The Cleveland Browns did not get the memo on tanking the season with the Trent Richardson trade. The Browns beat the Bengals 17-6 to take their season record to 2-2. They beat an AFC North rival, which is always bonus. They did it at home. Most importantly, they did it on the same day they unveiled Brownie the Elf! What else is there to say?
One thing that shocked me going into the game this week was how little Browns fans and media I heard seemed to embrace how large of an underdog the Browns were. The Browns were coming off a road victory over the Vikings, but the Bengals are not the Vikings. They are the presumed best team in the AFC North and maybe the whole AFC.
Brian Hoyer appeared to be a pretty solid upgrade as a game manager from Brandon Weeden, and Josh Gordon had a monster first game, but the track record of the Bengals was meaningful. Yet it seemed that most fans and media I heard wanted to treat this week’s game like something of a toss-up. Maybe they were right, but I wasn’t buying it pre-game.
It wasn’t easy though. Despite a 7-3 halftime lead, the Cleveland Browns went into a full on offensive lull in the middle of the game. They took the lead early on another TD pass to Jordan Cameron – his fifth of the year. They missed two field goals, hit another and then seemed almost idle offensively before finally putting a fourth quarter drive together to make it 17-6 on a nice mis-direction pass to Chris Ogbonnaya in the flat. Ogbonnaya took a flying leap into the stands and for fans around Cleveland it seemed more like a relief than a celebration.
But it should be a celebration. Browns fans know all too well that wins are a tough thing to come by. Wins in the AFC North are even more difficult for the Browns to come by. I don’t buy that this is ample proof of trading Trent Richardson. I don’t believe it’s ample proof of Brian Hoyer as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Forget all that for now, though. We don’t need to arrive at long-term conclusions about the Browns moves designed for the longer term.
One thing that I’m sure of is I love this defense. The Browns battled through some injuries to impress me and anyone else who saw this game. The Browns controlled A.J. Green, played tough, and forced incompletions and turnovers. Buster Skrine is turning me into a believer. I even have his back on the 40 yard penalty he incurred for pass interference. It was a gimmicky flea flicker and he was fooled, but did you see him close on the play? He was a split second head turn away from making a perfect defensive play. There are lots of other names to talk about on defense, but we’ll save that for Winners and Losers tomorrow.
For now, it’s time to revel in the glow of a Browns win.
It’s time to get lost in the positive wave of a short week wait for the Buffalo Bills on Thursday. It’s time to flood sports radio with positive thoughts about the Browns trying to secure a 3-2 record before the week is up. (You know, when you’re not talking about the Tribe, that is.) The point is that the biggest reason I spend so much time sniping and griping at the Browns is that we’ve earned some positivity in our football season. The players and coaches all want it and deserve it too, but we’ve earned it. So don’t feel badly about enjoying it, even if it isn’t pretty all the time.
The Steelers are 0-4 and the Ravens appear to be on their way to a loss to the Bills as I type this. It may not last long, but the Browns are tied atop the AFC North standings with their 2-2 record.