I lived in Miami from '95 to '98. You will notice that this coincided with the absence of a certain NFL team from the league whilst on "hiatus". There was a great emptiness in my life. So I watched a lot of Dolphins games. They became my fallback team.
My obsession with the City of Miami lasted until I lived there.
Now? I'd be fine never going back there ever again. Flat, hot, expensive, snobby, glamour-fascinated... and the worst traffic I've ever seen (and I lived in NYC and SoCal).
My obsession with the University of Miami lasted until their fans cried and whined and bitched in unison following the 2003 BCS Championship Game for such a long time that I could no longer stand anything associated with that pansy-ass establishment.
Now? I hope they never have a winning season ever again. I hate them more than the clap.
My obsession with the Dolphins of Miami lasted until they forced their legend into retirement. Sure, it was time. But he certainly deserved better treatment from the organization, the "fans" (assuming that any sports franchise in South Florida has fans other than during the playoffs), and the media. For Dog's sakes... you couldn't get him a running game ONCE in 16 years? Plus, the Browns returned in '99, so the Fins were on the backburner.
Now? I couldn't care less about that boring, non-descript, rudderless franchise.
Plus, my girlfriend was born in Miami and still roots for the Fins to this day. So their misery gives me something else with which to mock her.
I know, I know - I'm a romantic.
Same as last week, I expect Derek Anderson to throw at least 2 interceptions today. (Or not.)
I expect the Browns to give up way too much rushing yardage. (Well... not really, although they went over 100 again.)
I expect Jason Wright to have a really good game. (Not "really good", but not bad, either. I picked him up and played him in my fantasy league, and he scored me some decent points.)
I was a bit tired, as I'd stayed up until (seems like) 4 am watching the Indians-Red Sox game, and then my daughters had seen fit to wake me up at 6 am Sunday morning.
Nothing that a Red Bull and beer can't fix.
What is this strange feeling? Is it... confidence? Am I actually confident the Browns will win? This is terrible! Get that feeling out of your head right now, young man! That won't do at all. Every time you let you expectations for this team get too high, they turn around and kick your proverbial ass.
Here, watch the 1st Half of the Patriots game again. There. That should fix it.
It appeared that the Browns would squander their excellent starting point by floundering to a 3rd and 11. Human Enema Bag Joey Porter was celebrating like he'd just won Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? Which he should celebrate, since I think it's readily apparent to most of the civilized world that he ain't be.
But Derek Anderson dropped back and drilled a gorgeous pass to Braylon Edwards for 17. Human Enema Bag stomped his feet and called his mom to complain that the other kids didn't like him and his grilled cheese sandwich still had crust.
Two plays later, Anderson threw another nice pass towards Joe Jurevicius in the End Zone, but Mike Lehan, knowing he was beat, gave Joe an arm-bar to prevent the 6. The refs saw it, the flag was thrown, and it was 1st and Goal from the 1.
Jason Wright came in, picked his way through a plethora of bodies, and knifed in for the TD. He jumped up and celebrated with Laurence Vickers, who accidentally plowed a ref and sent him to the showers. Hmmmmm, I mused. All you need to do to beat down a ref is act like you don't know he's there. Man, if I were a player, I'd be "celebrating" my way into offending refs all the time. I'll teach you to throw a flag on me! Browns 7, Dolphins 0.
Miami got their 1st possession, and they started out by allowing a sack to Kamerion Wimbley. From there, they timidly stumbled to a 3 and out. A 3 and Out!, I thought. Perhaps this is the week where the Defense finally gets it together!
After the punt, Cleveland started on their own 33. On 3rd down, DA nailed Jurevicius for a 6 yard gain. Unfortunately, it was 3rd and 8. Why you run an out pattern 2 yards short of the sticks is beyond me. Must be one of those things that a football-naïve fan such as myself just wouldn't understand.
The Dolphins got the ball back, and the Ronnie Brown show began. His 1st three runs were for 11, 9, and 15. That's only 11.33 yards per carry. That's excellent Run D, folks.
Miami drove to the Cleveland 24, but the Browns finally found a way to stop Ronnie, getting him for a loss of 1. The Browns got some pressure and tipped the ball for an almost INT on the next play, and then Cleo Lemon missed Chris "Thank God I'm Going To San Diego" Chambers, and the Fins had to settle for a FG by The Angry Kicker. Damn! There goes the shutout. Browns 7, Dolphins 3.
