Monday, December 31, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
For THE Ohio State University football program:
A competitive BCS Championship Game capped off with a Buckeye victory.
A silencing of the SEC propaganda machine.
Another great recruiting class for Coach Sweater Vest.
A trip to New York for Beanie Wells.
That Rich Rodiriguez's rivalry game struggles at WVU carry over to up north.
For the Cleveland Cavaliers:
A way to dump the awful contracts of Larry Hughes, Damon Jones, et al.
Some legitimate play making help for LeBron James and Boobie Gibson.
Another late season run reminiscent of the 2006-2007 season and playoffs.
That LeBron rises up and stays here forever.
For the Cleveland Indians:
A power bat for one of the corner outfield spots.
An affordable contract extension for C. C. Sabathia.
The rebirth of Pronk.
That Grady, Frankie G and the As Man continue to amaze with their gloves (and bats).
That Victor Martinez remains the heart of this team for a long time.
That the heat gets turned off of Eric Wedge for a while.
Another amazing season in 2008 where the Tribe proves their team is greater than the sum of its parts, complete with revenge on the Massholes.
For the Cleveland Browns:
A win over San Fran, a Brady Quinn appearance and a Colts win over the Titans.
A spot in the postseason versus the Appalachian Inbreds and a win over them.
Another great draft and free agent class in 2008.
Some effective defensive linemen.
A new deal for Jamal Lewis.
A long term resolution of the QB situation.
Continued development of the juggernaut offense of Rob Chudzinski.
Continued health and lack of injuries for the team.
Consecutive winning seasons for the first time since the 80's.
That Cleveland Browns stadium continues to be a happy place on Sunday afternoons.. or maybe even Monday Night.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
This is a trap game. Everyone has already pointed that out. The Browns have to go on the road where they don't play well. The weather is supposed to be cold and rainy which will neutralize the Browns powerful offense. The Bengals will be jacked up to ruin the Browns' playoff hopes just like the Browns did to them a few years ago. The Bengals are a divisional foe and extra familiar with the Browns. The Bengals O always gives the Browns trouble.
I don't give a sh*t.
This team has a lot to play for. Lose and they have to look for help to get into the playoffs. They still have a shot at a division championship. They finally have two Pro Bowlers in Josh Cribbs and Braylon Edwards... but should have had more. They are garnering attention from the national media but the national media still doesn't believe.
I expect the Browns to come into this game pissed off. Despite more than doubling their win total from last year they have received little or no credit from a lot of pundits. Kellen Winslow and Joe Thomas were left off that Pro Bowl roster despite being more deserving that some of the players at their position that were selected. Eric Steinbach and Derek Anderson are first alternates but maybe they want to make some of their peers doubt their vote. Jamal Lewis is at a point where the more yards he gains the higher his incentive bonuses go. Braylon Edwards is on the cusp of breaking all of the Browns' single season receiving records. The defense has been playing better in recent weeks and wants to show the world that it isn't a fluke. These guys are still hungry. You could see it in their eyes and play in the snow. The WANTED to be there. They WANTED that game. They WANT the win in Cincinnati more than the Bengals.
Carson Palmer, Rudi Johnson and TJ Housmanzadeh are banged up. The Bengal offensive line has been in shambles since Eric Stienbach defects to Cleveland. Leigh Bodden is looking for retribution on Ocho Cinco. The Bengals are hurting and a huge disappointment. Still dangerous but teetering on packing it in. I expect the driven Browns to come out firing and but the Bengals out of their misery early and often. The Browns are a better and driven team. The Bengals are a rudderless ship in the night.
The Browns have pride in themselves, their team and their town. Why?
BECAUSE THEY DON'T LIVE IN CINCINNATI, THEY LIVE IN CLEVELAND!
Sunday, December 16, 2007
The Browns were aggressive from the first snap, balancing the passing game with the rushing attack, something the Bills were unable to do all day. Braylon Edwards and Joe Jurevicius made some clutch, and in Edwards' case amazing, catches to keep the Bills defense honest as the Browns rode Jamal Lewis to the 8-0 victory. Lewis rumbled for 163 yards, many of them rough, punishing runs that zapped the life out of Buffalo.
The special teams also shined bright with Dave Zastudil and the punt coverage team, minus one 7 yard punt and a Buffalo fake punt, kept the Bills pinned back in their own end for the majority of the game. The Browns also benefited from a safety after the Buffalo long snapper snapped it over punter Brian Moorman's head. Moorman kicked the ball out of the endzone and into the stands for 2 points. But not enough can be said for the job done by Phil Dawson. Two incredible field goals in horrendous conditions. One a 35 yard slice job that he aimed right and let the wind blow back through the uprights and an amazing 49 yard line-drive bomb that barely got 10 feet in the air but made it over the crossbar and hit the centrifuge to give the Browns the 8-0 lead and ultimately, the victory.
The snow provided the perfect opportunity for the much maligned defense a chance to pitch a shutout. Andre Davis reeked havoc in the Bills backfield all day and the Browns sold out to stop the duo of Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson. It was obvious from the start that the Bills did not want anything to do with the passing game. The Browns D still gave up their fair share of yards but each and every time they needed to hold and that's what matters. They gave up 0 points and even it a blizzard, that's tough to do.
So it's off to Cincinnati with the playoffs on the line. Who would of thunk it??? Nine wins. Who would have thunk it??? A division title still a remote possibility. Who would of thunk it???
