Browns vs. Dolphins: Notes from a Fantastic Cleveland Victory
I wrote in my halftime notes that if the Browns wanted to win on Sunday, they needed to accomplish three things:
- Run to set up the pass and get playmakers the ball.
- Give Colt McCoy time to throw from the pocket.
- Defense needs to get off the field on third down.
Montario Hardesty made some nice runs, but I felt that he could have had the ball in his hands more on screens and draws to alleviate the Dolphins' pass-rush. On the final drive, McCoy was 9-of-13 and completed only one pass to a tight end. He stood as tall as his frame would let him and fired the ball accurately from the pocket—a short, quick-strike passing game...wait, that's the West Coast offense. It was also the first time we saw Browns wide receivers running cross routes to get open as opposed to Ben Watson.
The only time Colt McCoy really got the chance to throw from the pocket, the team marched 80 yards for the game-winning score.
The defense got off the field twice without yielding points. The first time resulted in a Miami punt being downed inside the 5-yard line with eight minutes to play, and the other on the game's final possession.
While it was not pretty, a win is a win. The Browns are a step above .500 for the first time in years.
A big reason for the early success has been the ability of the front four to get to the quarterback. Ahtyba Rubin has purchased real estate in opposing backfields and is spending most of his time there. Jayme Mitchell has been fantastic. He is hammering ball carriers and forcing fumbles while also beating left tackles consistently on his way to the passer.
Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard are not playing like rookies. The pair of 2011 draft picks are doing many of the things that do not show up on stat sheets but are great on film. Sheard is a constant threat to get to the quarterback and Taylor is a wall in the middle of the line. Those four players—which never played together before this season—have developed a cohesiveness and edge that will carry the unit the rest of the season.
Is it time to call Joe Haden elite? He held Brandon Marshall to four grabs and made him an absolute non-factor. He is shutting down half of the field and limiting the opposition's top threat. His presence in Sunday's contest and harassment of Marshall led to a 15-yard personal foul call deep in Browns territory in the second half.
Can Evan Moore start taking Brian Robiskie's playing time? Moore is a receiver in a very tall tight end's body but saw limited action against the Dolphins. Robiskie has eked out paychecks and minutes for far too long. It is time the team moves away from him at the position.
Is Sheldon Brown injured? Brown has looked incredibly slow this season and watching him fall five yards behind Brian Hartline was evidence enough. He has looked far from complete this season, much like he looked toward the end of last year.
Is Montario Hardesty a game-breaker? He looked at times like he was about to rip off huge runs. His attacking style and quick burst are a welcome addition to the offense. His ability contrasts that of starter Peyton Hillis, but it definitely shows that the Browns have a legitimate two-headed monster carry the rock.
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