Friday, October 3, 2008

The Browns Table: Bye Week State of the Union

Welcome to The Browns Table, a season-long look at the 2008 season for the Cleveland Browns from the point of view of the Browns fans here on Bleacher Report.

This discussion is not just meant for the contributing Browns fans. Please feel free to comment on any of the questions or any of our answers below.

We welcome any comments and an open discussion about the Browns below. If you would like a seat at the table leave me a note on my profile and we will try and get you in the rotation.

As always thanks to Browns fans Scot Miles and Michael Taylor for their contributions this week.

With it being the Browns’ bye week, we have a second round table to discuss where the Browns are today, where do they go from here for the rest of the season and even take a Nostradamus-like look into 2009…

But presently, let’s talk Browns football…

After four games, the Browns defense is ranked #10 in the NFL. Is this legit or a mirage? What do you expect from the defense the rest of the way?

Scott Miles
It's too tough to tell. They got torched by Dallas, who has one of the league's best offenses. But they did keep them less than 30 points, which I thought would have given us a chance to win. Then, you look at how they've been able to keep Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati in check...except for the fact that their offenses are putrid.

So, I guess all things considered, the defense has done enough to keep us in football games. It's the offense that hasn't been able to carry its weight.

Jeff Smirnoff:
It is somewhat skewed because other than Dallas, the three teams that they have faced do not have a high powered offense. Baltimore has a rookie QB, the Steelers are not as good as they looked against Houston and the Bengals are a train wreck. However, the defense has been a nice surprise despite the losses of Sean Jones, Antwaan Peek and Robaire Smith. Mike Adams has filled in nicely for Jones and Alex Hall has been a much needed surprise. It all comes down to linebacker play, if Hall and Kamerion Wimbley can get pressure on the QB, D'Qwell Jackson can continue to improve (I am not a fan but he has impressed me a bit so far) and they can figure out the second ILB spot it would go a long way in keeping it going and protecting the wafer thin secondary. It will be tough with the upcoming schedule but at least SOME part of the Browns is playing BETTER than expected.

Michael Taylor:
Not that I didn't trust you for saying that the Browns were ranked in the top-10 statistically, but I had to go check it out for myself. I was shocked. It just goes to show if we had a bit more offensively (man I didn't think that I'd be saying that this season), the Browns would be at least 2-2 to start the year.

However, as glowing as that looks right now, I still believe that it is a mirage. They still rank 22nd against the run, which is not very good to say the least. And if you think about it, the reason that the pass defense is doing so well statistically, is that the Browns have only faced one truly healthy above average QB. Other than Romo in week one, it has been an injured Roethlesberger, rookie Joe Flacco, and a backup quarterback from hell for the Bengals, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The true test of this defense is in the upcoming three weeks against excellent football teams. In the end, I still see this defense around the 20-25th rankings in the league.

The Browns sit at 1-3 after their bye week. We know the upcoming schedule. Let's hear it. What do the Browns finish at in 2008?

Scott Miles:
Well, we need to beat Jacksonville, Houston, Baltimore and Cincinnati. We might have a shot against the Broncos (in Cleveland) if they play like they did last week. And by Week 17, the Steelers might be out of healthy players and have forfeited the season.

(A boy can dream, can't he?)

So that leaves us with what, seven wins? And I'm probably stretching on one or two of those. Call me an optimist. 7-9 or bust!

Jeff Smirnoff:
Everyone talks about strength of schedule before the season, but you really don't know until the season starts what you are up against. Last year the Browns played the "tough" NFC West which turned out to be overrated. Before this year I projected a 9-7 record. They play the AFC South and NFC East... and both divisions appear to be better than predicted. In the last 12 games I only see two teams we are hands down better than, Houston and Cincinnati. I only see four teams that I think we are at close to a level playing field with; Baltimore, Denver, Buffalo and Pittsburgh. If we beat Houston, Cincinnati and split the other four that puts us at... 5-11. The Browns lack "it". They had "it" in 2007 but no so much in 2008.