Only one place... BELIEVELAND!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Rookie RB Marshawn Lynch returns from injury this week and if not for Adrian Peterson, he would be the rookie talk of the league. Well, him and Joe Thomas. Lynch appears to be a complete back, equipped with both power and speed, but it remains to be seen how he win react after being out for a few games. Another rookie, QB Trent Edwards, doesn't do anything flashy, but minimizes turnover and runs an efficient game. But the Bills still rank 28th in total offense and average on 173 yards per game passing. But add in the Browns porous secondary and you never know what can happen.
The Bills defense is nothing to write home about either, ranking a meager 30th in the NFL but still two better than the Browns 32nd ranked unit. They give up over 250 yards a game via the pass, a weakness the Browns are hoping to exploit. They don't force opponents to punt much, but when they do, look out for stellar PR Roscoe Parrish, who averages over 17 yards a return.
The formula for the Browns is simple. Take advantage of the the Bills porous pass defense, build a lead and then have Jamal Lewis pound the Bills into submission. This is the formula all good teams use. The Bills CBs are all under 6' tall, something than Braylon and Joe J should exploit. The Bills don't have much of a pass rush and with the way the O-Line has been playing I expect they won't have one on Sunday either. The Browns desperately need to get Kellen Winslow back involved in the game as he has been way to quiet over the past two games. The burden one again falls on DA to make some big plays when they are there, take what the defense gives him when they are not and to eliminate turnovers from the equation. It's been a while since he has been able to do all three in the same game.
On Defense the Browns need to continue to build on their performances over the past few weeks. Keep generating a pass rush, confuse Trent Edwards into rushing his decisions and force some key turnovers. The defense is improving, but it still is a liability and does not have the talent to dominate the game. Todd Grantham needs to keep being aggressive, mixing in some blitzes while disguising coverages to take advantage of the rookie QB. Eric Wright should be back this week so he and the other DBs should be focused on neutralizing WR Lee Evans while lending run support to the LBs. If the D can create enough havoc, they Browns may be able to exploit the Bills below average offense.
This isn't a big game. This isn't a must win. This is a statement game. The Browns have tiptoed, eeked, stolen, stumbled and lucked their way into more than a few victories this year. Most of them over inferior opponents that they struggled to put away. The Browns have yet to truly manhandle an inferior team all year. That time has come. The day is Sunday. The place is Cleveland, Ohio. The recipient is the Buffalo Bills. It's time for the Cleveland Browns to lay the smackdown and make a statement. The statement that they are for real and they are here to stay. I'm not looking for a Black Sunday. I'm looking for a Brown Sunday.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
If there ever was a year that proves that the BCS is a crock of sh*t, 2007 is it. With only 1 Division I, er sorry, Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) undefeated team in Hawaii, two 1-loss teams in Ohio State and Kansas, and a plethora of two loss teams, no two teams distinguished themselves above and beyond the others. With the inordinate number of losses by Top 5 teams to unranked teams it becomes increasingly frustrating to accept the NCAA's unwillingness to scrap the current bowl system and go to a tournament format that they use in Divisions I-AA (er, Football Championship Subdivision, FCS), II and III when parity in the FBS is blatantly obvious.
The excuses of missed classes, difficult travel and the uncertainty of locations are invalid as all the other Divisions deal with it. And these are the smaller schools who actually have student athletes and stricter academic requirements. The excuse of the lesser teams losing out on post-season action are also invalid as the lower Divisions also have single game Bowl Games. Keep the lower level Bowl Games, they are entertaining and a nice reward for the student athletes who sacrifice their time and effort. The excuse of the loss of money to the schools generated by the loss of Bowl Games is also ridiculous as the hype and excitement generated by a playoff should match that of the Bowl System. And if people don't think it would be exciting, please see the FCS this season as 8-3 Delaware, who finished the season 3rd in Division of its Conference, has gotten hot and is playing in the FCS Championship Game. Or better yet, see March Madness.
Forget the talk of a 4, 8 or 12 team playoff field, let's stick with a 16 team model like the FCS. Just for reference Division II has a 24 team field and Division III has a 32 team field. The first round would be played on the higher seeded team's field with the incorporation of the higher Bowls for the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. To keep it fair to all the Conferences that aren't "BCS worthy", let's include all 11 FBS Divisions, just like March Madness. All Conference Champions get an automatic bid to the tournament. The other 5 "at-large" teams would be chosen by a Selection Committee, just like in March Madness and in the lower Football Divisions. But, let's put in a rule that you can not have more than 2 teams from any 1 conference to be fair to all Conferences. The Selection Committee would then seed the 16 teams just like in the March Madness.
In this demonstration we will use the final 2007 BCS rankings to select the 5 at-large teams and to determine the seeding.
So based on the 2007 Final BCS Standings you would have:
#1 Ohio State (Big Ten)
#2 LSU (SEC)
#3 Virginia Tech (ACC)
#4 Oklahoma (Big 12)
#5 Georgia (At-Large)
#6 Missouri (At-Large)
#7 USC (PAC 10)
#8 West Virgina (Big East)
#9 Hawaii (WAC)
#10 Arizona State (At-Large)
#11 Illinois (At-Large)
#12 Boston College (At-Large)
#13 BYU (Mountain West)
#14 UCF (Conference USA)
#15 Central Michigan (MAC)
#16 Florida Atlantic (Sun Belt)
Kansas and Florida lose out despite being higher in the BCS Standings because they would be the 3rd team from their conference in the tournament. This is just a rule I am making out of preference, not a necessity.
