The Cleveland Browns have finally won a football game.
Sure it's been 327 days, 17 hours, 27 minutes, and 46 seconds since their last win, but a few lucky bounces sent the Browns home as winners for the first time in a long time.
And I'm not happy.
Why you ask?
Because the Cleveland Browns' 6-3 defeat of the Buffalo Bills was the worst display of offensive football I have ever seen.
To their credit, there were several factors that worked against the Browns and may have contributed to their horrendous performance today.
Swirling Buffalo winds were severe enough to impact the gameplan.
Cleveland started two rookie wide receivers who have one game of NFL experience between them.
Good teams find a way to win the ugly ones, and at least for today, the Cleveland Browns had the look of a good football team.
Eric Mangini and the Browns should celebrate this one, but not for too long.
A tough task awaits them next week as they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.
Ten from the Gentledawg
10. Buffalo handed the Browns their first win.
Let's get this out of the way now, the Buffalo Bills lost this game and the Cleveland Browns didn't win it. As inept as Cleveland's offense was, it took an equally inept effort by Trent Edwards and company to keep this game in reach. Buffalo couldn't run it. They couldn't throw it. Very few things went well for both teams and neither team deserved a win here. The most telling play of the game came on a muffed Zastudil punt by alleged special teams ace Roscoe Parrish. Blake Costanzo recovered the ball at the Buffalo 16 only to see his team drive a whole 11 yards and settle for the game-winning field goal. Yikes.
9. Brad Seely may not coach in Cleveland for very long.
Special teams and assistant head coach Brad Seely will be among the few candidates considered for a head coaching position in 2010. I can't say enough for what Seely has done with the Cleveland Browns' special teams unit. Although most of the credit goes to the players for executing, Seely has done an outstanding job of putting his players in the best position to succeed. Behind every blocked kick, long return, and covered kick is a scheme, and behind every scheme is Brad Seely. Seely has been around a few outstanding head coaches in his career, and I would not be surprised if he became one himself in the not-too distant future.
8. Dave Zastudil continues to impress.
In what is becoming a weekly tradition, Dave Zastudil is quietly establishing himself among the great punters in the AFC. The Browns were unable to muster much of anything offensively. Zastudil's tremendous individual effort was a big reason the Browns were able to stay in the game and walk away with a win. I never thought a punter could single-handedly will a football team to victory, but that certainly seemed to be the case today.
7. Kamerion Wimbley has arrived.
Fans and media-types alike criticized Wimbley early on in his career, and Wimbley has responded to the challenge. Wimbley tackled Trent Edwards in the second quarter to record his fourth sack of the season. He is currently on pace to finish the year with 16. Despite the increase in production, nothing has changed in Kamerion Wimbley's game. He is still the freakishly strong athlete who overwhelms linemen with his speed and quickness. The difference lies is Rob Ryan's defensive schemes. Ryan's aggresive playcalling and unique blitz combinations have made all the difference in the world for Wimbley.
6. Jamal Lewis is back.
When the passing game struggles, the burden falls on the running game to get the job done. Jamal Lewis carried the football like it was 1999 and finished with 117 yards on 31 carries. The most impressive aspect of Lewis' game was his ability to generate yards after contact. Lewis kept those powerful legs churning and carried Buffalo defenders with him in his most impressive effort in years. The offensive line, tight ends, and fullback continued their excellent stretch of run blocking, and Lewis was able to take advantage.
5. The right side of the offensive line played well.
The right side of the offensive line was one of the bigger issues surrounding the Browns, and it seems that issue has been solved. Both Hank Fraley and Floyd Womack worked at right guard today, and both men combined to produce quite the performance. I was particularly impressed with Hank Fraley. Brian Daboll uses a trap-based running game where guards and tight ends are asked to do quite a bit of pulling. Fraley and the group did a nice job blocking up front, and Jamal Lewis found running room - even against 8-man fronts.
4. Brian Daboll's playcalling showed no faith in Derek Anderson.
Eric Mangini hinted that the Browns' ground-based strategy was based on the Buffalo weather, but I happen to believe otherwise. Daboll dialed up run after run, and only called pass plays in passing situations. Brian Daboll and Eric Mangini speak of maintaining a "schedule" in relation to down and distances. They believe that by gaining 3-4 yards per down is the optimum way to move the football. If Brian Daboll doesn't trust Derek Anderson and the passing game to pick up yardage early on first and second down, this football team will struggle for the rest of the year.
3. Steve Heiden should switch roles with Robert Royal.
Robert Royal dropped three passes today which came in critical situations down the field. For whatever reason, it is clear Royal is not comfortable catching the ball with his hands. In an offense which stresses balance and demands receiving ability from the tight end position, Eric Mangini would be best served to play Steve Heiden as the primary tight end. Royal is an excellent blocker but he has proven himself a liability in the passing game. Steve Heiden has worked with Derek Anderson for five years, and that chemistry could give Cleveland what they've been lacking from that position.
2. Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi are rookies.
For those who wondered why Robiskie and Massaquoi were not involved in the passing game early this season, you received your answer today. While both rookies have shown promise and potential, it was clear that they still need work in their development as professional players. Massaquoi is far from a polished receiver. In addition to several dropped passes, Massaquoi misread coverage on several accounts - one of which resulted in a Derek Anderson interception. It takes years of experience to understand the nuainces of offensive football, and these two clearly have a long way to go.
1. Don't throw on Eric Wright.
I think it's fair to say Eric Wright has established himself as one of the great cornerbacks in the league. Wright is a buding star. Coming out of college, Wright was said to possess first round talent. His stock fell due to concerns about his character, but the talent was always there. Wright has been able to stay out of trouble, and he has turned out to be everything the Browns could have hoped for and more. Wright did a good job blanketing Terrell Owens. His play was a big reason Owens was limited to 44 yards on four receptions. If Wright continues to perform at this level, he'll be high-stepping all the way to the Pro Bowl.
To the victor goes the spoils...
The Browns won today which means I get to hand out the first game ball of the regular season.
Congratulations, Dave Zastudil . He is without a doubt the player of the game.