Michael Taylor:
Knowing what I know now, and being able to get a better judge on this team than we could exiting the pre-season when you asked, I now project about a 5-11 mark. I see three "winnable" games left on the schedule that we should win, and we probably should expect one game where they will win an unexpected game. I stated it early, this schedule is way different than last year and that it would get them. But I didn't expect such poor play too.

The AFC North has been a dogfight so far. The Browns, Ravens and Steelers have beat on each other once already and the Bengals gave the Ravens a scare in Week 1. How do you see the AFC North playing out as the season goes on?

Scott Miles:
The Bengals are done. They won't win more than four or five games this year, especially if Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to be prominently involved. The Steelers (somehow) pulled out that game with Baltimore, but at what cost? Can they hold up this entire season?

My guess is no, and Baltimore ends up taking the North in the end. Even if Willis McGahee is hurt, Le’Ron McClain and Ray Rice are more than capable backups. And that Ravens defense is still pretty good. Steelers will be second, Browns a fairly distant third, Bengals bringing up the rear.

Jeff Smirnoff:
The Browns still have a glimmer of hope, but I don't see them getting back into play-off contention (although they still can salvage the season without play-offs) and the Bengals are, well, the Bengals so that leaves you know who, the Appalachian Inbred and the Ratbirds. Despite the tough schedule I still see the Steelers winning the AFC North, albeit with a 9-7 or 8-8 record, for the simple reason they are a better team with more talent than the Ravens. Plus John Harbaugh is a rookie head coach and I think Mike Tomlin is on helluva coach. Ray Lewis is playing like he is 25 but I don't see them outlasting the Steelers even with the Steelers' injury issues unless Big Dumb Roethlisbozo goes down.

Michael Taylor:
It will be the Steelers. It always seems to. They have the experience in place, and regardless of the running back situation, I believe that they will still win the division by two games over any of the competition.

I am not sold on the Ravens yet, Flacco has done an admirable job as a rookie starter, but will it last and will Troy Smith get his shot? They still have the 'D', so they should hover around the 9-7, 8-8 mark.

The Browns will then fit in in the third position with the 5-11 record as I previously stated.

Then the Bengals will finish last with their pathetic excuse for a franchise. They will win 3-4 games.

Derek Anderson is the starting QB going into Week 6 on MNF versus the NY Giants. Does he make it through the entire season as the starter? If not, when does Brady Quinn take over?

Scott Miles:
Derek Anderson won a stay of execution with those two touchdowns late against Cincinnati. But I still think he's hanging by a thread, and while he might be able to survive a poor quarter here or there, he can't survive a poor half or game without being yanked.

Is it entirely fair? No, not at all. He was hurt during preseason and may still not be 100 percent from his concussion. Braylon Edwards has been disappointing. Donte’ Stallworth has been non-existent, which I feared when we signed him. The offensive line has also struggled. But when he's had some opportunities down the field, he hasn't converted, and he's also made some terrible decisions that have resulted in turnovers and Kellen Winslow's near-decapitation.

Jeff Smirnoff:
First off, let me state I do not care who the QB is as long as they win.

That being said, Anderson's days are numbered. We are at 11 games of mediocre to sub-par play from him which is almost a season. The league has adapted to his strengths and weaknesses and he has yet to adapt back. I hope this bye week helps him figure it out because it either strengthens our QB situation or increases his trade value.

But if it doesn't you have to see what you have in Brady Quinn. Right now he is an unknown commodity and you have to see what he can do. Not because you paid a steep price for him, because you have to see if you do have a franchise QB on the roster. If DA proven he is not the guy, you have to see if Quinn is.

With the next three games against the Giants, Redskins and Jaguars I see Quinn being readied for the home game against Baltimore at earliest or after the Thursday night game versus Denver at the latest.