So the first round of the bracket would look as follows:
#16 Florida Atlantic @ #1 Ohio State
#9 Hawaii @ #8 West Virginia
#12 Boston College @ #5 Georgia
#14 UCF @ #3 Virginia Tech
#11 Illinois @ #6 Missouri
#13 BYU @ #4 Oklahona
#10 Arizona State @ #7 USC
#15 Central Michigan @ #2 LSU
With the exception of the 1-16 and 2-15 games all are compelling games. This has to be better that what we have now. For the following rounds you would use the following bowls with the Championship game rotating between the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls as it does now. You can even rotate the second tier Bowls in the Quarterfinals each year.
Quarterfinals: Citrus (Cap One), Cotton, Orange, Peach (Chic-Fil-A)
Semifinals: Fiesta, Rose
Would be travel be a little bit of a pain in the butt, yes, but college football arguably has a larger following than the NFL. But these games would attract a sizable crowd regardless where held. Fans and alumni would come. This would produce plenty of money to be SHARED with all the school and all the conferences. It seems like a simple solution to a simple problem.
Unless greed and money gets in the way... just like it is now.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
They never make it easy but the Browns topped the New York Jets at the Meadowlands, 24-18, to improve to 8-5 on the 2007 season. That win combined with the Tennessee Titans' loss to San Diego puts the Browns in sole possession of the final playoff spot in the AFC. It also puts the Browns in control of their own destiny. If they win out over the last 3 games of the season, they will secure their first playoff birth since 2002. One more victory also ensures them of their first winning season since 2002, a proposition that looked grim after Opening weekend. At worst the Browns are assured of a non-losing season at 8-8... (insert Carnegie Mellon Football joke here).
The difference in this game was Jamal Lewis. Looking healthy and hungry, J-Lew once again ran with authority and power as he physically wore down the Jets Defense. His 31 yard run at the end of the 4th Quarter, where he broke a minimum 5 tackles, helped close a game that looked in great peril after it appeared the Browns Defense was going to break at the end of the game one more time. The offensive line manhandled the Jets while piling up 152 yards rushing, at a 5.2 yard per carry clip, and yielded no sacks again. Oh yes, and no false starts in an away game. Well played Joe T, Steiny, Fat Hank, Tuck and HPC. Well played, indeed.
Derek Anderson was solid, yet unspectacular, as he suffered another dumb 1st Quarter interception and started slowly, again. The Browns did not score until 1:15 left in the 2nd Quarter due to a number of stalled drives and missed opportunities. Also disconcerting was that once it started to rain in the 4th Quarter Anderson seemed to have trouble making a play and looked bad on a critical drive where the Browns needed to run time off the clock. Anderson went 0-2 with 2 bad throws and the Browns went 3 and Out and let the Jets back into the game. But a win is a win and DA did throw 2 perfect balls on TD passes to Jamal Lewis and Braylon Edwards.
The Defense did a great job, for their standards, overall on the day but once again faded down the stretch to keep things interesting. They tallied 4 sacks on the day, including a sack/forced fumble combo by Kamerion Wimbley and a cameo by West Texas A&M's own Chaun Thompson. Brandon McDonald played another solid game and added an interception. At this point of the season he looks much better than Daven Holly, who gave up a number of key catches on the day. Sean Jones made a key play picking off a pass in the endzone after Anderson's 1st Quarter interception to prevent New York from getting on the board first. The Jets were only 2-12 on 3rd Down and 2-2 on 4th down, including a couple of obvious QB sneaks that the Browns Defense should have been prepared for. Overall the Jets actually out gained the Browns 387-337.
Some other good nuggets... Only 4 Browns penalties for 29 yards. Phil Dawson muscling up to drill a 49 yard field goal. The appearance of Josh Cribbs both in the passing and running game. Good use of Jason Wright and Jerome Harrison in order to keep Jamal Lewis fresh. Steve Heiden finally seeing a few balls thrown his way. D'Qwell Jackson with double digit tackles once again. Leon Williams with 1 1/2 sacks. The Browns special teams neutralizing dangerous KR Leon Washington.
Some things to improve on... Joe J and K2 both with key drops. Daven Holly leading with 11 tackles, which tells you just how rough his day was. Two touchbacks on punt by Dave Zastudil. Bad punt coverage by the Browns special teams. The continued infatuation with Lawrence Vickers on 3rd Down, although they did convert both times. Kellen Winslow being silent most of the game.
So the Browns come home to face the 7-6 Buffalo Bills. It is basically an elimination game for the Bills. If the Browns win they have a 2 game advantage over Buffalo with 2 games to play and the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Bills are surging behind rookie QB Trent Edwards who has developed a bond with WR Lee Evans. Rookie stud RB Marshawn Lynch has been injured but may be back for the Bills. If he is look out. The Bills have played a ton of close games this season, just like the Browns, but have come up on the short end of the stick most of the time. So I fully expect another heart stopper. But the game is at home and the Browns have thrived there in 2007 winning 5 in a row. Meaningful football in Cleveland in December... it's been a while. It's great to have it back.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Saturday, December 1, 2007
The D is starting to step up. The O is still delivering 30 points a game. The Browns have won 5 out of 6 games. Now they face a two game road trip starting with a trip to the desert.
