Week 6 - Cleveland vs. New York Giants
What the Hell was THAT?
I'm now putting down the tube of glue and backing away. Obviously, it is starting to cause hallucinations.
(To be fair, though, should illicit substances provide me with this kind of mental projection every week, then I'm joining the Crack of the Month ClubTM.)
I could've sworn that the Cleveland Browns, the Titanic of the NFL (after it had snapped in two), the team where hope comes to die, just kicked the vital fluids out of the undefeated Super Bowl champions. I've pinched myself so many times that my arms bleed, and yet reality has not yet returned.
So, obviously, the question must be asked: Was that reality?
Was that the "Real" Cleveland Browns? Is that what we can expect from this team for the remainder of the season? Was it truly just a slow start hampered by injuries, or is this a mirage? Was that the "Real" Derek Anderson? Was that the "Real" Braylon Edwards? Or was this just a perfect storm of productivity for one game on a national stage, enough to give us false hope, then returning us to the bleak sand dunes of reality next week in another disheartening loss?
And, really, who cares?
For this week, at least, our team played a great game, and there is much to feel good about. We can't know the future, so enjoy this while you can. Enjoy the feeling that the team turned a corner, that the playoffs are still a possibility, that there is light at the top of the well.
Before the game, I planned on writing this recap as a farce where the Browns did everything well and won big. Imagine my shock that I can write the actual recap - and end up with the same content.
8:30 is my daughters' bedtime, which obviously coincided with kickoff of the game. So, the bedtime story was brief yet educational.
There once was a princess. She married a prince. The prince bought her an expensive diamond ring and a Lexus, she had some kids and a big house, and all she ever had to do for the rest of her life was scrapbook and watch Reality TV shows. On her death bed, she realized that her existence was completely without meaning. The End.
They seemed confused by the moral of the story, but the kisses were planted and the light was out before the questions could even be asked.
The Browns got the ball first and seemed destined for a 3 and Out, but Derek Anderson hit Braylon Edwards on a short slant, and he broke free for a 49 yard gain, easily eclipsing the previous long gain of the year for our Offensively challenged Brownies. They got to the NYG 12, but a False Start - one of a slew - then a fumble led to 3rd and Long, and the powers that be deemed it wise to throw a short pass to Donte Stallworth (yes, he lives) that resulted in nothing but a shorter FG. Browns 3, Giants 0.
The Giants of New York received the ball and marched methodically down the field. On 3rd and 5 from the CLE 31, Eli Manning went deep down the middle for Plaxico Burress, but Brodney Pool read his eyes and cut in front of the pass beee-utifully for the pick.
The Flash formation starring MC Josh Cribbs reared its head for 12, and Jamal Lewis, who was running well and effectively, picked up a 3rd and 3. But then a bad pass from DA was called back due to an Illegal Shift, DA's next throw was batted down, and his offering on 3rd and Long wasn't accurate either. Here comes Bad Derek, I thought. And my dismal attitude was compounded when Phil Dawson's 51 yard FG attempt hooked wide left at the last second.
Eli got over his INT by ending the Quarter with a perfect 24 yard pass to Kevin Boss, who hasn't caught anything all year, which I should know since I finally dumped his useless ass from my fantasy roster last week.
End of 1st: Browns 3, Giants 0.
The Second stanza started off with a long Derrick Ward run. He seemingly averaged 20 yards a carry. The Giants pounded it down the Browns throats, emphasized when Brandon Jacobs ran the ball in from 7 yards out, turning poor Mike Adams into road kill along the way. Then he traipsed around on his tiptoes as if to make some point, which was lost because he just looked like a blue ballerina on steroids. Giants 7, Browns 3.
And then - praise the true Gods! - finally came the Deep BallTM. DA rolled to his right. Braylon gave NYG Corner Aaron Ross the ol' Out-n-Up move, and Ross was toast. Edwards had at least 5 steps on him down the field, and despite the fact that Derek's heave was slightly underthrown (preventing the sure TD), the play went for 70 yards to the Giant 4. Jamal ran it in from there with a nice cutback, and We Are The Champions by Queen was playing for seemingly the first time all year at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Browns 10, Giants 7.
