All's Well That Ends Well
"Hey Hyde. Jekyll here. Where the hell are you dude? Just wanted to give you a shout and let you know it was great getting together down in Jacksonville this weekend. God I love messing with that DA guy and that whole Cleveland club. Listen, I gotta run, but give me a ring if you can meet me in Cleveland next Sunday. It's a 1pm start but if you can get there earlier in the week we can completely melt down the GM and maybe the tight end too.
I'm past trying to figure this team out. If you'd prefer to keep your sanity you might want to jump on the bus I'm driving. Given the split personality of this team and its fans you're constantly jumping on one bus or another anyway.
The Browns went down to Jacksonville on Sunday and walked out of a difficult place to play with a hard earned 23-17 win over the Jaguars. The much maligned Derek Anderson went 14/27 for 246 yards and a TD on the day and played well enough that you hardly realized he was on the field. Which, if you could say it every week, would be just fine for Browns fans.
Anderson kept himself out of the way and allowed an improving defense to carry the day. The Browns sacked Jaguar QB David Garrard three times, hurried him on numerous occasions and came up with a huge fumble recovery on special teams to keep the Jags at bay. And late in the game when the Jags were attempting to get into position to pull out a victory the Browns actually kept up the defensive pressure and continued to pressure Garrard. That was as surprising to me as DA not throwing the ball to the wrong squad (though he did try only to have the play nullified by a penalty).
All of the fireworks came without the services of Kellen Winslow Jr. too. Winslow was inactive for the game following the latest drama out of Berea where the staff and staph issues are running amok. His replacement, the workman-like Steve Heiden, took advantage of Winslow's absence to catch three balls for 73 yards; including a huge 51 yard reception on a 4th and 1 from the Browns own 47 yard line. Heiden's catch and run took the ball to the Jacksonville two and Jamal Lewis punched it in from there two plays later.
So what's it all mean? Well, that's the beauty of being on my bus. It means only that the Browns move to 3-4 on the season and are two games behind the Steelers after Pittsburgh lost to the NY Giants in Pittsburgh. It means, for the moment, that the Browns come home next Sunday against Baltimore with a chance to even their record at 4-4 and it means that Derek Anderson won't be booed mercilessly for just coming out of the tunnel. After the first Cleveland possession all bets are off. It doesn't mean anything more than that. It's not a harbinger of a playoff run or that DA is done with his Sybil routine forever. Trying to read anything more into Sunday's win with this team and this quarterback is an exercise in frustration and futility. Just enjoy the win and a Monday that's a bit brighter than it would have been otherwise.
All's Ended That Went Well
I just can't get bent about Saturday night's OSU game. I just don't have it in me. This Buckeye season essentially ended at about 9pm EST on Saturday, September 13th. Yes, the Buckeyes had run off five consecutive wins against mediocre teams with Terrell Pryor running the offense, but I had no expectations that Pryor and the Buckeyes were going to run the table and piss off all of the college football fans across the country by back-dooring into the BCS Championship game for the third year in a row.
It just wasn't a reasonable expectation. I'd have loved to have seen the fine fans in Athens, GA, southern California, Okalahoma, Alabama and Texas contort themselves into knots at the prospects of Ohio State playing for the hardware again, but there's a reason that freshmen QBs just don't step in and win national titles. It's because they're freshmen. It's because you're playing without a net should you slip with them at the helm. It's because you WILL slip with them at the helm.
Terrell Pryor slipped Saturday night in the Horseshoe. He turned the ball over twice in the last 10 minutes of the football game and allowed Penn State to erase a 6-3 deficit and win a 13-6 ballgame that had to be a yawn-fest for anyone outside of Ohio or Pennsylvania.
With the loss OSU is all but eliminated from BCS championship contention. The Buckeyes slipped to 12th in the BCS standings which is more significant in that they didn't fall further. It means they're still in line for an at large BCS bid and a decent payday against a quality opponent. Perhaps even a rematch against USC in the Rose Bowl?
Anybody not harboring delusions of grandeur can now focus almost exclusively on the development of Pryor from now until the Buckeyes play in that bowl game in January. The kid has the mind and the physical skills to be a difference maker at QB but he's got a lot of developing yet to do.
You knew what was coming Saturday night in regard to game planning. That game was destined to be a classic Big10 mosh pit of a game with two pretty good defenses going after each team's offense all night. The Buckeye game planning was going to be simple: take care of the football, win the field position battle and rely on your kicking game and defense. The Buckeyes blinked in the turnover department and they were also handled by the Penn State defensive front seven. PSU was NOT going to let Beanie Wells get loose and beat them. Wells was held to 55 yards on 22 carries. On the other side of the ball the Buckeyes defense did a nice job against Evan Roster and Daryll Clark. But the Buckeyes lost that turnover battle 2-0 and with it the ballgame.
The Buckeyes have two full weeks to lick their wounds and get Pryor more immersed in the offense. They're off next Saturday before heading out on the road for games at Northwestern and Illinois and then finishing the regular season back at the ‘Shoe against a pathetic Michigan club.
Running the table would be nice. It'd get Pryor a bit more experience and it would place him a bowl game as a true freshman against a very good football team. Testing the kid's mettle this season will only pay dividends down the road.
At the Brink
A couple of weekend wins has the Phillies and Charlie Manuel poised to win The Fall Classic. The Phillies have a 3-1 series lead and their ace is waiting for the ball in Game 4. I predicted the Rays, with their depth in the starting pitching department, would be too much for Cole Hamels and three humps. But Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton answered the bell and gave their club a chance to beat Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine. And the Phillies did just that.
Here's hoping that if the Phillies are to win this World Series they do so at home. It's nice to see fans share in the celebration and it'll be nice to see a truly good man like Manuel bask on that stage after a life spent in baseball and with the death of his mother coming only a couple weeks ago.
Don't chill the champagne just yet Phillies fans. If you need any references as to 3-1 series leads or coming so tantalizingly close to a championship you can taste it, we Cleveland fans are here for you.
Now I Just Have To
Last week I documented the first victory of the Madison Mystics U-9 travel soccer team. You'll recall that the Mystics edged Shaker 2-1 for their inaugural victory. Well, the ladies followed it up with a 1-0 win in their fall season finale yesterday against Kenston. A Madison penalty kick with 4 minutes left found the net and was the only goal of the game and the Mystics finished strong as they now head to their inaugural indoor season.
It's going to be an interesting dynamic with soccer balls bouncing off boards and the screams and shrieks of 8 year old girls being confined to an enclosed space. Also can't wait for the floor burns and bloody noses that would seem to be inevitable.
Me and soccer reports. Who woulda thought?