The biggest heroes of the game for me were Emmanuel Stephens and Sheldon Brown. Sheldon Brown pick-sixed Andy Dalton with a 27-17 Browns lead to make the score 34-17. The Bengals scored on a long drive to bring it to 34-24 and were driving again when Emmanuel Stephens strip-sacked Dalton. Billy Winn took a fat-boy-jog with the ball into Bengals territory. The Browns couldn’t decisively put the game away, but after a punt and some prevent, the Browns finally came out on top 34-24. If there are no moral victories, there are no moral losses either. It wasn’t all pretty, but the Browns faced the odds and came out on top for the first time this season (and in a very long time in general.)
The Browns led for the entire fourth quarter after scoring on the first play on a Montario Hardesty run for one yard to make it 20-14. The fourth quarter also featured the drive of the game, and probably the season so far.
Six plays, 63 yards and with the game very much in doubt, Brandon Weeden and Montario Hardesty drove the Browns. Hardesty was replacing a nicked Trent Richardson who hurt his “flank” (most likely ribs?) earlier in the game. Weeden found Josh Gordon for 14 yards. Hardesty ran for 23 yards on three gains including a 14-yarder. Weeden found Jordan Cameron for a 23 yard gain that was exceptional by Cameron because he fell down and hustled his butt across the field to get open. The Browns used a jumbo run fake and Weeden found a wide (WIDE) open Ben Watson in the end zone for a three yard score. Drive of the year.
There were other nice notes, of course. The Browns ran the ball 34 times compared to throwing 29 times. Josh Gordon made an exceptional catch to score on a 71-yard strike in the first half. Three TDs in two games and two very big plays is nothing to sneeze at. Josh Cribbs had a very good day returning. He had a 44 yard kick return and a 60 yard punt return that really helped the Browns break some bad streaks of offensive doldrums. And how about Josh Cooper showing a little bit with two catches and 39 yards including a 28-yard first down on third and long? A whole paragraph of extra good things is fun to write.
The first half was a bit scary though as it appeared like we were going to get the same old Browns.
The Browns took a 14-7 deficit into halftime, but it could have been worse. The Browns got the ball back after a Bengal TD with about a minute and a half left. The Browns failed to execute and nearly gave up a half-ending field goal. The Bengals ran out of time1 luckily for the Browns.
The big problem was the three and out from the Browns. There was an incompletion on dueling three yard outs to both sides. Weeden threw incomplete left. There was a running back draw that got stood up after two yards. Trent Richardson nearly ran for a first down on 3rd and seven or eight, but he came up a yard short and the Browns punted giving the Bengals 1:21 after taking over with 1:54. Whether it was a lack of execution or bad play-calling, the end result is some bad clock management to end the half.
Regardless, the Browns found a way to win, and that erases a lot of mistakes. We don’t have to dwell on the fact that the Browns faced another two-point conversion scenario and kicked the extra point to go up six. We don’t have to dwell on the third down failure that saw Trent Richardson miss a key block and ended up in a sack. We don’t have to talk about the batted up interception that Weeden threw in the first half when squarely in Phil Dawson’s territory. We don’t have to talk about Owen Marecic’s rock-hard hands. I’m guessing we’ll get to a lot of these things, but the conversation should be a lot more constructive with the backdrop of a Cleveland Browns victory!
The Browns won a game. A division game. They did it at home. They end an ugly 11-loss streak. They mark the end of the Lerner ownership and ring in the Haslam one. Honestly, it isn’t about those billionaires today. The fans who have suffered through 11 straight losses spanning an off-season are the real beneficiaries today. So enjoy it.