Michael Taylor:
No, the pressure by the fan base and the media will eventually make Romeo change it up. Heck, the play on the field will make Romeo change it up as well.

Should the Browns go out and stink up the place the next 2-3 weeks (very conceivable with who they are playing), what would be the purpose of sticking with DA? You would already be a possible 1-6? Quinn was drafted to be the future and will be the starting quarter back by week 9 against Baltimore at home.

Romeo Crennel is the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, today. Who is coaching the Browns in 2009 and why?

Scott Miles:
If the season plays out like I said above and we go 7-9 and at least play competitively in some games, it will be Romeo. If it goes worse than that, I think he might lose his job before the end of the year.

If Romeo's not the coach in 2009, I really can't speculate on who it will be. Obviously Bill Cowher would be great, at least as a giant "FU" to Steelers fans. And boy has Rob Chudzinski's stock taken a hit these past four weeks. Has he been doing some work with Fannie Mae or what?

I'm really not sure who we'll see in charge next year. Just as long as it's someone who knows how to control the clock and take a shot every once in awhile.

Jeff Smirnoff:
Not Romeo Crennel. I like Romeo Crennel. He is a good man and a great role model but I just don't think he is a good football coach. The same issues have plagued this team since he arrived. Poor discipline on the field, penalties out the ying-yang and a stubbornness to adjust in game or on a weekly basis. I don't care if they finish 5-11, 7-9 or 9-7 to me it is obvious it is time to move on. The team needs to evolve. They need a new, better leader and Phil Savage needs to draft better because this team is not too far off from the next level.

So who is coaching the Browns in 2009? If I had my choice there is only one man it should be. Bill Cowher. He played, coached and lived here so he has a fondness for the area, team and history of the organization. He knows the AFC North all too well. He is a proven, SUSTAINED winner. Yes, he only has one ring but he is in the playoffs almost every year. He picked up a struggling, young, up and coming team in Pittsburgh and we all know that turned out. That is the situation the Browns find themselves in right now. He knows how to motivate and does not aceept mediocrity or failure, something the current Browns regime seems to embrace.

There are other alternatives. I will take an established, winning NFL coach not named Brian Billick. No more hot, college coaches. No more losing, retreads.

Go down to NC Randy Lerner. Take a blank check. Get on your hands and knees and beg. Bring "The Chin" back to where is all started for him so he can come full circle and karma can swing back to the city it rightfully belongs, Cleveland.

Michael Taylor:
That is the question of the season. It will be hard to swallow another regime change for the Browns, but should it happen, I want the Browns to go out and sign themselves an actual proven NFL head coach. No more of this signing coordinators or college coaches.

I want an actual NFL-proven head coach. Maybe that is another go-round with Marty Schottenheimer, or maybe it is the fan choice Bill Cowher. Whoever it becomes, I just want to be given the confidence that they have done this job before.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Browns Table: Queen City Conquest and Bye Week Banter

Welcome to The Browns Table, a season-long look at the 2008 season for the Cleveland Browns from the point of view of the Browns fans here on Bleacher Report.

This discussion is not just meant for the contributing Browns fans. Please feel free to comment on any of the questions or any of our answers below.

We welcome any comments and an open discussion about the Browns below. If you would like a seat at the table leave me a note on my profile and we will try and get you in the rotation.

As always thanks to Browns fans Samantha Bunten, The Coop and Dustin Haley for their contributions this week.

Well the Browns got into the win column, finally, in Week 4 at sit at 1-3 going into their Bye week. But the win came over the winless Cincinnati Bengals and for a lot of fans it just feels a little less satisfying. The guys… and gals… discuss the game, quarterback, coaching and the organization.

So, let’s talk Browns football…

It wasn't pretty, but the Browns pulled out a 20-12 win in Cincinnati. To you is this a "win is a win" scenario or is this more of a demoralizing loss because of the way the Browns attained victory?