The Browns couldn't get to Eli on 3rd and 6, so he completed a 25 yard pass to Plax (shortened to 15 by a NY penalty). The play was significant, however, because monstrous Shaun Rogers body slammed Manning at the end, causing the QB much physical distress, as if a wildebeest sat on a toad. A few plays later, Rogers got Held to prevent a sack, Brandon McDonald had blanket coverage on Plax on a deep ball, and the Browns ran an interesting UFO Defense on 3rd and Long that killed the Giants screen. Le Punt.
That's when DA officially entered The ZoneTM. He led the team down the field, spreading the ball around to the Steve Heidens and Syndric Steptoes of the world. His 22 yard laser TD pass to Darnell Dinkens was the best throw - by far - that he had thrown all season. And, with DA looking like he had finally come to play and the Browns up 10, the crowd could smell hope. Browns 17, Giants 7.
However, it got snuffed out a bit as Eli led his team down the field on a 2 Minute drill. But, on 3rd and 10 at the CLE 21, Corey Williams sacked Manning, the ball came out, and D'Qwell Jackson recovered. Alas, alas, Mike Adams was called for a relevant but nonetheless ticky-tack Illegal Contact call, the fumble was reversed, and the Giants got their TD on a floater to Plaxico (over unbelievably useless Terry Cousin). Browns 17, Giants 14.
The Giants squibbed the kickoff, and, as we all know from watching the Chicago Bears-Atlanta Falcons game, 12 seconds is more than enough time to take a stab at moving into FG position. Romeo didn't feel this way, having Derek throw a couple dinky futile incompletions before taking a knee.
I guess I can see his trepidation on having the momentum completely shanghaied by an Anderson Pick 6. Still, cowardly football has been all too prevalent in the Crennel era.
Halftime: Browns 17, Giants 14.
The Giants got the ball to start the 2nd Half, and they felt the need to announce their presence with authority. Eli went deep for Plaxico, but Brandon McDonald was behind him. There was an obvious miscommunication between Manning and Burress, because McD looked like the intended receiver as he hauled in the 2nd pick of the game.
Rob Chudzinski finally opened up his playbook, calling a reverse to Jerome Harrison, who took it 33 yards to the NYG 13. 2 short runs netted not much, and Stallworth let the well-thrown ball go through his hands in the End Zone on 3rd Down, so Cleveland settled for the FG. Browns 20, Giants 14.
The Browns D forced New York into a 3rd and 6, but all the pressure came from the outside, leaving the middle open for an Eli scramble for a 1st. However, the Browns finally figured out how to stop the Jacobs runs, and, on 3rd and 10, half the Defense met at the Manning. Alex Hall got credit for the sack, but about 6 Browns players were in on it, so a group hug goes to the whole unit.
Then came the most bizarre drive that I've seen from those who don the Brown and Orange for quite some time. Officially, it was an 87 yard drive. But Cleveland committed 5 penalties for 30 yards on that drive alone, so it was unofficially a 117 yard TD march. Jamal was running effectively. Harrison had some nice runs too, even up the gut. Derek was throwing with pinpoint accuracy; his only incompletions were drops. It was pick up a chunk, penalty, chunk, penalty all the way down the field.
Probably the most important play of the drive was the screen pass to Jason Wright on 3rd and 6 at the Giant 33. He fell forward as he was tackled and picked up 6.01 yards... and the 1st. Harrison also caught an 18 yard pass on 2nd and 12, setting the Browns up with 1st and 10 at the NYG 11.
End of 3rd: Browns 20, Giants 14.
So to cap that epic drive, Anderson rolled right once more (which seems to be good for him). Braylon made Ross look silly again to the point that the Giants' Corner fell down and hurt himself. DA hit Braylon on the easy throw and - holy shit! - the Browns were ahead by 13. Browns 27, Giants 14.