On the following drive, the Browns quickly weaved their way to a 3rd and 11. That, of course, meant we had them right where we wanted them. Jurevicius made a nice catch and lunged for the 1st, then Jerome Harrison made his presence felt. He leaped tacklers for a 4 yard gain, then, after a False Start penalty, caught a screen for 15 that showcased Harrison's moves and speed.
Then a run for 10. Then a run for 14 yards where he about broke poor Donovin Darius' ankles.
Harrison's got some moves, and he's got some speed, and I think it's obvious he's got some game-changing ability. I am officially on board with the Get Jerome Harrison Some More PT campaign.
It wasn't just Harrison slicing and dicing the Fins, as Jason Wright came in on 2nd and 6 and sped around the right end for 13 yards down to the 1. Obviously, this inspired Derek Anderson. Everyone else is running on these guys, he thought to himself. Why can't I?
So he did. Bootlegging to his right, he sprinted (OK - plodded) in for the TD. Browns 14, Dolphins 3.
End of 1st: Browns 14, Dolphins 3.
During the opening possession of the 2nd quarter, the Browns just shut the Fins the hell down. It was one of their best defensive sequences of the year, and got me more excited than anything else that I'd seen all game. 1st down was a screen to Ronnie that would've been shut down had he actually caught it. 2nd down was a great defensive stop on a run for 1 measly yard. 3rd down was a pass that was defensed well by Eric Wright, and Miami got to punt from their own 10.
My oh my, but the Browns are an Offensive machine this year. Much love to Rob Chudzinski, who has turned a bunch of never-done-nothings into The Greatest Show On Grass. In most instances, the only thing that stops them is themselves.
Which they did on the following drive by going for the oh-too-cute delayed handoff to Wright on 3rd and 8 from the Miami 29. They got 6, but that's not enough for a 1st down, even in horseshoes. Dawson time. Browns 17, Dolphins 3.
On the ensuing drive, the Fins got to their 39, but then the Browns Run D let loose a barbaric yawp and held Ronnie B to a 4 yards on 2 plays. They were swarming, and for maybe the first time all season, I had some faith in the Defensive side of the ball.
They made me further proud on the next play, a 3rd and 6, when Willie McGinest put some massive pressure on The Lemon, who rolled right and threw the easy pick to Leigh Bodden. You can play in the NFL for 1000 years and never get a pick that easy.
So, this is what it feels like to have a complete team. Finally, the Defense has showed up. Where can we go with a team like this?
We might never know.
When a team gives you a gift in their own territory, you go for the throat. Derek Anderson read that somewhere. On the 1st play after the turnover, he nailed Braylon Edwards for a 24 yard TD right up the middle. Hail Hail Rock ‘n Roll, the rout was on. Browns 24, Dolphins 3.
Ted "Screw Those People That Booed Me On Draft Day" Ginn busted one on the kickoff, but the Fins did him no favors by collecting a Holding penalty. Miami got to start at their own 20 with 6:13 left in the half.
The Browns maintained their pressure, but gave up the 3rd and 10 pass to Thank God I'm Going To San Diego for 19. Cleveland seemed to fall into the Evil that is the Prevent, and Miami drove down to Browns 25. From there, Miami showed why they were 0-5 by racking up 3 straight penalties: a Holding call, a Delay of Game, and a False Start. Before they knew it, the Fins were facing 1st and 30 from the Cleveland 45.
This is where the Browns prove over and over again that they are not an elite team: You see they have their opponent on the ropes. They're up by 21 points. They have their enemy backed up in a 1st and 30 situation. Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that this was an Ohio State game. How would you feel about them being up 24-3 with their opponent in a 1st and 30? Pretty good? Confident? Eager for blood?
Ah, but if it's the Browns you are watching, then 1st and 30 isn't nearly so cozy. Actually, it's downright terrifying, because you KNOW there's no way they should allow the 1st down, you KNOW that they should attack, you KNOW that the situation should turn out positively, and yet you WORRY.
You don't just WORRY - you almost KNOW that they'll blow it.
Short pass for 6. Short pass for 8. Bullshit pass up the middle for 15. Now it's time for Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? Here we go: 6+8+15=What? Yes! The answer is 29. But Miami needed 30. 30-29=What? Yes, you're right! It's 1. 3 downs gone. That means it's What? Right! 4th and 1.
As we all know, 4th and 1 is a constant for What? Exactly! A horrible Defensive play.
Many of you have asked me what exactly the Nicole Richie AwardTM signified. Well, it's simple. Nicole Richie is an individual that is not only ugly physically, but also mentally and psychologically. And physically.