Samantha Bunten:
In a better season, I think this might be more demoralizing, but since the Browns are struggling so much I think we have to see every victory as a "win is a win". Particularly against teams in our division, I think any win at all should be looked at as a springboard for the confidence of a team that has looked scared and unsure of themselves on the field all season.

The Coop:
When you're 0-3, you'll take a win any way you can get it. It doesn't matter who the Browns played and it doesn't matter who was in the other team's lineup. The only important thing is having more points than the other team when the clock hits zero.

I can't believe how cynical we've all gotten. We are quick to point out the bad, but we always neglect the good. The defense created 5 turnovers and the offense made plays when they needed to. There are definite positives to take from the game.

Dustin Haley:
Hey a win is a win regardless. I don't see it as demoralizing because of the big 4th quarter. I know it means very little to the fact the team is playing poorly, but the players won't look at it that way. Their morale is the only morale that matters, not us as fans.

Jeff Smirnoff:
A win is a win, but the way it came about was a little concerning. The Bengals were starting a QB with three career starts that came three years ago, The Browns defense forced two interceptions in the first half but the Browns were down 6-3 at halftime. The Browns, in my humble opinion, are a more talented and much better team than the Bengals. The fact that despite that, they did the same stupid things; procedural penalties, inability to complete a pass downfield, questionable play-calling; for the first three quarters does worry me. But it the end, they all count the same and it was a W.

At halftime, Derek Anderson’s stat line stood at 4-10 for 27 yards. He started the third quarter and promptly threw an interception on the opening drive and then went 3 & out. It worked out in the end but should he have been pulled? Why or why not? Why do you think he was or was not?

Samantha Bunten:
I'm a firm believer in the saying, "If you have 1 quarterback, you have 1 quarterback. If you have 2 quarterbacks, you have no quarterback." In other words, Anderson is bad, but I'm not sure Quinn is much better. Neither of them is, at least at this point, truly good enough to lay claim to the starting job. I don't believe pulling Anderson in this situation would have helped him, Quinn, or the team. I don't think making such a change mid-game is good for a team whose confidence and fluidity is as precarious as this group, and I think Coach Crennel knew this. If he wants to give Quinn a chance soon - and he should - he should put him in at a time when he believes Quinn can succeed, not just at a point when Anderson screwed up.

The Coop:
Prior to the interception, Anderson threw a terrific 19-yard completion to Steptoe. On the 3 & out, the Browns would have had a first down but Braylon took a dumb penalty. Let's not forget those plays.

I don't think DA should have been pulled. It was a three-point game and the defense was playing well. Maybe if the Browns thought they would have to match scores with Cincy, or if the game was somewhat out-of-reach, you go to Quinn. Almost certainly you go to Quinn if it had been a second INT. With none of these being the case, Anderson was left in the game and promptly orchestrated back-to-back TD drives and looked good on both. All it took was a little patience.

Dustin Haley:
Derek Anderson gets a “ttthhhppppttt” and gets the thumbs down motion from me. I’ve never been so mad at a QB of ours before. I wanted him pulled. His little hesitation moves is annoying and tells me he’s unsure of what he wants to do. You can tell he’s panicking back there at times. Not that I’m sure BQ can do much better, but at least he stays poised, typically.

He’s not being pulled simply because of the fact that the Browns committed to him last year. You have to stick with a guy for that reason, at least for a little while. He definitely earned the right to play, no doubt, and benching him may send a bad message to the team. Without being in the locker room everyday it’s hard to say what’s really going on.

Also I ask myself, is BQ ready to lead this team? Sure he has the tools, but inserting him too early with our depleted roster, and while the team is playing poorly, can be disastrous. As fans we want results now, but we are ignorant. This is a delicate situation, if we are not careful we could go from two good QB’s to Ken Dorsey. Yikes!