Steve Smith was the Achilles Heel of the Browns D all day, and he made several big catches on the following drive. Travis Daniels - the Browns 4th Corner - was for some inexplicable reason stationed on Burress on 3rd and 2, and you can imagine how that ended up. Then New York started beating the outside blitzes with runs up the gut. Ward especially was eating up hunks of yardage like Skittles.
For no reason whatsoever, when the Giants reached the CLE 9, they decided to go away from their incredibly successful running game. Eli rolled to his right. Willie McGinest applied some pressure, and Manning threw the ball off his back foot toward Amani Toomer. Eric Wright read it like See Spot Run and picked the ball at the 6, running straight up the sideline. The only person that had a shot at the tackle was Eli, and his effort was, how should I put it, oh yes, pathetic. Wright took it to the house for a 94 yard TD return, complete with obligatory Deion Sanders dance.
The Offense was unstoppable at this point, so they went for 2, and Anderson hit Braylon yet again for the conversion. Browns 35, Giants 14.
With 8 minutes left, the Giants made another attempt to get into the game with Ward picking up more huge wads of real estate, although the Browns were probably conceding the run at that point. New York got down into the Red Zone rather quickly, but there decided to take their time. I have no clue why they didn't have any sense of urgency. I can only conclude they knew their goose was flambéed.
Once again, New York went away from their highly successful runs up the middle, opting for crappy little screens that netted diddly-poo. With time ticking down, the 4th and 2 pass to Steve Smith in the End Zone had no chance, especially with Eric Wright standing right next to him.
Cleveland took over on downs, and chants of "Overrated" filled the Autumn air. The Browns had no inclination to do anything but run and kill clock, and they were still successful. Heiden blocked the hell out of Justin Tuck on 3rd and 7, allowing Jamal to pick up a 1st Down, and the Victory Formation rapidly ensued.
Final: Browns 35, Giants 14.
Offensive MVP: The Offensive Line. Whatever Chud put in their Wheaties, keep adding it. Looking porous and weak in the first 4 games, the unit, with the addition of Ryan Tucker at Right Tackle, opened up more than satisfactory holes for the Running Backs and held the vaunted Giant Defense without a single sack. Or, really, even a pressure.
Defensive MVP(s): Eric Wright. He almost had a pick on the TD drive the Giants had at the end of the 1st Half. He did have a pick on the would-be TD drive the Giants had at the end of the 2nd Half. And he took it all the way back, sealing the game in the process.
~~~The crowd came to Boo. They were so prepared to rip out their Bronx Cheers that they had been doing facial exercises all day in order to prevent jaw cramps.
And the reality of the events were in such stark contrast to their limited expectations that they had to swallow the Boos almost entirely. That might be the most shocking development of the whole contest.___________
~~~The Browns were 9 of 13 on 3rd Down, and one of those non-conversions was the kneel-down at the end of the 1st Half.
To state the obvious: that is in stark contrast to what we saw from Cleveland previously.___________
~~~Another strange occurrence was the fact that the Browns left lots of points out there. They committed many stupid penalties and settled for Field Goals a couple times when they should've scored Touchdowns. And they still won by 21.___________
~~~Much love to Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald, who both had fantastic coverage on the potent Giants WR corps all game. Them babies be cuttin' teeth.___________
~~~That Flash Formation? We haven't even begun to see the possibilities it holds.___________
~~~I like the throwback helmets. Not only do they remind of a better time (that most of us, including myself, do not remember) when Otto Graham was winning Championships with relative ease, but they seemed to channel that victorious energy that has been missing in Cleveland for, oh, say, the last 44 years.___________
~~~This game is why I Derek Anderson drives me to insanity. The guy has more than enough potential to be a great QB, but he's got more peaks and valleys than the Adirondacks. He shows you how good he can be in a game like this, then turns around the next week and makes you long for the steady consistency of Charlie Frye.
