There isn’t a casino in the country, check that, the world, that would have given odds on an
Conjuring up the ghosts of 2004 when Kelly Holcomb and Carson Palmer engaged in an eerily similar shootout, Palmer and Anderson again riddled the respective opposing defenses like they were playing Notre Dame. Only this time the Browns didn’t come up on the short end. But it was close.
Leigh Bodden, who did nothing to keep his nemesis, Bengals receiver Chad Johnson, in check the entire afternoon nonetheless came up with the one play that counted most—an interception on the Browns 27 with 26 seconds remaining that sealed the improbable win. Until that point, the only
With the victory there were at least two clear points that emerged. First, GM Phil Savage will get his wish: more time to develop backup quarterback Brady Quinn.
Actually a third clear point emerged as well. The Cincinnati Bengals are a fraud. As bad as the Browns defense played, the Bengals were far worse than the six point difference on the scoreboard or the 23-yard difference in total yards would otherwise suggest. For example, the 51 points scored in Sunday’s game is more than the Browns have scored in their previous five regular season games, combined. Similar games can be played with most of the gaudy statistics the Browns offensive compiled on Sunday. But even more striking is the fact that the Bengals didn’t record a single sack. Not one. And this against an offensive line that gave up six last week.
Nobody expects the Browns to do anything this year, so the fact that they gave up 45 points to an offense as explosive as the Bengals isn’t much of a surprise. But the Bengals have Super Bowl aspirations; at least they claimed to have after their opening day victory against the Baltimore Ravens. Giving up 51 points to anyone, let alone the Browns, is a legitimate cause for panic.
The Bengals can claim fatigue from expending all their energy on the Ravens game last week. But just as
Though whether the Bengals were suffering a hangover, took the Browns too lightly, or are really that bad hardly matters right now. What does matter is that the Bengals defense, in one game, essentially did something Romeo Crennel hasn’t been able to do in his two-plus years as head coach, build some confidence for a team and a city starving for it.
Unlike last week’s game against
But Lewis was hardly the only star. Josh Cribbs is a legitimately feared return man with legitimate Pro Bowl aspirations. Receiver Braylon Edwards had the break-out game we’ve all been waiting for with eight catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns. And while he didn’t catch it, you couldn’t help but respect the attempt he had in the first quarter after the Browns took over following a Sean Jones intercepted. Edwards leaped high over the middle on an
Tight end Kellen Winslow turned in another solid game with six catches for 100 yards and one touchdown while receiver Joe Jurevicius had four catches for 44 yards and two touchdowns. And
But back to Dr. Finklestein, who, if can get Marvin Lewis off his couch, will likely find Browns defensive coordinator Todd Grantham cooling his heels in the waiting room. Grantham’s defense needs help. Let’s not forget that the Bengals had 531 yards of total offense themselves, 401 of which came off the arm of Palmer. Rudi Johnson chipped in with another 100-yard game against the Browns. In short, but for the Bodden interception late and the Jones interception early, it wasn’t as if the Browns defense provided much of a speed bump to the Bengals. Throw in the 365 yards the Browns gave up to the Steelers last week and in just two games the Browns already have given up 900 yards.
The problem, of course, is not too difficult to pinpoint. It all starts up front, whether it’s offense or defense and right now the Browns defensive line is awful. Ted Washington, who is about the size of two C.C. Sabathias, takes up space and that’s about it. He’s showing every one of his 16 years in the league. Orpheus Roye, the only credible player on the line right now, still is playing like he’s hurt. Robaire Smith, another Savage free agent signee this off-season, is essentially a non-factor.
With a defensive line that can’t seem to stop the rush or put much pressure on a quarterback, it leaves a relatively thin defensive backfield exposed. It’s not that the Browns defensive backs are without talent, it’s just that there isn’t an abundance to spare. The fact that rookie Eric Wright is a starter tells you all you need to know. Wright may develop into a quality back eventually, but right now he’s awfully green. He played only 22 college games or slightly less than two full seasons split between USC and UNLV. To put it charitably, he still has much to learn.
While it’s doubtful that the Browns are as good as they looked against the Bengals, the victory at least gave some credence to the theory that the Browns aren’t as bad as they looked against the Steelers, either. And in a town suffering so mightily for their football team, this qualifies as a legitimate piece of good news.