to the 2.
On 3rd and Goal, should they pound the ball at the Top Ranked Ravens' run D? No. That would be silly. Anderson dropped back and rifled a short pass at Joe Jurevicius, who hauled the ball in for a TD right in front of everyone's favorite stabber, Ray Lewis. We Will Rock You by Queen sounded on the stadium speakers. Browns 7, Ravens 0.
One cannot say enough about the importance of getting a quick start against a team like Baltimore. Confidence - belief - is half the battle. Or a third of the battle. I'm not sure of the exact percentage, but it's high.
The Browns kicked off and, as I've said far too many times this year, the Ravens marched easily right down the field, aided by a maybe/maybe not Pass Interference call on Daven Holly on 3rd and 8. The Browns Pass Rush was... wait... do they have a pass rush? I'm looking at the paper, and I don't see no Pass Rush listed on the Browns roster. It'd be so much cooler if they acquired one. Do they have those at Wal-Mart?
However, on 1st and 10 from the Browns 27, Steve McNair, he of fading abilities, threw a nice pass right to Leigh Bodden, who returned the interception, holding it like a radioactive grenade, fumbling it out of bounds at the Cleveland 22.
Hey, if you're going to bend and bend and bend, but get the late pick, then I guess I'm fine with that Defense. I'd rather have the Browns do to McNair what the Giants did to poor over-criticized Donovan McNabb on Sunday night, but a stop is a stop.
So, it's 1st and 10. What to do, what to do? Anderson dropped back, saw something he liked, and heaved the ball down the field to a WIDE OPEN Braylon Edwards for the - gasp! easy? - 78 yard TD pass. Braylon shot out of the gate, gave a little inside hitch fake to McAllister (which McAllister bit on like a Nile Crocodile chomping on a puppy), and streaked towards the end zone. He was open by 7 or 8 yards when he caught the ball, and it was a relaxing trot from there for the Six.
And - yes - (holy feces) it looked like the Browns had come to play! Welcome back, Good Derek. Browns 14, Ravens 0.
The Browns, however, were out to prove that their 31st ranked Run D was no fluke, making wholly mediocre Ravens RB Willis McGahee look good as Baltimore plowed right down the field again. Cleveland decided to put a stop to those shenanigans at their own 32, forcing a 3rd and 12, which they stopped for a breath-holding gain of only 9. The Ravens were forced to kick a FG, and Matt Stover, the only Baltimore leftover from the long-lost days of the Pre-Move Browns, came on and took pity upon our suffering by pushing the ball well wide of the goal posts. Cleveland ball at their own 36.
Three plays later, Derek Anderson reminded us why he's Derek Anderson, not Peyton Manning. He made an inexplicable decision to throw into triple coverage on 3rd and 3. He took the snap, stared at his receiver, dropped back, stared at his receiver, threw the ball (while staring at his receiver), and somehow the Ravens knew where the ball was going. Ed Reed intercepted the ball and returned it all the way to the Cleveland 24.
Urg. Bad Derek has returned. Don't you dare blow this game, gentlemen.
End of 1st: Browns 14, Ravens 0.
With such prime starting field position, most teams would slice through the Browns' porous D like a hot spork through partially hydrogenised low-fat margarine. But this is the Ravens Offense we're talking about - the Achilles Heel of a good team for generations (or at least since Supposed Offensive Mastermind Brian Billick took over). They got to 1st and 10 from the 12, but on 3rd down, Derek Mason caught a McNair pass and ran away from the goal line, forcing the hapless Baltimore squad to kick a short FG instead. Browns 14, Ravens 3.
The Browns did a strange thing on the following possession: They decided to try and pound the ball down the Ravens' collective throats. And it was working. Jamal Lewis broke free for a 28 yard scamper (I love that word "scamper"). Then Jason Wright blew through the left side for 15.
Unfortunately, the Browns very impressive drive would stall at the Baltimore 22, and Phil Dawson came in to prove his mettle. Browns 17, Ravens 3.