Jeff Smirnoff:
I was shocked that he was not pulled. Absolutely shocked. If after those three quarters, Romeo Crennel could not pull the trigger and put in Brady Quinn, when can he? This is the same guy who pulled Charlie Frye after a quarter and a half, right? The fact that he could not make the change despite Anderson’s poor play; and his constant references to Quinn as “the other guy;” make me wonder if he is looking at things objectively. By pulling Anderson in no way ushers in the “Brady Quinn Era.” If your starter is struggling and you have a capable back-up there is no shame in going to the bullpen and seeing if it can get you a win. I don’t care who the quarterback is, I just want them to win, but for those first three quarters Anderson gave them no chance to win and really should have been pulled.

Questionable time management. Poor discipline. Leading the league in penalties. We won't even touch field goal decisions. Romeo Crennel has come under fire for a number of reasons. What do you think of the job that he has done so far?

Samantha Bunten:
I'm not willing to say I think he's been downright awful. I just expected far better. FAR better. Aside from the field goal fiasco, the thing that really gets me is the time management. Many of the mistakes he has made have been easily avoidable.

It may be time for us to face up to the fact that Crennel may not be cut out to be a head coach. He certainly wouldn't be the first excellent defensive coordinator who couldn't make the transition.

The Coop:
Watching the game on TV, I specifically saw Crennel loudly imploring his defense to stay onside before a 4th-and-short. I'd be willing to bet that this isn't the first time he's told his team to be smart and disciplined. Meanwhile, Braylon Edwards has been the culprit of numerous hurtful penalties, such as the unnecessary roughness penalty. This was the second week in a row a Braylon penalty negated a first down. What is Romeo supposed to do? Bench Braylon? Make him do extra laps after practice? At some point, shouldn't we hold the players accountable for any of this? Is it too much to ask a guy to not commit a personal foul or to line up correctly?

Without being in any coaches meetings or on the sidelines, I think it's only fair to say Romeo has done as good a job as the record indicates, which is to say, not very good. But it's unfair to suggest he is the main reason for the bad start or that he should be fired. He should share equal blame with all of the players who are likewise underperforming. He should also get some credit for the limited success that the Browns have had. It would seem logical that he's heavily involved in; if nothing else, the defensive game plan, and I think we'd all agree that the defense has performed better than any of us expected.

Still, unfair as it might be for a guy in Romeo's shoes, I think the Browns would ultimately be best-served by hiring a coach with extensive head coaching experience - after the season is over.

Dustin Haley:
Man, somehow I think this question is directed right at me because I’m the only Romeo supporter, um, let me think, yup, anywhere. I can honestly write a whole article on this, and just may when I find some extra time. A friend told me that it is, and is going to get, more difficult to defend him. Said friend is absolutely correct, especially this season.

Romeo, Romeo, Romeo. Help me out here bro.

Discipline is a word that gets thrown around a lot for football teams. Disciplining and “being” disciplined are two very different things, and the latter isn’t necessarily an effect of the prior. These are grown men, trust me, as a former Marine, they either have it or they don’t. It has passed the point of instilling discipline into the players. Even so, he may be attempting to discipline. He may be handing out fines for penalties, but that isn’t going to guarantee results.

I honestly feel Romeo is a good coach. Respect for the head coach is the number one catalyst towards having a good team. I like his “team” mentality; when things go bad, he doesn’t like to concentrate on any one player publicly. I also like how he is taking all the heat for the poor play, he’s making no excuses. That’s true leadership.

This guy has been around the league a long time. To say he doesn’t know what he’s doing as a head coach is asinine. He knows what it takes to build a successful franchise, but that doesn’t mean he’s able to implement everything. He knows how to manage a game, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to make every decision a decision you agree with. Point being, there is a method to his madness.

Lastly, before I begin to ramble, I say again, we as fans are ignorant to the inner workings of the organization. We like to think of everything as black and white. We demand results of our team regardless of situations. Let’s let this play out before we get hasty.