Arizona is banged up. Their D is missing two of three starters in the D backfield. They don't get a ton of pass rush. Kurt Warner is still nursing a strained elbow. Larry Fitzgerald is nursing a sore hammy.
But this still is a dangerous game. The Browns historically are poor in West Coast games (see: Raiders game, Week 3). Eric Wright is still out and the Cards have a very dangerous compliment of receivers even if Larry Fitzgerald doesn't play. It's a featured late 4:15 game and the attention level paid to the Browns continues to grow, as does the pressure.
The Browns are a superior team to Arizona in almost all facets. All they have to do is shake off the distractions and prove it. Just do it, boys, just do it.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Phil Dawson said it best after the game, the Cleveland Browns have been waiting for 9 years to get a call and they finally did. The no good field goal that was good after hitting the left upright and then hitting the arched post that supports the goal posts before bouncing back out in front of the goal posts allowed the Browns to survive a truly awful performance and somehow escape Baltimore with a 33-30 OT win. That win puts them at 6-4 a game behind Pittsburgh who no showed and lost versus the putrid New York Jets. It was a game that the Browns have become habitually good at losing on a consistent basis, but no matter how ugly it was they won and that all that matters. It was a stunning reversal of fortune that could hopefully spring the Browns onto a path of relevance and send the hated Ravens into a long period of suck-i-tude.
The Browns were not good today. DA and Braylon look completely off today, making mental mistakes and not making many plays when needed. Braylon had a fumble which DA threw a perfect pass right to Ray Ray Lewis for a Pick 6. The O disappeared in the second half for the second game in a row. The Browns had penalty problems, especially on the offensive line, resulting in a 1st and 30 at one point. Phil Dawson missed an easy 35 yard field goal early in the game and Ryan Pontbriand had his first bad snap I can remember on a botched FG attempt. The D allowed an awful Ravens offense and Kyle Boller to come back from a 13 point deficit. But somehow the Browns overcame it and won.
There were some positives. Jamal Lewis looked like he still had a pep in his step playing against his old team. Jason Wright again had more success as a nice change of pace back. K2 continues to make big catches when needed. Sean Jones looked like the playmaker he was last year and Brodney Pool finally stepped up when he was needed. Robaire Smith provided the Browns with a pass rush they have sorely needed. Mike Adams and Brandon McDonald stepped up after Eric Wright left early with a sprained knee. Josh Cribbs continues to amaze on kick and punt returns and even forced a fumble on kick coverage. Phil Dawson shook of an early shank to give the Browns the win. Romeo Crennel even won a replay challenge.
The Browns have 6 games to go against the opponents with the weakest remaining schedule in the NFL (lowest combined winning percentage of opponents). Who would have thought the Week 11 meeting with the Texans would have playoff implications? The Browns have plenty of problems that need fixing but they finally have returned to national prominence. When is the last time they were on the front page of ESPN.com or NFL.com? They are a constant topic on all the major pre and post game shows. That hasn't been the case since left were stolen in 1995. They may very well be the feel good story of the NFL. They seem to have some karma on their side for the first time in years with a fateful bounce. Let's see if the can turn that karma into a serious playoff push and reverse the fortunes of a once proud franchise.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
After forcing the Steelers to go 3 and out on the opening series the Browns drove the field on a 16 play 8 minute drive that ending in a DA touchdown pass to Kellen Winslow. 7-0 Browns.
Willie Parker drove the Steelers down the field on the ensuing possession but the Browns D held the to 3. Josh Cribbs responded with a 90 yard KO return to the Steelers 4 and after a Lawrence Vickers TD reception i t was 14-3 Browns.
The Steelers drove down the field again but the Browns D held again to keep the Browns up 14-6. After a short drive Browns punt on the next possession Brodney Pool intercepted Ben Roethlisberger and Braylon Edwards pulled in an amazing TD catch that needed a Romeo Crennel challenge to make it true and it was 21-6 Browns.
The Steelers drove the field again but yet again the Browns D held to finish the first half with the score Browns 21, Steelers 9.
In the first half the Browns O looked great and was firing on all cylinders. The Browns D stepped up and looked stout when it needed to be. But some key mistakes by the Browns int he second half turned the tide for the Steelers.
After both teams went 3 and out twice to start the half, the Steelers got the big break they needed when James Harrison forced Jamal Lewis to fumble in their own end and the Steelers turned it into an easy Hines Ward TD, 21-16 Browns.
The Browns and Steelers traded 3 and outs again as the third quarter ended, mercifully. The Browns finished the quarter with no first downs and DA was definitely frazzled by the Steelers D who obviously made the necessary adjustments needed at halftime.
The Browns went 3 and out... again, and again the Steelers made them pay. On the arm of Roethlisberger the Steelers drove down the field effortlessly and Roethlisberger then ran, almost untouched, for a 30 yard TD. Add the 2 point conversion by Ward and it was 24-21 Steelers.
With the Browns O struggling, Josh Cribbs answered as he corralled a squib kick at the goal line juked one man, tip toed up the sideline and somehow stayed inbounds and found a convoy to the endzone for a Browns 28-24 lead. The play withstood a Mike Tomlin challenge as the Browns finally caught a break in the game.
But the Browns D couldn't come up with the big stop it had in the previous weeks. The Steelers converted third downs of 7, 18 and 8 yards (many on Roethlisberger scrambles) to set up a 2 yard TD catch by Heath Miller to go up 31-28.