On the following kickoff, Baltimore rookie Yamon Figurs belched up the ball. David McMillan said "Why thank you" and recovered the fumble, and I was starting to get the sense that the Browns could actually win this game. But it's 17-3, you say. How could you not think they could win it?
I've seen a lot of Browns games, my friends. I was at the game last year where the Browns shocked the world for a 14-3 halftime lead - and then verified the world by blowing it. No lead is safe. No deficit is surmountable.
Starting at the Ravens 31, the Browns went 3 and Out, then Dawson missed the Field Goal. Typical, we mutter. But what is not typical? Why, it's having the Ravens jump offsides, presenting us with a gift 1st down. That's the kind of play a certain team from the northeastern portion of Ohio usually makes. Thank you. Thank you.
The Browns immediately backed themselves up with an Illegal Formation penalty, but Anderson hit Winslow for a safe 11 yard shot, and Jason Wright burst up the middle for 12 yards on 3rd down, driving the ball to the Ravens 1.
1st and Goal - plow Jamal. I'm sure the coaches were sitting up in the booth, disregarding strategy for justice. We're getting Jamal his TD, they growled.
Well, 1st down was stymied, so they tried it again on 2nd. Jamal took the ball, went to his right, and jumped up, extending the ball in a highly dangerous fashion. He wasn't close enough to extend the ball like that, and had some evil Ravens defensive player swatted it out of his hands, it would've been a huge momentum shift.
However, the football gods were obviously smiling on Cleveland on Sunday, and the refs saw fit to claim that the ball crossed the goal line. Replays showed that idea to be highly questionable, but when the refs want to give you a TD - you take it. Besides, it would've been 3rd down at the 1 inch line, and the Browns most likely would've punched it in on the previous play. Browns 24, Ravens 3.
As the Browns went to kick the extra point, Brian Billick fumbled for his red hankie to challenge the call. He was too late. "It's too late," the announcers spewed. "You can't challenge a play after another play has been run."
You can't??? Tell that to the 2001 Browns versus Jacksonville. Rules like that only apply to everyone else.
But these particular refs found it prudent to actually adhere to their own policies, and the hissy-fit throwing Billick was told that next time he should maybe not keep his challenge flag in his bloomers.
The Browns kicked off, and Baltimore took over at their own 21 (the special team work was excellent all day for Cleveland). Willis McGahee took the ball, ran left, and was corralled for a loss. Or was he? 17 different Browns missed what should have been an easy tackle for at least no gain, McGahee ran back to his right, and picked up 28 disgusting yards.
Welcome to the Nicole Richie AwardTM winner of the day. McGahee rushed for 104 yards on 14 carries for the day. Doing the simple math, that's about 7.4 yards per tote. However, you take away those 28 yards that really really really shouldn't have been, and you have 14 rushes for 76 yards, which is a still too much but certainly more palatable average of 5.4.
After a Personal Foul penalty and allowing a 15 yard pass on 3rd and 10, the Browns finally overcame their defensive incompetence, forcing the Ravens to 3 straight incomplete passes from the 11. On 3rd down, McNair tossed the ball to an open Todd Heap in the End Zone, and Brodney Pool made a fantastic play, diving in front, knocking it down. DAT'S WHAT I'M TALKIN BOUT, BRODNEY! The Ravens scored - but it was of the sister-kissing variety (no Steeler fan pun intended). Browns 24, Ravens 6.
The Browns got the ball back on their 26 with 3 Time Outs and 52 seconds left. Sure, they could go for it, maybe get some more points before halftime. But the coaches were nervous about a possible Derek Anderson brainfart (as was I), and wisely made the decision to kneel and take the game to the Half. And the Browns fans, being the knowledgeable football fans that they are, also realized the wisdom of this decision, and opted not to boo the lack of aggression.
Halftime: Browns 24, Ravens 6.