Surrounded by this Offense, if DA were able to maintain his focus and confidence (and accuracy), he could be one of the best QB's in the NFL. But he doesn't do that. Therefore, more times than not, he's a liability. There's either Good Derek or Bad Derek; there is no middle ground. And there's no consistency.
Most of the time, Good Derek and Bad Derek take over for several games at a time. But Good Derek can also be replaced by Bad Derek in a damn hurry, sometimes in mid-quarter. And when Bad Derek takes over, well, you're likely stuck with him for at least the rest of the game.
But the glimpses of Good Derek are just tantalizing enough for coaches to stick with him a little longer, and then he buys himself a couple more weeks by going ballistic every once in a while.
I have a sinking feeling that Bad Derek will return again at some point this season, and probably in a spot where it is least convenient. I can expect nothing else since that's the data I have to compute. That's his history, such as it is. He's up. He's down. He's Pogo.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - I do not care who plays QB for the Cleveland Browns. I only want production out of the position, and DA was not even getting close to providing it during the first 4 games.
He did provide it in Game 5.
If he is able to continue his confident, consistent play in Game 6 and beyond, then I say "Bully for you, Derek! Atta boy!"
But if he's gonna make like a human yo-yo, then he needs to sit, because no one needs a Cleveland Browns squad with only a sporadic chance of winning. Especially not after what we saw from the team as a whole on Monday.___________
~~~If Derek Anderson goes on to salvage his career, he can thank Cincinnati Bengal DE Antwan Odom. You see, Odom jumped Offsides in the 2nd Half of the CLE-CIN Week 4 match-up, negating Anderson's 2nd pick of the day, a pick so bad that it certainly would've merited his benching.
After the penalty gave the Browns a 1st Down, DA seemed to somehow manage to pull his head out of his ass (I imagine a great deflating sound ensued) and play a decent 4th Quarter, doing just enough to win the game.
Saving his job for one more week, he lost his damn mind against the Giants, and suddenly it looks like Derek got his groove back.
Mr. Anderson should strongly consider sending Mr. Odom a nice ham for Christmas.___________
~~~Braylon Edwards is still an ass.
There was some piece on ESPN today about him, and he compared his hands to weapons and told defenders not to even show up against him, or it was "their funeral".
In the name of... sigh... the crap we put up with for talent. Every week I expect to see Braylon on the injury report with a swollen ego.
I wish there was a Mute button for that Mouth. Or that someone would staple his tongue to his lips.___________
~~~And while I'm scolding our wayward stepson... Braylon, you may refrain in the future from doing any pre-game cartwheels and backflips (like the ones you did on Monday). Yes, you're very athletic, and we're all very impressed down here, I can assure you. But I'm probably not alone in thinking that you were going to mess up your dismount, pull your quad, and end up sitting next to Donte Stallworth on the bench for 4 weeks. Or worse.
Did you learn nothing from your running in bare feet incident?
Actually, ignore that question. I know the answer.___________
~~~Romeo Crennel is still a bad coach. I'm sorry, I like the man OK, but he just is. He's slow to make necessary changes, he's slow to adapt, he's slow to make decisions. The team still shows all kinds of discipline issues, demonstrated by the ungodly amount of self-inflicted penalties the Browns commit each week.
I'd say that the Browns win despite him, but I don't think that's accurate. I just don't feel like he's overly responsible for their successes. He's just there.
In his defense, the players like him and will play hard to protect him, especially when his back is up against the wall. Is that good coaching? Nah, he reminds them of a kindly grandfather. Just because the players don't want their gramps fired doesn't mean he's "inspirational".
Still, in lieu of the new situation, the best alternative is probably to ride out the season with Romeo at the helm. Then, maybe, Phil can convince him to quietly "retire".___________
~~~I can't believe that the season is a quarter over already. Football takes forever to get here, and then it's over before we even know it.
At least, here in Cleveland it usually is.___________
~~~Apparently, the powers that be deemed it wise to start Pre-Production on a sequel to Bull Durham.