So, if you're looking for something hideous, something foul, something that makes you want to retch in your sleep, you look for 4th and 1 on the Browns 16. If you're looking for something even more unsightly than Ms. Richie, you can look at the play where Ronnie Brown hit the center of the line, was stopped, bounced to his left, beat 2 Browns defenders, and dove forward for a 1st down.
There is no doubt that I've been angry at several times during this Browns season. But few instances - if any - made me as furious as that 4th down conversion. It was simply a play that good teams stop and mediocre teams (read: Browns, Cleveland) allow.
The Defense had been playing so well, but had seemingly just had their meager confidence destroyed by such a pathetic play. Go ahead and score, they said. Go on. We won't stop you.
They didn't. Lemon got his 1st TD of the game on a 14 yard strike to David Martin.
And just like that, we had no confidence that the Browns would allow this to be an easy game. Browns 24, Dolphins 10.
The Browns Offense took the field, and they said "Hey man, at least we don't SUCK." And they proved their worth, driving from their 27 to the Miami 3 in just a minute, including a sweet pass from Anderson to Winslow (over the Human Enema Bag) for 33. Ma! Human Enema Bag texted desperately. They're pickin' on me. I'm no good in man on man situations! I can't attack unless it's me and my posse against one guy who's not looking! And I wanted raspberry jelly on my PBJ, but you gave me grape! Why, Ma, why?
Sadly, with time at a premium, Cleveland didn't have enough ticks on the clock to finish the deal from the 3 yard line. With 8 seconds left, DA dropped back, scrambled a bit, and very wisely threw the ball away rather than try to run it in.
Gee, I wonder if he watched any of the Oregon St.-Cal game the day before, where Cal's QB did not throw the ball away, got tackled, and the clock ran out before they could attempt the Field Goal? Nah - probably not. Why would Derek Anderson have any interest in that game?
Philly Dawson came in and got his second FG of the contest. Browns 27, Dolphins 10.
Halftime: Browns 27, Water Mammals 10.
A large portion of my brain would like to forget this quarter. What I want to say here is:
The 3rd Quarter happened. It was not good. Mercifully, it ended. Let's move on.
But I shan't. I will, however, make this quarter brief, since it gets a bit boring describing the ways that the Defense blew. They stopped getting pressure on Lemon, the coverage in the secondary was shoddy, the Run D was once again Swiss cheese-esque, and the tackling was an insult to the word "tackling". It seemed that Thank God I'm Going To San Diego was running wide open down the field on every play. Fortunately, Lemon missed him most of the time.
So instead of big plays, they were forced to march the field methodically. Poor them.
Ted Ginn opened the 2nd half by easily returning the kickoff for a TD. But, once again, the Football Gods smiled upon the Browns with a Holding penalty. No matter. The Fins went the length of the field in a 75 yard, 14 play, 7:03 drive, capped by Cleo Lemon plowing over D'Qwell Jackson at the Goal Line. Urg - here we go. Browns 27, Dolphins 17.
At least our Offense doesn't have its head in its ass, right? Please? Well... yes... but they did go 3 and Out here. It was their only 3 and Out all day, but that's all the Defense needed to become completely and utterly useless.
After the Browns punt, Miami took over at their 38 with 6:25 left in the 3rd. They converted a 4th and short, then came what I like to refer to as a Horseshit PlayTM. Lemon dropped back and saw no one open. Sean Jones finally got off his block and put some pressure on Cleo, who was forced to run to his right and throw a floater up across his body. Surely, this duck would be shot down, no? No. It would land safely in Ted Ginn's arms, and he turned it into a 32 yard gain.
What kind of coverage is this secondary in? Is it some kind of bizarre zone? Whatever it is, STOP DOING IT.
Three plays later, Lemon plunged ahead for his 2nd TD run of the game. All manner of objects flew at my television screen in dismay and frustration. My hat, a pillow, the cat... Browns 27, Dolphins 24.
Since this was starting to remind me of the Cincy game, I figured it was good and damn time for the Offense to get going again. I really hate the We Better Score Every Time Cuz We Ain't Stoppin' ‘Em game plan, but whatever gets the W.
Starting at their 34, Anderson quickly hit Kellen Winslow over the middle for 21, but Lehan stripped him, and thank the Football Gods that Ryan Tucker was there to jump on the ball. That's the 2nd week in a row you've fumbled, Mr. Winslow, and that fumble could've been even more damaging than last weeks. Hold onto the ball like it's your baby and you're stuck in a tornado.
