Sunday, December 9, 2007

Control of Their Own Destiny

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.

Go Browns!

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