Pat Riley coined the phase "Three-peat". The Yankees won four straight championships from 1936 to 1940. Jeff Gordon is currently on his "Drive for Five" in the NASCAR Chase for the Nextel Cup. The Browns just want two. The Browns are seeking their first back to back wins since October 12, 2003, beating Pittsburgh and Oakland in succession. Do the math, that is over FOUR years since it happened.
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
Coulda, woulda, shoulda...
Well what was an amazing season ended in disappointment and despair as the Indians dropped the last three games of the ALCS to lose the series to the Boston Red Sox 4-3. The Indians were outscored 30-5 in the last three games to leave a bitter taste in the mouth of Tribe fans everywhere.
After taking Games 2-4 from the Red Sox, and taking a commanding 3-1 ALCS lead, the Indians couldn't catch a break as they were over matched, overpowered and overwhelmed in Games 5-7. They had their chances in Games 5 and 7 as C. C. Sabthia couldn't hunker down in the 7th inning of Game 5 as a one run game turned into a blowout. In Game 7, it appeared as if the Indians would tie the game at 3 in the 7th inning as Franklin Gutierrez hit a sharp liner down the 3rd base line that should have scored Kenny Lofton from second... until Joel Skinner inexplicatively held Kenny Lofton at 3rd. The Red Sox then exploded for 8 more runs and the Indians dram season was over.
A failure to come through in the clutch once again haunted a Cleveland team in the playoffs as C. C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Rafael Perez, Travis Hafner and to a lesser extent, Grady Sizemore, turned in abysmal performances in the ALCS and did nothing to help the team's cause.
Lost in everything will be the amazing season the Indians had. No one expected them to contend this year in a division with the Tigers, White Sox and Twins. No one expected them to beat those teams handily and win the AL Central. No one expected them to tie for the most wins in MLB with 96. No one gave them a chance to beat the Yankees in the ALDS. And no one gave them a chance to hang with the Red Sox in the ALCS. But they did all of those things.
But no one will remember that. They will only remember the failure to win one game in 3 chances to advance to their first World Series since 2007. It was a great, magical season, it just fell a little short of Cleveland's expectations. This one is going to hurt for long time unless the 2008 version of the Cleveland Indians can dull the pain.