Jeff Smirnoff:
As I said before, a win is a win. Staying with that line of thinking, you are what your record is. The Browns are 1-3. They are 1-3 with a lot of penalties, a lack of discipline and questionable game planning/calling every week. I like Romeo Crennel. I think he is a good, if not great man, a role model and a smart football man. I just don’t think he is a good head coach.

One person who seems to get a free pass in GM Phil Savage. Ultimately, he oversees all football operations for the club. What do you think of the job that he has done in assembling the Browns?

Samantha Bunten:
If i ran the zoo, Savage is the first person I would fire. The team has given him plenty of time and resources to build a contender. He has made poor decisions hiring staff, questionable trades (ahem, we have NO solid cornerback this year), and exceptionally poor draft choices on more than one occasion. Obviously, blame cannot be placed on any one person's shoulders, be it those of Savage, Crennel, whoever. But the GM is responsible for the entire structure of the team, and thus everything and everyone is his responsibility. I think it's time we stop giving Savage a get out of jail free card.

The Coop:
As we discuss the merits of pulling Anderson and starting Quinn, it's important to realize that without Savage, they wouldn't even have Quinn. Through some solid deal-making, Savage got two excellent first round draft picks (Quinn and Joe Thomas) and arguably a third, if Eric Wright pans out the way he was projected.

Likewise, this past off-season he strengthened the front 7 by acquiring to solid defensive lineman. Though he gave up depth at cornerback, how was he to know that Daven Holly would go down for the year? He gave up draft picks (ie, min-projects) for "ready-now" players.

Rome wasn't built in a day. Savage has done a good job in gradually building the team in several different areas. Think about some of the players who were here before Savage. These guys are bagging groceries now and had no business being on an NFL roster. Championship teams take time to build, and Savage seems to have a clear plan. In Phil We Trust.

Dustin Haley:
The NFL GM is part scout, part logistics manager, part spokesperson, and part accountant. Phil Savage is great at all those things. He is regarded as one of the elite talent evaluators, he’s shown he can make moves necessary to better the team, he says all the right things, and to us as fans dismay, he can budget.

Phil is the best GM our organization has seen since Ernie Accorsi. It can be argued that our depth issues are because of him, but there aren’t necessarily players that are a good fit available every off season. Evaluating talent is the most difficult job in the league.

That said I think Savage has done an excellent job in assembling the Browns to date, however there is always room for improvement. Judging by the fact he is aggressive but doesn’t give in to signing free agents such as Ty Law for budgetary issues obviously states he has a plan than continues for years to come. This team is by no means Phil and Romeos final team.

Jeff Smirnoff:
If I were to give him a grade, it would be C+. He has done a great job of actually giving the Browns a talent pool of players that was missing when they returned and under Butch Davis. He is not afraid to make a move a la the Brady Quinn Draft Day deal, a top free agent or the trades to fix the defensive line. He has found a few late round gems in Brandon McDonald and Lawrence Vickers.

However, when you look at his draft track record as a whole, there are as many hits as misses. The Browns have a lot of injuries this year and have been unable to fill some spots because draft choices like Antonio Perkins, Travis Wilson and David McMillan were total busts. You also have to question the Kamerion Wimbley over Haloti Ngata choice as well. Throw in the fact that he ignored the huge void in the secondary for most of the off season and sat on his hands and there is some doubt creeping into my mind on his performance.

He oversees all football operations. His record is 6-10, 4-12, 10-6 and 1-3. He will be under the microscope after the season no matter how the Browns finish up.

At one time the name Cleveland Browns was associated with one of the great franchises in sports. Since thier rebirth in 1999, not so much. Where do you think the franchise stands today and what do you think the perception of the Browns is outside the fan base?