Romeo Crennel then made his only coaching mistake of the game calling a timeout before challenging the play, which he lost, ultimately costing the Browns 2 timeout on one play. It would come back to be a factor.
The Browns went 3 and out again but forced the Steelers to go 3 and out and punt. Josh Cribbs returned the punt to the Steelers 33 but a holding penalty moved the ball back to the Browns 39. DA managed to drive the Browns to the Steelers 36 but was forced to spike the ball with 7 seconds left on 3rd and 2, because they had used their final timeout previously, and on 4th and 2, Phil Dawson's 53 yard field goal attempt into the windy, open end on Heinz Field was dead on the money... but came up just inched short. Ballgame. Steelers 31, Browns 28.
In the end the Steelers showed the resolve of a time tested veteran team expecting to win while the Browns looked like an improving team not yet ready to make the next step to an elite challenger. Instead of coming out int he second half ready to step on the opponents' neck the Browns came out flat with poor QB play, a costly fumble, a poor coaching challenge and a an inability to make a play when needed. Josh Cribbs out gained the Browns offense on the day but they still came within inches of sending the game to overtime.
A frustrating loss but the best effort the Browns have shown against the Steelers in four years. An exciting, exhilarating game that Browns fans haven't seen in a long time. We learned the Browns are not in the Steelers class yet, but we knew that already. What we didn't know is that the gap isn't as wide as we thought. With a few pieces on D the Browns may become a contender in the AFC sooner than expected. Despite it's struggles the O put up 28 points on the the #1 D in the NFL and a D that was giving up about 6 points per game at home.
So the Browns sit alone in 2nd in the AFC North at 5-4. Seven games to go. Seven games against opponent they can beat. Seven games against teams that they ARE better then. The Browns have had an amazing run so far. They have proved all their doubters wrong. They continue to get better every game. They came up short against the Steelers but they didn't back down and traded punches all day.
In the end the Steelers took the game from the Browns. The Browns have a great chance to take what they and their fans want. To taste something they haven't since 2002. The Browns control their own destiny, all they have to do it take it. Let's shake off the Pittspuke hangover and take what is ours.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Wow, what a game! The offensive juggernaut that is the Cleveland Browns kept on rolling by putting up a 33 spot to defeat the Seattle Seahawks in overtime, 33-30 on the shores of Lake Erie. Getting down 21-6 early on but never giving up the Browns battled back to notch a win over a quality opponent and improve to 5-3. It also marked the first time since 2001 that they have won 3 games in a row and assures that next Sunday's match-up with the Steelers will be for 1st place in the AFC North regardless of the result of the Monday Night game.
It's someone different every week and this week belonged to Kellen Winslow and Jamal Lewis. 11 receptions, 125 yards, one banged up shoulder and one ailing knee. An amazing effort from a guy who is in constant pain every time he runs let alone gets tackled. Jamal Lewis pounded in 4 TD runs from 2 yards are less. When is the last time you can remember the Browns doing that more than once in a season and they did it 4 times in one GAME. Last week it was Braylon Edwards and Derek Anderson. But this offense has so many weapon you don;t know who will be the standout from week to week.
The defense may still stink, but they are making plays when they have to. For the second consecutive week they did not allow a TD in the second half and allowed the Browns O to mount a comeback. They came up with two stops on 4th and 1 AGAIN to hold serve when it mattered most. It all comes down to the D line. The lack of pass rush is embarrassing but Romeo and Todd Grantham are trying to overcompensate for it by rolling coverages and rotation fresh bodies in and out. When is the last time you saw Brandon McDonald and David McMillan in the game in the 4th quarter? Never. That is what this D is up against. But if they can continue to make plays when they need to, the Browns will always have a chance.
But the Browns won and did so while having to overcome a shanked extra point, a number of dropped TD passes and a punt return TD. But as they have all year they did NOT fold and came back to win. They now have some injury concerns as RG Seth McKinney left with an injured should and is most likely out for the Pittsburgh game. Will Lennie Friedman step in or will the reps Ryan Tucker got during training came pay dividends? Winslow is also banged up and will need a couple extra days of rest. But do you think he's missing the Steelers game? No.
So they've beat the win less teams. They've beat the mediocre teams. Sunday they beat a championship contender. The only thing that stands between them and first place it the neighborhood bully that has been smacking them around for almost 10 years. They've got a shot to knock them of their pretty little perch.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Well this is an interesting one for the Brownies this week. Sitting at 4-3 and one game behind the lead for the AFC North with impending back-to-back road games versus the Steelers and Ravens. It is a situation they have not found themselves in very often since 1999. This week the Seattle Seahawks come to town, owners of the exact same 4-3 record and coming off their bye week. The Seahawks are traditionally a tough one for the Browns as they are only 4-11 all-time versus Seattle.
The bookies have installed the Browns as a 1 point favorite. You get three points for being at home which means that on a neutral field they think the Seahawks are two points better than the Browns. So basically they have no clue on how to feel about this game just like most of us.
The Seahawks come in hurting on offense as the running game still hasn't gelled with the loss of Pro-Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson before last season. Shawn Alexander looks to have lost a step after being injured the majority of last season. The retirement of fullback Mack Strong as Alexander's lead blocker also has had an adverse effect on the 'Hawks running game.
