At least for one week, the doomsayers among the Cleveland Brown fan base will be quieted.
No talk about how Colt McCoy would be doing better than Brandon Weeden if he got the chance, no talk about how Tom Heckert’s drafts are overrated, and no talk about going 0-16 for the season.
The Browns snapped their losing streak at 11 with a 34-24 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at home. It also snaps a losing streak within the AFC North and it marked consecutive weeks that the offense put up more than 21 points.
After several weeks where the Browns looked like a team getting close to a victory, they finally played solid football in all phases for four quarters and came away with a win.
And they were balanced offensively too. Shurmur’s crew ran the ball 34 times and threw 29 passes, which is close to the 50/50 ratio you want to have offensively. However, if you would have been told Montario Hardesty would lead Cleveland in rushing before the game, you probably would have thought of an 0-6 record.
Hardesty came in when Trent Richardson hurt his ribs, and displayed a burst into holes that he didn’t show in the preseason, gaining 56 yards in 15 carries. He also scored his first professional touchdown to give the Browns a lead they would never lose at 20-14.
Rookie WR Josh Gordon showed that he might just be the go to receiver Cleveland has needed for a while, hauling in three Weeden throws for 99 yards, including a 71 yard hookup in the first half. It’s the second straight week Gordon has scored on a pass play of over 60 yards.
That the kind of quick play strike capabilities today’s NFL offenses have.
Weeden completed 17 of 29 passes for 231 yards with two TDs and one interception off a pass that was deflected at the line of scrimmage. Another solid game for the rookie who seems to get more and more confident every week.
He even got to use his former college teammate WR Josh Cooper, who caught two passes in the first half for 39 yards. He displayed the good hands that he was noted for when he signed with the Browns.
Defensively, the presence of Joe Haden, who returned from a four game suspension, seemed to make a huge difference.
He had an interception, one of three by Bengals’ QB Andy Dalton, and there was a stretch from the beginning of the second half into the fourth quarter where Dick Jauron’s guys totally shutdown the Cincinnati offense.
They made big plays as well. Sheldon Brown got a touchdown on an interception which gave Cleveland a commanding lead at 34-17, and any Bengal hopes for a comeback were dashed when Emanuel Stephens strip sacked Dalton inside the Browns’ 20 late in the fourth quarter, and another rookie DT Billy Winn picked it up and ran 30 yards to seal the deal.
Perhaps the biggest play of the game, however, belonged to a guy who has been the symbol of the Browns over the past few years. Josh Cribbs’ punt return of 60 yards in the third quarter seemed to spark an offense that hadn’t had a first down since early in the second quarter.
Cribbs may have lost a step, but he’s still among the AFC leaders in both kickoff and punt returns, and also had two tackles on special teams as well. He’s still a difference maker with the ball in his hands.
So, with a win under their belt, Shurmur’s squad will look to build on today’s momentum against Indianapolis next week.
Today’s win showed that progress is being made on the field. Most people thought the Browns would be a better team at the end of the season than the beginning. They have the opportunity to start a winning streak next Sunday.