It would be a stretch to say the Browns had an awesome game today in their 23 -17 win at Jacksonville, but a win is a win. They actually had a nice 1st half offensively with two touchdowns, but only managed two field goals in the second half and the game wasn't over until Garrard's pass flew out of the back of the end zone as the game clock expired. A nail biter to say the least.
- Today, their difficulty punching the ball in from the one yard line continued. When Syndric Steptoe was run out of bounds at the one yard line after a 53 yard completion with the game tied well into the 4th quarter, I could hear the collective grown throughout the community. Last week against Washington, the Browns had seven attempts to score from the one yard line, and managed one touchdown on the eighth attempt on a nail biting 4th down gamble. Today, it was more of the same. The Browns need to do something about it. How about this for a wild idea? A pocket quarterback like Derek Anderson isn't ideal from so close. How about using Joshua Cribbs, their emergency QB in these situations? Or maybe they just need a better full back to either block or run if Lawrence Vickers or Jason Wright aren't getting it done. I'll be watching closly 3rd / 4th and short situations the rest of the year to see how the Browns adjust.
- Shawn Rogers (NT) who came to the Browns from Detroit for a high draft pick in the off season had an awesome game. In one critical sequence early in the 4th quarter he stuffed the run on a 3rd and 3 and then blocked the field goal on a 4th and 3 allowing the Browns to retain their slim 17-14 lead. Shaun Rogers dominated all over the field today, and I'm not sure the Browns win without his efforts.
- Derek Anderson continued to play Houdini and survive to start at least one more game. His overall stats were an average 14 of 27 for 246 yards and he missed targets plenty. However, he had three brilliant passes over 40 yards to Steve Heiden, Syndric Steptoe, and Braylon Edwards all setting up scores and all in critical situations. The pass to Heiden caught the Jaguars by surprise on a 4th and 1!
Now, on to Steve Heiden. Steve Heiden only had three catches, but for a healthy 73 yards and with a huge 51 yard play on a 4th and one included. Romeo Crennel, Chudzinski, and Derek Anderson showed tremendous confidence in him when they threw him the ball on 4th and 1. He has soft hands as he catches everything thrown in his direction. He also does the dirty work, by picking up the blitz or blocking for Lewis or whoever is coming out of the backfield. Darnell Dinkins, back-up TE to Steve Heiden, also had a catch and blocked effectively today. Rookie TE Mark Rucker drafted as the Browns first pick in the 2008 draft (4th pick) is learning on the side-line.
Heiden's emergence with quality back-up in Dinkins is why the Browns organization was comfortable sitting Kellen Winslow for disciplinary reasons. In the last three games the Browns are 2-0 with Heiden starting and 0-1 with Winslow starting.
Rumors were flying that the Browns tried to trade Winslow before the deadline last week, but offers were for less than the first round pick they desired. Justified or not, it seems likely his motorcycle accident, complaining about his contract, and revealing against the team's wishes he was hospitalized for a staph infection will result in the Browns trading him at some point. At least with Heiden, Dinkins, and hopefully Rucker in the wings, his absense won't be missed.
With four of the Browns next five games at home there is some reason for hope that the playoff dream is still alive. If the Browns take it one game at a time and keep getting performances like they did today from Heiden, Rogers, and DA NFL football in Cleveland may still be interesting in December.