The Seahawks are also aren't tearing it up via the pass either as Matt Hasselback is nursing a strained oblique and their wide receiving core still struggles with dropped passes and health even with the departure of Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson. They traded a first round pick for Deion Branch and it has not paid dividends.
Just like the Browns they have beat up on the dredges on the NFL... Cincinnati, San Francisco, St. Louis... and have been spanked by the good teams, Pittsburgh and New Orleans. So this should be a good judge of where both franchises stand. The Browns, hopefully, appear to be on an upswing with some young, stand out players coming into their own while the Seahawks are attempt to hold onto the core that got them to the Super Bowl a mere two years ago.
Seattle still has a formidable defense with Patrick Kearney and Julian Peterson anchoring one of the leagues most underrated units. Former Brown Brian Russell leads the secondary and even though they won't admit it, the Browns sorely miss his leadership. Despite the upgrade in defense over the Rams and Dolphins I still expect the Browns to score if they protect the ball. Chud, DA and the play makers have shown for 6 weeks that they are more than capable of dissecting any defense.
It all comes down to the D, as it always seems to. Big Ted Washington is on the IR essentially ending his tenure as a Brown. Shaun Smith will get more work at nose tackle while Simon Fraser will see more work at left DE. I expect to see a ton of rotation of the line to keep the boys fresh and because, quite frankly, none of them are exceptionally good. It looks like D'Qwell Jackson might not play but Andre Davis and Leon Williams held down the fort quite well in the second half against the Rams. The DBs stepped up in the end of the Rams game but will need a better overall effort against a better Seattle team.
This is your textbook measuring stick game between a young, up and coming team and an aging team still trying to play at an elite level. A good test for the Browns before they ship off to Pittspuke but they can not look past Seattle. This year the Browns have been beating teams that they are better than or as good as they are. They have been winning at home. They need to continue to do so to continue to provide Cleveland with meaningful football games into November and December for the first time in a long time.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
So we have a couple division wins, we've actually got a winning streak that exceeds one and low and behold a winning record. Now if we could only figure out a way to beat the Appalachian Inbreeds of Pittspuke we might have this thing going in the right direction.
Now the Browns did not look dominant or impressive in their 27-20 win over the now 0-8 St. Louis Rams but there were a number of things that occurred during the game that the Browns of the recent past would have reacted completely different to.
First off they got out to a 14-0 deficit. Yes, got off to it. The defense made Marc Bulger look like the Marc Bulger of 2004 not 2007 and Steven Jackson was running through the Browns like poop through a goose. The Browns of recent memory would have folded early and we could have been looking at a 44-7 debacle that was commonplace for years. But the D sucked it up, held the Rams to only 3 more points and allowed the O to get back into a groove and the half ended at 17-17.
Secondly, the O kept its head. After struggling their first couple of series, the browns stuck to their game plan, ran the ball to set up play action and mixed in Jason Wright, Jerome Harrison and Josh Cribbs nicely to keep St. Louis off balance. The best thing about the new O is that they spread the ball around so well. Anyone can beat you. Edwards is outshining everyone right now but if the D locks down on him the Browns have many options to go to.
The D, despite being picked apart all day, held when it needed to. Holding twice on 4th and 1. Getting some key stops in the first half to keep the Browns in the game. The Key 3 and out they caused in the middle of the 4th quarter to keep the score 27-20. And coming up with the interception to seal the deal. Not a great performance but they did enough to win, even against a bad team.
Some other good things to see… Edwards taking responsibility for his 15 yard taunting penalty and not dodging the criticism. Using Joe J on third down time and time again. Bodden bouncing bad after an awful first quarter. Zasty booming 2 monster punts (although his last effort was poor). The Browns false starting 3 times on the opening drive of the second half and still scoring a TD (once again a recipe for disaster in past years). Only 1 sack allowed by the O line again. No interceptions for DA again. Phil just kicking field goals right down the middle and silencing the doubters. Romeo showing emotion.
Some things to improve on… No pass rush, Ethan Kelley with the only sack (via fatting the center) against a depleted Rams O line. 14 penalties for 101 yards, yuck. Way too many third and long conversions allowed by the defense. An empty backfield on 3rd and 3 that yielded a sack.
A good win. Two in a row. Browns now 4-3 a game back of Pittspuke and tied with Baltiwhore. The Seattle Seahawks visit Lake Erie for a 4:15 game next Sunday. The Seahawks are good, but not great. It is a nice barometer for the Browns to gauge where they are. A tough Seattle D to challenge Chud's O and an aging 'Hawks O versus the porous Browns D. A measuring stick game for sure before the Browns depart for two away games against the two cities they hate the most. Godspeed, gentlemen. Godspeed.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
The task at hand to accomplish this feat? Defeat their second consecutive win less opponent in a row, the 0-7 St. Louis Rams in the Edward Jones Dome. So far this year the Browns have given the Oakland Raiders their first win of the year but defeated the hapless Miami Dolphins in their last game.
Will the Browns continue to show signs of progression and come out after their bye week and trounce a team that is dead in the water? That question will be answered Sunday in St. Louis. This is a classic Browns trap game from recent years where they go into town against an awful opponent and hand them their first win (see: October 30, 2005 vs. Texans, Houston). Adding to the drama is that both TE Randy McMichael and RB Steven Jackson have come out and guaranteed a Browns victory. Let's hope the Browns follow Kellen Winslow's lead in the epic Winslow-Porter battle of Week 6 and just ignore it.