The opening drive of the 2nd half may have been the most important of the game. The Ravens got the ball to start it off, and certainly had every intention of marching the field, getting a TD, and quickly cutting the lead to 11 with tons of time left in the game and full tank of momentum.
And, at first, it looked like they might be successful, as they drove rapidly into Browns territory, McNair picking apart Cleveland with short throws. Before most of the crowd had returned from the halftime pisser, the Ravens were sitting ugly with a 1st down at the Browns 19.
But a pleasant Offensive Holding play backed Baltimore up, and even the Browns can't give up a 3rd and 20.
They did it last week, you say.
Cripes. So they did.
But not this week. Derek Mason was stopped for a gain of 6, and on came Matt Stover to try a 41 yard FG. And that $20 I slipped him before the game worked again, as he drove the ball right, FG No Good, Browns ball.
More importantly, the Ravens burned over 6 minutes off the clock, and had nothing to show for it.
The Browns took over at their 31, and moved it out to midfield before Anderson dropped back on 3rd and 7. He zinged it across the middle into traffic, but the ball somehow found its way through to Winslow's eager hands, who turned, ran, and stiff armed his way down to the 2 yard line.
Sadly, the Browns could not get a push up the middle on a couple run plays, couldn't complete the short pass play, and were forced to settle for a FG. Browns 27, Ravens 6.
Last year against the Ravens, the Browns had the ball deep in Baltimore territory, a chance to put the nails in the coffin. They failed to do so. The result was tragic.
The Browns had just missed another opportunity to put Baltimore down like a rabid groundhog in a K-Mart. Those who do not learn from their mistakes...
With 4:12 left in the 3rd, the Ravens went into the Hurry Up. They once again drove into Browns territory, where the Bend But Don't Break tactic once again proved successful. Cleveland started putting some pressure - FINALLY - on McNair on this drive. Perhaps Todd Grantham discovered the idea that pressuring opposing QB's was a cool thing to do. Perhaps the constant defensive rotation was wearing down the mediocre Ravens O Line. Regardless, the Browns forced McNair into an incompletion on 3rd and 3.
Down by 21 with 10 second left in the quarter, Baltimore was forced to go for it. McNair dropped way back and threw towards Daniel Wilcox, but Leigh Bodden had beautiful blanket coverage and broke up the attempted conversion. Once again, the Ravens had the ball for a long time, moved the ball, but came up with nada.
End of 3rd: Browns 27, Ravens 6.
Now, the Browns went into what can only be termed a Prevent Offense.
Up 21 with only 15 minutes remaining, and probably more than a little nervous about Derek Anderson making a Bad Derek mistake.
And justifiably so. After several runs, Anderson dropped back to pass on 3rd and 10 and threw the ball right to Bart Scott, who wears purple and is therefore not a member of Derek's team. The Football Gods continued to grin at us, however, as Mr. Scott, a reputed chronic wheelchair shoplifter, dropped the sure Pick Six. Time for Scott Player to come in and boot one away.
And boot he did, right down to the Raven 15.
You can only Bend But Not Break for so long before you, well, break. And it finally happened to the Browns, with McNair dinking and dunking his way right down the field on an 85 yard TD drive. I can't say the Browns were in Prevent Defense, because there were some blitzes, but it was certainly an emphasis defensively to keep the plays short and in the middle of the field.
On 2nd down from the Cleveland 4, the Ravens finally broke the End Zone hymen with a short pass to a wide open Quinn Sypniewski (had to look up that spelling). Browns 27, Ravens 13.
The Bad News: The Browns were only up by 14.
The Good News: The Ravens TD drive ate up another 6 ½ minutes. Only 7:14 left in the game now.
After an 11 yard pass to Winslow, the Browns went back into Prevent Offense, which was just fine with me. Short, safe passes and runs. On 3rd and 7 from midfield, Anderson dropped back, couldn't find his man open, pulled the ball down, and slid down for a 2 yard gain.
This was the Scarlett Johanssen Play of The Game.
