When the Cleveland Browns defeated the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday it was something bigger than just one victory. Fittingly, the same day the clocks were turned back an hour in Cleveland, the Browns also turned a page in their history.
It wasn’t just that the Browns beat the Ravens for the first time in 12 tries. The last time that Cleveland scored more points than Baltimore in a game was November 18, 2007. On that date, George W. Bush was president and Leona Lewis had the No. 1 single in the country.
OK, so it wasn’t exactly a lifetime ago, but it was an eternity in NFL years.
It wasn’t just that the Browns snapped a three-game losing streak and pulled within a game of the final AFC wild-card spot.
With the Browns' victory on Sunday it signified a bigger change within the organization. This wasn’t the same old Browns.
In years past, they would have lost that game. They had become masters of “close but no cigar.” Every time there was an opportunity to take a step toward legitimacy, the Browns would stumble two steps backward.
Not this time. This time, they would not be denied.
The Browns finally knocked out their bully. Even as the Ravens made a late-game push the Browns slammed the door with a defensive stop and a 15-play, 6:30-second offensive drive that resulted in a field goal.
That’s not the Cleveland Browns football I know.
In years past, the Browns would not be able to overcome their starting quarterback forgetting how to play the position and the hometown boy taking over that spot only to have his season cut short after just two full games.
They would not have been able to shake the font office trading away the face of their franchise and their star wide receiver being suspended two games. They couldn’t have handled a trade deadline filled with speculation and national reports.
The pressure would have been too much.
This team is different, though. This team wins games in the AFC North. In fact, this team is the only team in the AFC North with an above .500 record against divisional opponents.
This Browns team turned optimism about what might possibly be into a conversation about a reality with their win on Sunday. The reality is that the Browns are heading into the bye week with a 4-5 record and are a legitimate playoff contender.
This Browns team had not one but two productive quarterbacks on the roster. They don’t have an adequate defense; they have an elite one. They don’t win with smoke and mirrors; they have playmakers that actually (gasp) make plays.
This is definitely not the same old Browns.
|It's Been A Long Time Coming|
|LAST TIME THE BROWNS HAD A WINING RECORD||LAST TIME THE BROWNS MADE THE PLAYOFFS||LAST TIME THE BROWNS WON A PLAYOFF GAME|
|2007 (10-6)||2002 (Lost to Steelers 36-33 in Wild Card Round)||1994 (Defeated the Patriots 20-13 in the Wild Card Round)|
The biggest thing that changed with the Browns' 24-18 victory over the Ravens Sunday was the future, however.
The Browns are now one big-time quarterback away from competing. Not competing to make the playoffs but competing for divisional titles and possibly more. Fans have not been able to say that with a straight face since the team’s rebirth in 1999.
This roster is ready to compete, and they proved that Sunday. It is almost scary to think about the Browns adding a top-flight college quarterback and $25 million worth of free agents next offseason.
It’s scary because it’s different. Optimism is a foreign language on the shores of Lake Erie.
They now have two weeks to prepare for the only team that sits above them in the AFC North standings. If they can defeat the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11, then hell just might freeze over.
Yes, we are looking ahead to see where they can close the gap in the playoff race. This certainly is not the same old Browns.