On 3rd and 5, Anderson hit Jurevicius for a 10 yard gain. After the tackle, he jumped up and demonstratively gave a tomahawk-chop 1st down signal. The Browns went to the 4th with the momentum shifting back to their favor.
End of 3rd: Browns 27, Fins 24.
After Joe's 1st down catch, the next 7 plays were runs. 6 of them went to Jason Wright, 1 of them was a scramble for a 1st down by Derek "Eat Your Heart Out, Mike Vick" Anderson. This sequence of events brought them to a 3rd and Goal from the 5. So DA simply dropped back and threw a dart to Braylon over the middle. It was as if Edwards & Anderson were toying with the poor defender. I almost felt bad for him. OK, not really. Browns 34, Dolphins 24.
Unfortunately, the Browns' score meant that we had to see the Defense back on the field. I considered going outside for a jog, returning after Miami had scored, thus saving myself the frustration of having to watch it. "Who knows?" I asked. "Maybe they'll actually stop ‘em this time."
My girlfriend choked on her beer.
On 1st down, Willie McGinest FINALLY got some pressure on Lemon, who was forced to dump it out to Ronnie B, who was cut down nicely by D'Qwell Jackson for a 3 yard loss. Now, if the 1st and 30 situation had taught us anything, it was that the Browns D was never safe. But that certainly improved my hopes for a stop.
On 2nd and 13, Cleo dumped the ball over the middle again, and Ronnie managed to pick up 10 due to some questionable "tackling" by McGinest and Andra Davis.
On 3rd and 3, Ted Ginn was running wide open across the middle, but Lemon threw it way behind him incomplete, and they were forced to punt. It was the Accidental Defensive Stand. If that had been Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, Ted Ginn is still running.
The following Browns drive went much the way the previous one did: lots of running (this time with Harrison) with the occasional highly effective pass thrown in for good measure. Jerome had 29 yards on this drive, showing both power and speed, finishing the day with 8 rushes for 57 yards, which, using mathematical wizardry, is over 7 yards per carry.
On 2nd and 8 from the Miami 16, Anderson ran a play-action pass, intending to hit Winslow in the corner of the End Zone. But Winslow was double covered, so Derek threw the ball away. This, my friends, was the Scarlett Johanssen AwardTM winner. Why? Because it was an excellent decision at a critical juncture. Too many times in the past, I've seen the Browns driving, trying to put the game away, then make a horrible mistake right at the end, and - viola! - it causes them to lose. The mistake wasn't made. That is a huge step in the right direction.
Because they did not turn the ball over, the Browns had a 3rd down. Anderson threw it towards the End Zone again, this time to the left for Braylon Edwards. The pass was placed gorgeously, and Braylon went up and tore the ball out of the air for his 3rd TD of the day. With 4:34 left in the game, Cleveland was up 17. That's difficult for even the Browns to blow. Browns 41, Dolphins 24.
The Ted Ginn Effect came into focus on the following kickoff, as Dawson squibbed it - badly - and the Fins were able to recover at their 47. From there, the Browns were content to let Ronnie B pad his stats as long as he stayed in bounds and ran down the clock. Now, normally, this would be the part of the game where the Defense slid into Prevent, but apparently they had worn out their Prevent package (running it for the entire 3rd Quarter and all), so the secondary actually started playing their guys. Daven Holly had a primo knock-down, and about 3 Browns converged and slapped the ball away from Marty Booker (though they got flagged for it).
They also had some nice QB pressure. Antwan Peek and McGinest both got in on Lemon, almost getting him down on one play, then sacking him on the next. Even though the following 3rd and 11 was converted, they had several guys in Cleo's face again.
With 2:40 left in the game, on 1st and 10 from the Browns 14, Eric Wright cut in front of Lemon's pass and easily picked the ball off in the End Zone. Congrats on your first NFL INT, Mr. Wright. You've played well as of late. One of the very few on Defense that I can say that about.
Sadly, Jason Wright fumbled the ball after the Browns took over, and Miami recovered. That is NOT the way to run out the clock, Jason. 50 push ups in lava for you.
With such enviable field position, Miami was able to drive down and get a TD pass over Sean "All Pro" Jones with 1:34 left. Can whomever borrowed the real Sean Jones please return him? We could use him sometime this season. Browns 41, Dolphins 31.
Unless you've grown up in a cave, or Pittsburgh, you knew what was coming next - the dreaded Onside Kick. Steve Heiden waited for the hop, covered it up, and the game was over.