Bull Durham is not only my favorite sports movie of all time, but amongst my Top 5 favorite movies of all time, period.
So I should be excited about this, no?
This sequel is a Bad Idea. Strike that. Sticking your hand into the garbage disposal is a Bad Idea. Flossing with copper wire is a Bad Idea. Cutting off your ear and sending it to your girlfriend is a Bad Idea.
This is a Terrible Idea.
Why despoil the fine memory of the original film and its fantastic characters by creating a Where Are They Now? type disaster? How's this gonna play out? An over-the-hill Nuke LaLoosh and a way way way over-the-hill Crash Davis bring their church softball team back to glory? An ancient and strikingly unattractive Annie Savoy teaches the "boys" how to unhook her Depends?
Someone out there needs a lobotomy.___________
~~~Brady Quinn and Joe Thomas appeared at a McCain/Palin rally last Wednesday, with Quinn gleefully introducing McCain.
I am shocked - shocked, I tell you! - that rich white men would associate themselves with the Republican ticket.
What is this world coming to?___________
~~~Steve Heiden had 5 catches for 59 yards. Honestly, I'd forgotten how effective he can be.
With Winslow likely returning next week, we'll probably see Heiden relegated back to bench duty, which is a shame. There has to be a way to get him more involved. He's got good hands. He blocks well. He runs good routes. He catches key 3rd Down conversions. He even makes the 1st Down signal after said catches.
Let's see... who are we missing from last year's Offense that provided exactly those kinds of things?___________
~~~In the limited but important section we like to term "Things That Sucked", the Browns gave up 181 yards rushing. That's way too much.
True, the Giants have the #1 Rushing attack in the NFL, and their corps of Running Backs is second to none. But the yardage surrendered highlights the major weakness of this Defense - Middle Linebacker.
Shaun Smith should be back next week, and he was missed. Sean Jones should also return anon, and he is excellent in Run Defense.
Jones' return should free up Mike Adams to return to Nickel Back, allowing for a rapid boot of Terry Cousin's sorry ass to the sidelines, which should help the Pass Defense as well.
But this will never be a truly "great" Defense until the Linebacker position is improved, and that ain't happening this season.___________
~~~The Browns gained 454 net yards. That somewhat surpasses their previous 2008 high by a yard or two.
What caused this Offensive explosion against one of the best Defenses in the NFL?
Well, Donte Stallworth and Ryan Tucker came back, but I cannot bring myself to believe that either one was so incredibly important to the team that they were responsible for this leap. Stallworth had 2 catches for 19 yards, a very Steptoe-ian total. Tucker certainly helped somewhat solidify the right side of the line (enjoy your time on the bench, Kevin Shaffer; it will be lengthy), but I won't pretend that it made DA throw the ball more accurately, or that it made Braylon catch the ball.
Maybe it just all came together.
I love it when a plan comes together.
~~~The Washington Redskins.
Well, now that the "most important game of the year" is over, and the Browns were victorious, that makes this next contest the "most important game of the year".
The Redskins feature a lot of what the Giants offer: solid Defense, power running with a quality back, steady QB. Washington also has what gives the Browns fits - a good Tight End.
I'd feel a lot better about this contest had the ‘Skins managed to win against St. Louis last week, but, since they didn't, they won't be taking anyone for granted, especially a team that just clobbered the Super Bowl Champs. So don't think for a moment that the Browns can sneak up on Washington. And, since this game is in D.C., expect a possible win to be a tough, closely fought contest.
Sadly, if the Browns turn around and lose this game to the Redskins - thus dropping to 2-4 - then the win over the Giants will go from "save the season" to "prolong the inevitable", particularly when a Wildcard from the AFC North is so unlikely and when the Steelers are several games ahead of us already.
When you start 0-3 and you have playoff aspirations, then your Must-Win games start early. Here's another one.
All that being said, if the real Slim Shady (who, for my purposes, is Derek Anderson) please stands up, then the Browns should be able to claw their way back to 3-3.
From there, I will begin to believe.