Immediately following the Browns week 13 win against the Miami Dolphins, I find myself feeling a bit of retribution. Cleveland beat Miami this time, after LeBron and his South Beach buddies laid the smack down on the struggling Cavaliers Thursday night. The surprising Browns are doing what they can to help ease the pain of this summer and are doing a great job at helping us all forget. This week was another painful to watch victory, but the Browns will take it as they advance to 5-7 and match last season’s win total. However, for the 2nd week in a row the Browns come away with a close victory that really should have been not-so-close. Aided by 3 interceptions and a blocked field goal from Shaun Rogers, the Browns all but controlled the game even while struggling on offense. Jake Delhomme is not making any of us miss Colt McCoy any less, I hope that he gets better quick and comes back to finish the year strong.
So what did we see Sunday? Not much really. Delhomme threw 34 passes, completing 24 for a TD and 217 yards. The upside is that he managed to not throw any interceptions. Peyton Hillis had a bit of an off day, carrying the ball for just 3.2 yards per carry, 18 rushes for 57 yards. He was the only running back to touch the ball, which is pretty normal. The big star of the offense was Ben Watson. The game ball for the offensive squad should go to Watson as the big tight end snatched 10 catches for 100 yards and a touch down. Watson is clearly Delhomme’s favorite target and he made the catches he needed to make. He was just one of 5 players to make receptions, as Mo-Mass, Hillis, Stuckey and Robiskie each had catches. The big 94 yard drive in the third quarter that ended in a touch down was the big moment of the day for the Browns on offense and represented their lone touch down.
On defense the Browns have a new star player. Joe Haden, the first round draft pick at Corner Back is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the secondary. Haden came down with another interception this week, his 4th interception in 4 consecutive games. Haden also had 6 tackles and 3 big time pass defenses. The other big time player on defense again this week was Abe Elam. He had an interception and 7 tackles, Elam has as well been playing very strong the past few weeks. Shaun Rogers looked healthy for the first time all year, picking up a sack and a blocked field goal, which as it turns out was the difference in the game as Cleveland won on a FG from Phil Dawson on the last play of the game. That would not have happened had the Browns defense not made a huge play to set it up, a interception by Mike Adams that was returned to the 2 yard line gave the Browns victory.
Joe Haden is the man. He is quickly becoming the team’s best corner and he seized the opportunity while Eric Wright was injured to most likely lock up a starting spot on defense. He has tied a Browns record with interceptions in 4 consecutive games. He is coming in to his own as a cover corner and makes big plays all over the field. He had three big time deflections and has been coming up with huge stops and huge interceptions week after week for the past month. The Browns can really be proud of the progress that the young corner has made this year, and they can be confident that he has a bright future in Cleveland.
The Browns have now won 2 straight for the 2nd time this season and 4 of their last 6. With 4 games left on the schedule they travel to Buffalo and Cincinnati before finishing the year with 2 home games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The Browns have won one against Cincy so far this year and the game against 2-11 Buffalo is also winnable, if the team can take both of those they could be sitting at 7-7 and preparing to run the gauntlet against the big boys of the AFC North. In a somewhat shocking turn of events this season the Browns could actually make the playoffs if they win out, but that is very wishful thinking, and it is safer to assume that they will finish the season 7-9. Regardless, it is a improvement from a year ago and it has been a fairly great season. The Browns have fought to a 5-7 record against arguably one of the toughest schedules in the NFL and have picked up wins against the Patriots and Saints, teams that have beaten division rival Steelers and Ravens with considerable ease this season. 4 more weeks left in the 2010 – 2011 NFL season, it has gone way too fast but there is still a ton of Cleveland football left to watch.