Samantha Bunten:
Cleveland sports will always be ignored, unappreciated, and underrated by fans and the media outside of Cleveland. Both losing our team and our lack of success since the Browns were reborn in '99 have not helped that. Cleveland loves the Browns and always will, no matter how badly they play. But we've got a long way to go before we command even a minimal amount of respect as an organization again by football as a whole.

The Coop:
Living in Pittsburgh, I think I have a pretty good feel for the "perception" of the Browns. They won't be relevant or respected until they can perform as they did last year on a yearly basis. Until then, they'll be known as the "same old Browns." One playoff appearance and an "almost" appearance every 5 years isn't going to cut it.

Fortunately, I think Phil Savage IS the right man for the job. The Browns have enough core pieces in place to be a perennial contender. They just need to continue upgrading various positions through the draft and free agency, filling the current holes they have and adding depth.

I do believe Crennel will be fired after the season. So, Savage needs to pick a coach with head coaching experience. Then the Browns need to hope that, no matter whom it is, their quarterback of the future is on the current roster.

Dustin Haley:
History cannot be denied. The Browns will forever be a storied franchise, assuming they stay around. The public obviously perceive us as the laughing stock of the NFL, but who cares? That means nothing to me.

Jeff Smirnoff:
The fact that the name and colors stayed in Cleveland after 1995 says a lot. That shows how much the team is woven into the fabric that is the people and city of Cleveland. If there was quality video of those old Browns teams from the 1950’s and early 1960’s then I think they would be as appreciated and talked about as the 60’s Packers, 70’s Steelers, 80’s 49ers and 90’s Cowboys.

Right now, I think the public respects the Cleveland Browns but does not appreciate them because of they poor record since 1999. But winning cures all ills. And true football fans know what the name Cleveland Browns means. Mike Ditka was asked before the season what Super Bowl match-up would be the most historic in terms of influence on the NFL. His response: Cleveland Browns versus Green Bay Packers.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Browns Outlast Bungling Bengals, 20-12

It was not the irresistible force meeting the immovable object but something had to give as the 0-3 Cleveland Browns faced off against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The Browns got an early surprise as Bengals’ starting quarterback Carson Palmer was made inactive due to a sore elbow after guaranteeing he would play. This thrust inexperienced back up Ryan Fitzpatrick into the spotlight and the Browns took advantage.

The Bengals started the game with a three and out and the maligned Browns’ offense took advantage. The Browns came out of the gate trying to establish the run. Seven straight times as a matter of fact. But after the fifth run, they faced a 2nd and 1 at the Cincinnati 5 and proceed to run for 0 and -2 yards. A Phil Dawson field goal made it 3-0 Cleveland.

After another Bengals three and out, the Browns drove into Cincinnati territory but stalled. They ate up over five minutes on the clock on 11 plays, but facing 4th and 13 at the Bengal 40, Romeo Crennel opted for a Phil Dawson pooch punt that pinned the Bengals at their own 7 yard line.

The Bengals then put together a 13 play, 68 yard drive of their own. Cincinnati was able to find an effective balance of Chris Perry runs and short passes to move down the field. The Browns helped the Bengals’ cause by lining up offside twice but the key to the drive was Ryan Fitzpatrick’s scrambling ability. Fitzpatrick converted two third downs by scrambling up the middle to sustain the drive long enough to allow Shayne Graham to knot the score at 3 wit a 40 yard field goal.

The Browns intercepted Fitzpatrick on the ensuing drive when he overthrew Reggie Kelly and Mike Adams hauled in the misfire. The Browns then marched to the Cincinnati 45 where they faced a 4th and 1 with just over three minutes left in the half. Derek Anderson faced pressure but had time to throw, however he rushed and his pass bounced at the feet of a wide open Steve Heiden.

Fitzpatrick was intercepted again once the Bengals took over on downs, this time by Eric Wright. Wright was careless on the return, however, and Chris Perry forced a fumbled that Chad Johnson recovered and the Bengals regained possession. The regrouped at the Browns’ 45 and moved the ball just enough to allow Graham to knock in another field goal, from 45 yards, for a 6-3 halftime lead.