Why on such an innocuous play, you ask? And on a non-converted 3rd down?
Because, Bad Derek would've thrown that ball right into traffic, perhaps getting it picked, perhaps worse. When the receiver wasn't open and the play broke down, there were about 70 billion things that could've gone wrong. But Derek - Good Derek - wisely picked up a few yards and went safely to the ground. No turnover, and the clock keeps rolling. A very unsung play.
So when Baltimore got the ball back after the punt, they had the ball deep in their own territory with only 5 ½ minutes and 2 Time Outs.
The following Raven drive closely resembled the previous drive. The Browns were bringing the house, and Wimbley was finally starting to get consistent pressure coming from the left side. Baltimore had to burn its 2nd Time Out and convert a 4th and 3 to get into Browns territory.
1st and 10 from the Browns 33. Kamerion Wimbley slashed in and pegged McNair, who had just enough time to ground the ball. Miraculously, the refs actually saw it my way, and threw the flag. That was as good as a sack.
2nd and 20 from the Browns 43. False Start, Baltimore.
2nd and 25 from the Browns 48. McNair barely threw the ball to Musa Smith for a 4 yard gain as Wimbley once again shot in like sonic bullet, burying the Ravens QB yet again.
3rd and 21 from the Browns 44. Antwan Peek came flying at McNair's blindside, and he was forced to step up and throw. This allowed Simon Fraser to knock the ball down.
4th and 21 from the Browns 44. Pressure came again, and McNair was forced to basically throw the ball up for grabs towards Mark Clayton. Daven Holly's coverage was good, and Clayton could not maintain control as he got slammed to the turf. Even had he caught it, he would've been short of the 1st, so the point was moot.
And, basically, the game was over. The Browns came out to demonstrate some more Prevent Offense, the Ravens got the ball back with 23 seconds left, and got to run one play before the clock went graciously to 0:00.
Final: Browns 27, Ravens 13.
~~~Kudos to you, Eric Wright, and you, Brodney Pool. You two have been sucking up a storm so far this season, but there was some marked improvement in your performances this weekend. Let's hope that this is the first step towards respectability in your young careers.
If your egos are so fragile that a little humiliation breaks you, you're probably playing in the wrong league anyway.
~~~And welcome back, Willie McGinest. There have been times recently where I've felt that you were well past your prime and, thus, no longer really that useful to the team.
Your stats may not have showed it, but you were in on a number of plays on Sunday, and your presence certainly helped.
~~~Joe Thomas. Eric Steinbach. You two make up the left side of the Offensive Line, and I must profess my love for you both. All the big runs go through your side, and, since the Pittsburgh game, almost zero pass rushers even get near the QB from that area.
As long as the Browns are able to maintain their mostly stellar O Line play, they will have a chance to win a lot more games then any of us are used to.
~~~Speaking of the O Line, they allowed 0 sacks again. Derek Anderson isn't exactly Mike Vick back there, and he was barely even rushed by the supposedly ferocious Ravens D.
And the Browns get Ryan Tucker back from suspension this week, and possibly LeCharles Bentley in a couple more weeks, making the Offensive Line not only strong but deep.
~~~Hopefully Gary Baxter will also be getting back into the mix next week, which gives us some much needed depth and experience in the secondary.
How many times since '99 have we talked about the Browns entering Week 5 and not only being healthy, but getting healthier?
~~~Derek Anderson. He's been playing well, no?
90% of the time, Derek has been a high quality QB. But then, out of nowhere, Bad Derek rears his fugly head.
I don't know if there's a more important feature for a professional QB than consistency.
So, as well as Derek has played, you won't find me crying if the powers that be still roll Brady Quinn into production following the Bye week. Quinn strikes me as the more consistent commodity, and less prone to the boneheaded mistake.
Those about to argue with me... did you not hold your breath in terror every time Anderson dropped back to pass in the 2nd half? He scares me. I have this bad feeling that Derek Anderson is a time bomb ready to explode... just when it would hurt the most.
