The Cleveland Browns’ remarkable back-to-back victories over NFL powerhouses New Orleans and New England have provided this humble writer with an important reminder:
So much for “keen-eyed” observation.
After rookie Colt McCoy acquitted himself well filling in at quarterback against Pittsburgh three weeks ago, I patted him on the back and suggested the Browns sit him back down once Seneca Wallace or Jake Delhomme was ready to play again.
Memories of Tim Couch being bloodied and bruised as a rookie quarterback—and beyond—prompted my plea.
Thankfully, the Browns had no choice but to keep playing McCoy. I suspect they weren’t taking advice from me, regardless, although Eric Mangini made enough comments over the last few weeks to indicate he was at least thinking about turning to one of his veterans.
Now, there is little doubt that McCoy is the answer. He has seized the brass ring in a way that no Cleveland quarterback has done since Bernie Kosar.
No elaboration is necessary. The kid has been sensational over the past month. He’s not the second coming of Joe Montana—at least, not yet—but he’s revealed himself to be a savvy, unflappable competitor, aware of his strengths and limitations, yet willing to take risks and roll the dice when necessary.
He’s been a joy to watch, and has Browns fans excited about watching some more.
A week after my insightful column about McCoy, I praised the Browns for their successful trick plays against New Orleans, then suggested that such plays would have to be put on the shelf against Bill Belichick and the mighty Pats.
Would somebody keep me from making any more predictions, please?
With the outcome Sunday very much up for grabs, and the Browns holding a 10-7 lead, Brian Daboll sent Josh Cribbs under center on first down from the Patriots 11-yard line. In perhaps their most brilliantly executed trick play thus far, the Browns completely fooled the Patriots with the old fumblerooski, pulled straight out of Cribbs’ college playbook at Kent State.
You saw it. As his linemen stood there, seemingly confused, the Patriots followed suit. Except center Alex Mack was in position, as was Cribbs. So was wide receiver Chansi Stuckey, hiding behind right guard Billy Yates in a three-point stance.
While everybody, including the Patriots, fans and even the announcers on CBS, waited for the Browns to get set, Mack snapped the ball to Cribbs, who tucked it into the gut of Stuckey, who stood motionless for a split second before dashing around the left end and diving to the pylon for an improbable, exhilarating, game-changing touchdown.
Forget what I wrote about trick plays; I jumped out of my seat and pumped my fist. I was laughing and cheering and shaking my head, all at the same time—and I wasn’t alone.
These were the Browns I was watching?
From there, the drubbing continued, thanks to a stalwart defense and the Bunyanesque running of Peyton Hillis, who is nobody’s secret anymore.
Browns 34, Patriots 14.
In his postgame comments, Belichick said the Browns were the better team. It’s easy to assume that he meant “that day,” but the Browns are beginning to make people wonder.
Belief is a powerful thing. It won’t necessarily win games of and by itself, but it certainly can tip the scales in a team’s favor.
Early in the season, the common refrain was that the Browns were playing hard but lacked talent. Suddenly, they’ve destroyed the Saints and Patriots.
Give McCoy much of the credit. He could have wilted in his trial-by-fire initiation period. He could have been hesitant and played it safe.
Instead, he came out with guns a-blazing. In the process, he strengthened his teammates’ resolve and gave Browns fans new hope—for this year, not just for the future.
Football in Cleveland has gone from folly to fun in four short weeks.
I hereby predict the Browns will lose their remaining eight games. Cleveland fans, you can thank me later.
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