Inexplicably, Minnesota opened the game with an unsuccessful onside kick attempt.
However, just like the 2008 version, the 2009 version of the Browns can’t stand prosperity. They were only able to convert that excellent field position into a Phil Dawson field goal to start the game with a 3-0 lead.
The Browns actually made it look like it was going to be a real game in the first half, surrendering only a Ryan Longwell 21-yard field goal and a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Adrian Peterson.
Braylon Edwards made a spectacular reception midway through the second quarter, snagging a long pass from Brady Quinn in the end zone just before it touched the ground.
He was not credited with a catch (nor a touchdown) because he was forced out of bounds on a pass interference call. But the play did result in giving the Browns another touchdown chance when it was placed on the 3-yard line.
Unfortunately, a couple of questionable play-calls later, the Browns again could not capitalize. Instead, they settled for a 20-yard Phil Dawson field goal to close the Minnesota lead to 10-6 with 4:57 left in the second quarter.
After the field goal, the Browns defense forced the Vikings into a 3-and-out series that featured a sack from Brodney Pool on a safety blitz. Joshua Cribbs and the special teams gave Cleveland another lead at 13-10 when Cribbs returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown.
Those would be the highlights for the Browns on the day.
During the break, Adrian Peterson went into the locker room and made himself vomit because he was feeling light-headed. Peterson was given an IV that must have been laced with Popeyes’ spinach.
Whatever the Vikings training staff gave him worked, because he proceeded to dismantle the Cleveland Browns in the second half.
Peterson finished the game with a whopping 180 yards on 25 carries and 3 touchdowns, including an icing-on-the-cake 64-yard touchdown to start the fourth quarter. That touchdown gave the Vikings a 34-13 lead and put the game out of reach.
There was not a lot to get excited about on the defensive side of the ball. Safety Abram Elam played well, finishing the game with 8 tackles, including a sack, and 1 assist.
Nose tackle Sean Rogers (1 sack, 4 tackles, 1 assist) was his usual disruptive self, giving young Viking center John Sullivan fits for most of the game.
Browns cornerbacks Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald also had solid games. Vikings quarterback Brett Favre garnered only 110 total yards passing, the longest being a 21-yard catch and run by rookie Percy Harvin.
Outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley showed flashes of his outstanding rookie season. He was credited with only three tackles (including a sack), but his numbers do not do justice to the amount of pressure he applied on Favre.
But all-in-all, the defense proved once again that it has not solved its rush defense issues. Although the defense played fairly well in the first half, they were manhandled by the Vikings offensive line; and run over, around, and through by Peterson in the second half.
Overall, the offense didn’t show much of anything. In fact, the defense’s failures should at least be partly shouldered by the offense and its inability put together any sustained drives. The defense was just on the field too long in this game.
Brady Quinn played like a quarterback who has not seen much of the field. His interception on the Browns opening drive in the second half started a complete unraveling of the entire team.
Both Quinn and Braylon Edwards honorably tried to accept blame for the interception when the game was over. But it is clear from the game tape that Quinn made a poor read and throw on the play.
Vikings cornerback Cedric Griffin was overplaying Edward’s outside shoulder, which should have keyed Quinn to throw the ball to the inside of the field where Edwards was open.
Quinn’s fumble early in the fourth quarter will be a candidate for NFL Film's “Bloopers of the NFL." The play was reminiscent of Miami Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian’s lowlight in Super Bowl VII.
Quinn did manage to put together a meaningless touchdown drive at the end of the game. But judged in its entirety, Quinn’s grade could only be generously described as “Needs (a lot of ) Improvement.” He finished with 205 yards, but 105 of those yards were after the game was already out of hand.
One of the few bright spots was the surprising play of Jamal Lewis. He finished the game with 57 yards on only 11 carries. He ran with the punishing purpose Browns’ fans have not seen much of since 2007.
So it turns out that rumors of Jamal Lewis’ demise may be slightly premature (and rumors of James Davis being the second coming of Walter Payton may be slightly exaggerated).
But outside of Lewis, there was very little contribution from anyone on the offensive side of the ball when it mattered most. The Browns offense was given excellent field position for most of the first half, but managed just two field goals. The second half was an even bigger disaster.
In all, the Browns were just beaten down by a better football team. The Vikings are loaded at almost every position on the defensive side of the ball.
They also have the best running back on the planet running behind an excellent run-blocking offensive line. With the addition of Percy Harvin to their offense, this Vikings team will be a force for the rest of the NFL too.
It is only one game and there is a lot of season left, but the Browns are not realistically a playoff football team. But it will get better. There will be improvement as some of the new parts begin to jell together. And not every team on the schedule is as talented as the Vikings.