At halftime Anderson’s stat line stood at 4-10 for 27 yards and most observers figured it was Brady Quinn time in the Queen City. But Crennel though otherwise and Anderson started the third quarter and promptly threw an interception on the opening drive, but still no Quinn. The offense then went three and out and still no Quinn.

With a little less than five minutes left in the third quarter, trailing 6-3, Crennel’s decision finally bore fruit as Anderson led the Browns on a 13 play, 80 yard drive that ended in a 4 yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards for a 10-6 Browns advantage. Anderson went 6-7 for 47 yards on the drive with three of the receptions by Kellen Winslow.

Chris Perry fumbled on Cincinnati’s next possession after being stripped by Kamerion Wimbley. Mike Adams once again was in position to make a play as he recovered the ball on the Bengals’ 24. Anderson responded with a perfect seam route to Winslow for 1st and Goal. Jamal Lewis then dove in from one yard out to put the Browns up 17-6.

The surprisingly stout Browns’ defense became vulnerable on the nest drive as Fitzpatrick drove the Bengals down the field with relative ease. The eight play drive, all passes, covered 59 yards in barely three minutes and culminated in Johnson hauling in a Fitzpatrick toss for six points. The Bengals were unable to complete the two point conversion and were left trailing, 17-12.

The Browns drove to the Cincinnati 36 with 3:07 left in the game, facing a 4th and 5 up by five points. But Crennel chose not to go for the field goal to make the margin eight and Dave Zastudil’s punt bounded into the endzone for a touchback.

But this time Crennel’s field goal decision paid off as rookie Alex Hall sack-stripped Fitzpatrick and Corey Williams recovered for the Browns on the Bengals’ 19. Three Jamal Lewis runs and a Phil Dawson field goal later it was 20-12 Browns, with 37 second left. Terry Cousin intercepted Fitzpatrick to seal the game for the Browns and send the Bengals to 0-4.

The Browns’ victory evened the “Battle of Ohio” at 35 wins apiece.

The Browns may have avoided the 0-4 start themselves, but until the later portions of the third quarter it was not pretty. Anderson did rebound from the atrocious first half but still only finished 15-24 for 124 yards with the one touchdown and one interception. Edwards finished with with three catches for 22 yards and a touchdown but had another costly penalty, this time a 15 yard late hit personal foul.

The play calling of Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski was more run heavy as many have wanted, but it was obvious he was coddling Anderson’s fragile psyche. Winslow did not catch a pass until the second half but once he got involved the offense seemed to gel. It was also good to see both back-up running backs, Jason Wright and Jerome Harrison, get some touched as they kept Lewis fresh and were effective as changes of pace.

On defense, the Browns were able to focus on stopping the run and making Fitzpatrick try and beat them due to Palmer’s absence. It proved effective but one has to wonder if Palmer would have been able to do what Fitzpatrick could not. The three interceptions were more due to Fitzpatrick’s inexperience than the Browns intimidating defense.

The Browns pass rush was once again spotty but it was good to see Wimbley actually have an effect on the game after being MIA for the first three weeks. Hall continues to impress as he notched his second sack is as many games and is extremely more active then aging veteran Willie McGinest.

So the Browns head into their bye week at 1-3 with two weeks to prepare for their close up on Monday Night Football. The New York Giants are the opponent, just like in pre-season, and we all know how that turned out as the G-Men sent the Browns into a tailspin from which they still may not have recovered.

Cleveland Browns Stadium is the venue this time, and hopefully that will prove as a comfort zone for the team. Questions are still abound about Crennel’s coaching ability, Anderson’s qualifications as a starting NFL quarterback and the overall quality of the Browns themselves. So while 1-3 may be disappointing and underachieving for the Browns and their fans it is better than the alternative that the Cincinnati Bengals are facing.