Well, not yet. Derek Anderson had to come in, the Offense assumed the Victory Formation, and clock ticked down to 0:00. NOW the game was over.
Final: Browns 41, Dolphins 31.
~~~Last week, I said it was time for Brady Quinn to start. I stand by that. I still think that Brady Quinn will pan out to be the superior QB - now and in the future.
Although it would be difficult for anyone to have a better game than Derek did on Sunday. When you throw for 245 yards, 3 TD's, 0 INT's, and a 142.5 passer rating, you're doing something right. And his decision making this week was excellent. Maybe even more impressive than the numbers.
Anderson is more than capable at his job. QB is the least of our problems at this point. And I have absolutely no decision making power in Berea. Therefore, I shall not harp on the QB position again, since it's just a waste of words.
Unless, of course, DA has two poor games in a row. Or he gets hurt. Or Quinn inexplicably gets the start. Or I feel like it.
~~~One thing I will harp on is the Defense. I know there's some talent there - more than has been shown. You people are giving me an ulcer.
~~~Jerome Harrison must've done something foul to Romeo Crennel. He must've nailed his daughter or eaten his last piece of cheesecake. I can see no other reason for Harrison not getting more time on the field, unless it's his possibly questionable blocking.
And, as far as I could see, he blocked just fine.
I like Jason Wright well enough, but it seems to me that Harrison has a bit more potential.
~~~Between Harrison and Wright, they rushed for 116 yards on 28 carries. That's a little over 4 yards a carry - respectable for 2nd stringers.
Perhaps it has something to do with the Offensive Line, hmmmm?
Phil Savage, glad you finally got around to fixing that. We've only been bleating for it for 8 years.
~~~If I hear one more analyst break down the Dallas-New England game, I'm gonna go postal.
That was the most over-hyped, over-analyzed game in the history of the NFL regular season. It was Judgment Day (Michigan at OSU 2006) all over again.
And if you think that was bad, just wait ‘til the Pats play the Colts. Ye gods.
~~~Raise your hand if you're sick of seeing "CBS is not televising today's Browns game in HD" across the bottom of the screen each week. CBS televises - what? - all but one of their games in HD each week? And for some reason it's always us?
I know you've got to win to earn respect, but, geez, there are more than enough shitty teams in the NFL. Spread the contempt around.
~~~Another week, another 100 yard rusher for the opposition. I'm half-convinced that my 7 year old daughter could rush for 100 on the Browns D. She might not have the power, but she's quick and shifty. Try catching her when she's under threat of paddling. It ain't easy.
Believe it or not, I actually thought the Browns Run D was better in this game. Not good. No, not good. But better.
Better is still a long way from good.
~~~Cleo Lemon had 4 TD's in this game: 2 passing and 2 running.
No, don't go out and pick up Mr. Lemon in your fantasy leagues. He won't do this every week. Remember who he was playing. Hell, even Steve freakin' McNair threw for over 4 bills on us.
~~~Right after the game, Miami traded Chris Chambers to San Diego for a 2nd round pick.
Talk about giving up.
Great move for the Chargers. Re-introduce them into your Superbowl discussion.
~~~Did you know that dolphins are the only animals other than humans that have sex for pleasure? Interesting cocktail party ice-breaker, that.
In my next life, I'm coming back as a dolphin, an eagle, or the Sultan of Brunei.
~~~Now we enter the Bye week. I hope to God that they do something about the Defense. Try some new schemes. Play a bit more 4-3 to mix things up. When Romeo was the Defensive Coordinator in New England, they switched back and forth from the 3-4 to the 4-3 all the time.
A little 4-3 here and there would help hide our weakness at Nose Tackle, the most pivotal position in an effective 3-4. Line up McGinest and Wimbley at the DE positions, plug in Shaun Smith and Robaire Smith at DT, Andra Davis at MLB, and Peek and Jackson at the OLB spots. Too light, you say? They'll get blown off the line. Fine. Throw some bigger bodies into the DT mix. Change it up.
Mind you, I am in NO WAY endorsing a wholesale change. It's just that the personnel we have on Defense is what it is. It isn't going to change before the end of the season. If we want to step up the Defensive play, then the coaches will have to do it with schemes and play calling.
Time for Romeo and Grantham to earn their fat checks.
~~~Get healthy, everyone. I don't feel like the Browns - as a team - are ready for the playoffs. But they're in the mix whether they're ready or not. We'll need everyone at their best if the Cleveland Browns are gonna make it interesting into December.