After losing their first two games at home this season the Cleveland Browns had their backs against a wall. A team that last year went 7-1 along the banks of Lake Erie desperately needed this game. And from the opening kick-off their intensity was far higher than that of the New York Giants. And it should have been. Monday Night Football, at home, let's face it must-win game, national audience. Isn't that what the Browns and Browns fans wanted? The team and the fans certainly showed they can handle the prime-time pressure. For the first time in a long long time Cleveland Browns Stadium sounded like old Municipal. And as I made my way into the city at ten in the morning the Muni-lot was packed with tailgaters.
Making your way into the stadium with the rest of the orange and brown clad army you could sense some apprehension and uncertainty. Was this game going to be a replay of the preseason game in which the Giants first teamers dominated the Browns' and put Derek Anderson out for the rest of the preseason, or would this be the night the Browns save their season and prove to a national audience that they deserve the press?
After three quarters and one minute Browns fans and the rest of America realized that the good old Brownies aren't done yet. Derek Anderson looked even better than he did all of last year throwing for 310 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. The offensive line kept Anderson upright all night and Braylon Edwards caught balls. Yes I repeat he caught the football. Leading up to Monday night's game there was growing frustration with Edwards' case of the "dropsies." The defense played easily their best game of the year, and quite possibly the best team defense showing since the Browns came back to Cleveland in 1999. But are they back for good? Or was this just a glimpse of what this team is when the bright lights and nation's eyes are upon them?
We will find out in six short days. The Browns head to the nation's capital to take on another NFC East opponent in the Washington Redskins. The Browns coming off a huge home win and the Redskins coming off of a embarrassing home loss to the lowly St. Louis Rams could be a bad combination for the Browns. The quick turn around means that Romeo Crennel and his staff have to get his team focused on the Redskins right now. There is no day for enjoying this win because it came on Monday. If the Browns think for one second they can bask in the light of the victory over the Giants they will find themselves in a 14-0 hole to the Redskins quicker than they can say "What happened?"
One thing that did concern me was the penalties. I understand the first one on Ryan Tucker who was seeing his first action all year. But for the exception of Joe Thomas, everyone on the offense line had a false start penalty. The worst of the night was easily Braylon Edwards false start when he felt he needed a two second advantage over the rest of the offense. That was the only blemish on Edwards' otherwise spectacular night. Things like that have plagued the wide receiver all year long. And it dates all the way back to his days at that school up north, Michigan. Edwards was notorious for dropping easy passes, yet having huge games when there was a national audience. I was extremely happy to see him have a breakout game finally, but wish he wasn't the most penalized wide out in the NFL. There is no excuse for a false start penalty as a wide receiver.
The addition of Ryan Tucker is an enormous boost to the offense. It showed all night as Monday night was the first game since the '60's that the New York Giants were unable to force a turnover or record a sack. Which tells you something about Derek Anderson's performance and the O-line's ability to give him time. If the line can stay healthy like this all year and the Browns can string together this type of play they could be back in the thick of the AFC North sooner than later.
The upcoming schedule for the Browns is scary. The next two weekends they travel to Washington and Jacksonville respectively. Two teams atop or near the top of their divisions as of right now. They then return home for Ravens at the halfway point of the season. That game is a must win at home against a division foe. From there however the schedule gets crazy. Only 4 days after they play the Ravens the Denver Bronco's come to town on a Thursday night affair. The Browns then have 11 days off before heading to Buffalo for a Monday night game. From there they host the Texans on six days rest and the following week the Colts to close out the month of November. December opens up at Tennessee, the only undefeated team in the NFL right now. Followed by their third Monday night game at Philadelphia, part of that scary good NFC East. The Browns close out the home schedule against the Bengals followed by their trip to Pittsburgh which hopefully will have playoff implications. The schedule is definitely not on the Brownies' side from here on out. Staying healthy will be key if they have any chance to push their way into the playoff picture.
With the New England Patriots faltering, the AFC is wide open and there is no need to panic for the Browns. Just come out and play with the intensity they had on Monday night for the rest of the season and things will begin to go well for the Browns. Right now the only thing on their minds should be the Redskins and how they will contain the potent running of Clinton Portis.
My goal for the Browns is win two out of the next three to get to .500 at the midway point. Protect their home turf from here on out. And play consistent defense the rest of the way. If they do that ten wins is not out of the picture. Right now, though, the Browns need to look at it one game at a time.
Brownie Bit of the day: Monday Night's game was the first game that the Browns did not have to punt since 1995. Dave Zastudil got the night off, with pay. Something I am sure Romeo Crennel would not mind happening more often.