Thursday, November 1, 2007

Where Do We Stand?

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

Browns Improve to 4-3

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.