Just because something is working pretty well at the moment doesn't mean you can't make the moves to improve it.
~~~The Browns Defense is highly mediocre, but their Defense in the Red Zone - especially from the 10 in - is of a much greater quality.
Now, certainly, the Defense played much better as a whole this week. And it was nice to see them start to really get some pressure on the QB at the end of the game. But they're still the weak link, and the Run D is still far from adequate. I'm hoping for continued improvement. There's no reason that the Defense should be as weak as it is.
~~~McGahee doesn't have half those yards if the Browns defenders learn the art of TACKLING. Missed tackles in the backfield all over the place. If Cleveland can shore that issue up, they'd be much further on their way to achieving Defensive Decency.
~~~Now it's time for another fun round of When Stats LieTM.
The Ravens outgained the Browns in Total Offense 418-303, an advantage of more than 100 yard. They also held the ball for 34:29, compared the the Browns 25:31 - almost a 10 minute advantage.
Looking at those stats, you might suggest the Browns were outperformed and lucky to win.
That's because those dirty stats are lying.
Pretty much all of the 2nd half, the Browns were running a form of Prevent, both Offensively and Defensively. With a big lead, they went conservative. And, playing from way behind, the Ravens went to the hurry-up. So, naturally, the stats were seriously skewed.
If the contest had been close, then I suspect both teams would've held to their 1st half game plans. So I prefer to look at the 1st half stats as the more accurate reflection of the contest.
At the half, the Browns had 83 rushing yards, the Ravens 73. The Browns had 213 total yard, the Ravens had 168. The Browns held the ball for 15:32, the Ravens 14:28. Extrapolate those numbers, and the Browns outrush Baltimore 166 to 146, outgain them 426 to 336, and hold the ball for 31:04 compared to 28:56. They beat them across the board.
That's creative statistics, you say. You can't do that.
Sure I can. It's my article.
~~~Phil Dawson was kicking touchbacks left and right. OK, fine, he only had 2. But that's 2 more than he usually has. Hope he's not sampling Barry Bonds' "cream".
~~~Sadly, we will not have the opportunity to build on our (what must be termed) success, as the Browns travel to New England next week. Now, I know there are those out there that were born with the optimistic gene, but it would take the most optimistic optimist in the history of optimism to believe that Cleveland is going to go into Foxboro and beat what is the best team I've seen in a long NFL time.
The Patriots aren't just 4-0. They are 4 and not even touched. The team is strong on Defense and loaded with weapons on Offense. They are a juggernaut. Which I think is a German term for a beer stein that has left the stratosphere.
Normally, I don't buy moral victories. As Herm Edwards is fond of saying, "You play to win the game."
But this task is why the term "Herculean" was invented. And for the Browns to lose in Foxboro by 14 or less would have to be termed a true "moral victory".
The only good thing that can be said is that every single person in every single city in every single nation will be expecting the Patriots to win. I mean, there's more chance that I will transverse the globe on the back of a giant penguin named Louise than there is of the Browns pulling out a win on Sunday.
Never say never? Never.
Any given Sunday? Except this one.
If the game is already lost - the Browns really and truly have nothing to lose.
Here is the mantra for next week: Play hard. Don't get embarrassed too badly. Try to learn from the Patriots what it takes to become the Patriots.
~~~Because the week after that, you get the completely awful Miami Dolphins at home, and a bye week to follow. 3-3 at the bye - with that opening schedule - is really a lot more than I hoped for after the drubbing of Week 1.
And after the bye? The St. Louis Rams. As in The Worst Team In The NFL St. Louis Rams.
I will be ecstatic if the Browns are still playing meaningful games in November (December is still too much to hope for). There are few things in the world better than home games in the cold on the Cleveland lakefront with playoff contention on the line.
We'll see. It takes only 4 short weeks for the NFL to be a quarter done with their season. Four 60 minute games. That's only 240 minutes of game play, and already many teams are dead.
That's life in the big city, kids.