This will be a difficult game for the Browns because of their defense. Steven Jackson is back after missing four games with a partially torn groin. Marc Bulger may be playing with 57 broken ribs and their entire offensive line may be decimated by injuries, including LT Orlando Pace, but they still have potent weapon in Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Jackson. If the Browns can get pressure on Bulger, then there is no way they should lose this game barring a complete meltdown or turnover fiasco. Their offensive line is bad, and that is being kind. If the D-Line can get a decent push (a big if) and let the LBs create havoc in the backfield it should be another long day for Mr. Bulger. Holt and Bruce have lost a step and could play into the hands of the Browns young secondary. Nullify Jackson, create pressure and make Bulger throw while under duress is the key to the football game.
On offense, I expect the bounty of many point to continue. Rams sack master Leonard Little is out for the game with a toe injury. Rookie DT Adam Carriker is improving but still a rookie. Other than that their defense is made up of veterans past their prime and guys I have never heard of. If Jamal Lewis plays I expect a balance of J-Lew and play action throughout the first half to wear down the Rams D followed by a large dose of J-Lew after halftime against a tired and battered unit. If Lewis is out I expect a game plan similar to the Miami game. Tons of shots in the passing game while mixing in just the right dosage of Jason Wright and Jerome Harrison. Each week seems to cause me to wonder, WWCD? What will Chud do? How will he use Josh Cribbs this week? What new wrinkle in the passing game will we see? What else have they installed in the bye week. Once again, all eyes will be on Derek Anderson to see if he can have 2 good games in a row. He's due for a Bad Derek week, but the Browns did have a bye last week, so let's hope that counts and we get Good Derek Sunday. That would help the cause greatly.
Anything less than a decisive win by the Browns Sunday would be uncivilized... and unacceptable.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Carmona obviously learned nothing from his experience in Game 2. No control. Trying to nibble the corners. He started the game infield hit, infield hit and walk. Loading the bases in the first was awful but he battled back to get Scum Ramirez and Mike Lowell but fell behind the putrid JD Drew and threw a meatball down the middle of the plate for a Grand Slam and a 4-0 lead.
But you could tell he didn't have it again as he allowed runners on first and third with 1 out and thankfully got a DP grounded from David Ortiz to hold the deficit to 4-0. He let Drew get him again for a RBI single and his night was done. Two plus innings and an embarrassingly bad outing to show for it. Enter Rafael Perez, attain 1 out, score 10-1. Aaron Laffey on to stop the bleeding.
So the three biggest pitching assets of the Indians have C. C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona and Rafael Perez have come up as shit in the ALCS. And because of it, barring a miracle, there will be a Game 7 in Fenway Park Sunday night. It's up to Jake Westbrook to stop the bleeding.
The Indians hitters will have to be on their game as well as they squandered a great opportunity in the Top of the 3rd when Nixon and Blake singled to start the inning but the Indians could not score either of them. Grady Sizemore, 0-8 in the Postseason. Travis Hanfer, 0 for his last 13 as of the 3rd inning. All the bounces are going the Red Sox way. The Indians are going to have to do something to change that if they want to avoid a giant choke job Sunday.
Friday, October 19, 2007
The Indians laid an egg in Game 5 of the ALCS, losing 7-1 to the Red Sox. The series shifts to Boston for Game 6 and Game 7, if necessary.
C. C. Sabathia battled Josh Beckett for 6 plus innings but didn't have the type of outing that you would want from you alleged ace of the pitching staff. He was in and out of trouble all night and for the most part worked out of it but his performance paled in comparison to Beckett's.
Beckett's 8 inning, 11 strikeout performance was dominant from the moment Travis Hafner hit into a run scored double play in the 1st Inning, derailing and chance the Indians has of getting an early jump of the Red Sox #1 starter. Beckett may have proved himself to be an asshole both on and off the field but he also showed why he is the best clutch pitcher in MLB today.
Boston's bats woke up in the 7th extending a 2-1 lead to 7-1 and putting all hopes of an Indians comeback at home to bed. The Indians offense simply could not find an answer to Beckett which has been a difficultly for all AL teams this season. Amazingly, the Indians have not clinched a pennant at home since they won the 1920 World Series at old League Park.
But fear not, the Indians still need only win one of two games and in their last two trips to the World Series they were up won game 6 on the road at Seattle in 1995 and Baltimore in 1997. A solid start by Fausto Carmona and some offensive production will go a long way in making it happen again in 2007.
It's difficult to beat any team 4 straight times, let alone a good team like the Red Sox. If they Indians deserve to go to the World Series they will earn it. If they lose 3 straight to the Red Sox then they definitely won't deserve it.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
After four and a half innings everything seemed very much in doubt. Tim Wakefield's knuckleball was knuckling beautifully, confusing and frustrating Indians hitters left and right. The Indians had notched only two walks and one hit, a solid double off the wall in left field by Jhonny Peralta, and looked as if they were in serious trouble.
The Red Sox had managed four hits and had gotten a runner to second base in two of the five innings. Paul Byrd was Paul Byrd. Giving up some hits while walking no one and working out of trouble. The were a lot of loud outs, but they were outs nonetheless. But you had to think that the Red Sox were in prime position to explode at any moment... until the Indians beat them to it.
