Run the ball, stop the run: If you do both of these things throughout the course of an NFL season, you will have a chance to win a lot of games.
The Browns have done that the past two weeks and have put themselves in position to finish on top, but won only once.
After holding Bengals running back Cedric Benson to 75 yards on the ground last Sunday, the Browns defense limited Marshawn Lynch to 69 yards and Fred Jackson to 30 yards.
Running backs Jerome Harrison and Jamal Lewis have produced two 100-yard games the past two games and the offensive line is showing significant improvement.
The move of Hank Fraley to right guard is clearly evident, as he has solidified that position and has helped the development of rookie center Alex Mack. Fraley helps Mack with the line calls and the rookie from Cal is showing why the team drafted him with the 21st pick. He was involved in a couple “swing plays” where he took out a couple Bills linebackers and helped keep Marcus Stroud away from Derek Anderson.
I have also watched two consecutive games and not heard John St. Clair’s named called, which is always a good thing.
The Browns defensive line is actually stopping the run and allowing the linebackers to bring down opposing running backs before they're five yards past the line of scrimmage. Kenyon Coleman had a sack, Shaun Rogers turned in a typical Shaun Rogers game, and C.J. Mosley had seven tackles (four assisted). Corey Williams got to Trent Edwards, despite being victimized by a roughing the quarterback penalty and Robaire Smith made four tackles.
I have been impressed by the play of the linebackers, particularly Kamerion Wimbley, whose career has been saved by defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Wimbley had 11 total tackles and his fourth sack on the season, matching his total from a year ago.
Then there is D’Qwell Jackson, the man who was listed as doubtful on the team’s injury report on Friday. The fourth-year linebacker from Maryland recorded 13 total tackles (nine solo) and was an integral part in containing the Bills running backs.
I am going to defend Anderson’s performance yesterday because he did not get a lot of help from his receivers. The Browns dropped at least seven passes and the running game was fabulous. Brady Quinn backers bring up dropped passes all the time and I will do the same for Anderson. There was really no reason to throw at all because the Bills defense had no solution to Lewis.
I’m not saying the Browns will beat Pittsburgh on Sunday, because they probably won’t. They don’t have a dependable receiver right now and their starting tight end couldn’t catch a cold if he was sitting in a freezer in his underwear for five days.
However, the Browns running game and the play of the defense’s front seven should bring optimism to the team and fans. Pittsburgh has also had trouble closing out their last two games against the Chargers and Lions. The Steelers almost blew a 28-0 lead at home against San Diego and squeaked by the Lions 28-20 yesterday in Detroit.
It’s nice to finally see a Browns head coach who understands the importance of strong line play on both sides of the football.