A 7 run Bottom of the 5th rocked the Red Sox as every twist and turn fell to the Indians advantage. Casey Blake led of with a monster jack over the wall in left field that seemed to wake up the Tribe. Frankie Gutierrez singled to left on a ball at his eye level and Kelly Shoppach got plunked by a 60 MPH knuckler.
Then everything went the Indians way. Grady Sizemore sent a slow dribbler to second that forced Shoppach at second but advanced Frankie to third while Sizemore took first. The As-Man lifted a ball down the first baseline that Kevin Youklis bobbled 6 times before dropping and you could sense that something was about to happen. Cabrera then sent a liner back at Wakefield that spun out of his glove and deadened in between second base and the pitchers mound. A would be DP that turned into a RBI infield single. Victor Martinez followed with an RBI single through the left side which ended the night for Tim Wakefield.
Peralta rudely greeted Manny Delcarmen with a no doubt 3 run HR to right to make it 6-0 and send The Jake into a frenzy. Kenny Lofton then singled, stole second and scored on Casey Blake's bloop single to center that Coco Crisp barely missed catching on a dive. After it was all over the score read 7-0 Cleveland.
After more than 30 minuted in the dugout Byrd came out rusty and gave up 2 no doubt solo homeruns to Kevin Youklis and David Ortiz before giving way to Jensen Lewis. He may no be pretty but Paul Byrd wins plain and simple. There are no style points for pitchers, just wins. Manny Ramirez greeted Jensen Lewis with a monster HR to deep center that he stood and watch for a good 5 - 10 seconds as if he just won the game. Problem was, it only made the game 7 - 3. All that Jensen Lewis did after that was follow it with 2 scoreless innings of work which Raffy Betancourt followed up with retiring 6 straight to end the game. Final score Cleveland 7, Boston 3.
In what seems to be the theme to the series so far the Indians keep beating the Red Sox to the punch and keep shaking off the Red Sox' retaliation. Scoring 7 runs to establish control of the game and just when the Sox think they are back in it with back to back to back homeruns the bullpen comes in, completely shut them down and give them no hope.
So now the Indians are up 3-1 in the ALCS. One win to go. All the Media is going to say is that the Red Sox were down 3-1 to the Angles in the 1986 ALCS and came back to win the series. And they were down 3-0 to the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS and won the series. But there is one difference, the Red Sox were a better team than their opponents. In the 2007 ALCS that is not the case. Yes, they have Josh Beckett going in Game 5. Yes, if they win Game 5 they have the next 2 games in Boston. Yes, Boston has a $200M payroll. But none of it matters.
The Indians have the Red Sox down. Their confidence is up. They know they can take the best shot the Red Sox have and attack right back. More importantly, they know they are the better team. Whether they win Thursday night or not, they have their foot on the Red Sox' neck and the smell blood in the water. And if the Indians have proved anything in 2007 it's that when the smell blood, they go in for the kill.
It's Tribe Time now.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
What a game. Jake "The Snake" Westbrook was masterful. Kenny Lofton was magical. The crowd was unreal. It all lead to a 4-2 win by the Tribe over the Red Sox to take a 2-1 lead in the ALCS.
Westbrook had pinpoint control all night, minus the one pitch to Varitek in the 7th, and induced ground ball after ground ball after ground ball. The three double plays were huge starting with the amazing one in the first inning off the bat of David Ortiz turned, out of the shift, by the As Man to Blake to Garko. The one in the second was huge as it got the Tribe out of a bases loaded, no out jam without a run being scored. The last one of the bat of Manny “Scum” Ramirez was a delight to the entire Jacobs Field crowd. Enter Jensen Lewis, Rafael Betancourt and Joe Borowski and game over.
Kenny Lofton continues to push this team as he ignited the crowd in the Bottom of the 2nd with a 2 run homer that barely got out of the park, and over J. D. Drew’s glove, a half inning after Westbrook worked out of the bases loaded no out jam. The As Man delivered a clutch RBI single in the 5th followed by a moment of heart and hustle from Pronk to beast out a potential double play ball to allow the 4th run to score on a fielder’s choice.
So it’s on to Game 4 tonight at The Jake. Paul Byrd versus Tim Wakefield. The Indians struggle against the slow stuff. It will be interesting to see how they work Wakefield. The Red Sox thrive against finesse pitchers like Byrd so he will have his work cut out for him. Regardless, the Indians have the upper hand and can put themselves in prime position with a win tonight.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
Not the way you want to start the ALCS. After Travis Hafner homered in the first inning off of almost untouchable Josh Beckett, C. C. Sabathia gave up consecutive singles to Kevin Youklis, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez to make it 1-1 after an inning.
He followed it up with a third inning in which he yielded 4 runs on 2 hits. The first run scored after he had Manny "Scum" Ramirez down in the count 0-2 and then walked him. Boston proceeded to pound the ball all over the place for the rest of the inning. The Red Sox added another 3 runs on 3 hits in the bottom of the fifth inning and C. C. was gone with only one out in the fifth.
His final line:
4 1/3 IP, 7 H, 8 R/ER, 5 BB, 3 SO... Ouch.
Final score: Red Sox 10, Indians 3.
Bottom line with Beckett dealing C. C. needed to keep the Tribe close in order for them to have a chance. Close was the farthest thing that can be said about this game. Tribe can still salvage a split in Boston but need Fausto to out duel The Narcissist Curt Schilling tomorrow night. For now the Indians are down 0-1 in the ALCS.