Browns Dominate the Patriots

The Cleveland Browns seem to be headed in the right direction under Eric Mangini.  Not long ago, Mangini was on the hot seat.  The competitive nature of the NFL makes it so coaches have a very limited amount of time to turn a struggling franchise around.  With consecutive victories over the Saints and Patriots, the Browns look to be improving dramatically.

Sunday’s match-up between Cleveland and New England had trap game written all over it for the Patriots.  Arguably the hottest team in football, the Pats traveled to Cleveland with the league’s best record (6-1).  Four minutes into the game, they found themselves trailing Colt McCoy and company 10-0 and the Browns never looked back, winning the game with ease by a score of 34-14.

The big story of the day was Peyton Hillis, who rushed for a career high 184 yards and two touchdowns.  New England couldn’t find a way to bring the big running back down and he was able to keep Tom Brady off the field, especially in the fourth quarter.  The Patriots had no answer for his north-south running style and as a result weren’t able to string together any type of comeback.

Hillis will likely steal the spotlight, but Colt McCoy deserves an equal amount of credit.  Statistically the rookie’s day was nothing special, but he protected the football and threw the ball well on the run, keeping a few plays alive with his legs and converting crucial first downs.

The Browns are now 2-1 since McCoy took over as the starter.  They’ve played the Steelers, Saints, and Patriots during that span.  You won’t find a more difficult three-game stretch than that, and at the moment it looks like Cleveland got their guy on draft day.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mark Duncan

The Most Unpredicatable Year in NFL History Continues

The earth must be off its axis or something.  I assume those of you who have been keeping track of the Sunday early games are as dumbfounded as I am.  As we already told you when we posted our NFL picks here at LBS, there’s just no easy way to pick against the spread so far this year.  Come to think of it, picking straight up is no picnic at the moment either.

If you took the Browns +13 against the Saints and the Bills +13 against the Ravens, good for you.  At the half of both games it looks like you made better picks than I did.  But if you try to tell me you expected New Orleans to be trailing Cleveland, 20-3, at the half and Baltimore to be behind Buffalo, 24-20 — both at home — then I know you’re just lying through your teeth.

Yet somehow that’s what’s going on at the moment.  I just spoke to a wise 89-year-old football expert (who I refer to as my grandfather during the work week), and even he said he can’t remember a year where there was less of a clear-cut favorite in both the AFC and NFC.  Yes, he’s still all there.  Who are the powerhouses?  Who are the Super Bowl favorites?  Right now the answer to those questions looks like a simple “nobody.”  If these games continue the way they’re going, wish us luck putting together the power rankings on Tuesday.

Colt McCoy Likely to Start for Browns

When Jake Delhomme entered the Browns’ game against the Falcons last weekend right before halftime, he said Atlanta’s players were smelling blood in the water. That’s because Delhomme already had a sprained ankle and had to get painkilling injections just to be able to back up Seneca Wallace. Wallace was knocked out with a sprained ankle as well, and the hobbled Delhomme ended up adding a low ankle sprain to go along with his high ankle sprain.

Without Delhomme and Wallace available this weekend (damned sprained ankles!), the Browns signed former Jets quarterback Brett Ratliff and reportedly told Colt McCoy that he was starting, according to Chip Brown via Rotoworld. McCoy, who did not look good in the preseason, could not be drawing a tougher assignment for his first career start — the Steelers, healthy and coming off a bye week, in Pittsburgh.

McCoy was 28/39 for 232 yards with no touchdowns, two picks, and two fumbles in the preseason. While the numbers aren’t pretty, at least Colt improved as the preseason went on and he turned in a 13/13 performance in the team’s finale. Right now the Steelers are a 14-point favorite in the game. They have Ben Roethlisberger making his season debut Sunday. The Browns may have Colt McCoy making his NFL debut. I’ll take the Steelers minus the points, thank you very much.

Photo Credit: J. Meric/Getty Images

Trent Dilfer Hammers the Browns for Decision to Bench Derek Anderson

ESPN manages to pack their website full of every video known to man, yet they somehow let Trent Dilfer’s verbal assassination of the Cleveland Browns fall through the cracks on Monday. Speaking from the NFL Live set, the one-time Browns QB lashed out on the organization for their decision to bench Derek Anderson and start Brady Quinn at quarterback. Here’s what he offered on one of the late SportsCenters:

I understand the stats and I understand the perception that this might be Derek Anderson’s fault, but it is wrong. This on so many levels shows the dysfunction of the Cleveland Browns. The first thing is you don’t change quarterbacks when you’re a bad football team, you change quarterbacks when you’re a good football team and your quarterback is holding you back. And more importantly, this is an organization that has proven that the public opinion sways their decision-making — and you can’t do that as a National Football League organization. You can’t let the public’s opinion sway you one way or another, especially big decisions like this. I understand that Brady Quinn’s an Ohio kid, I understand that they want to fill the seats, but what’s best for the organization is to stick with Derek Anderson — the guy that went to the Pro Bowl for you last year, one of the leaders in the locker room, and just makes you a better football team in the long run.

Florio at PFT saw an early version of this verbal assault on the 6pm ET SportsCenter in which Dilfer also went off and added even more examples of why it’s a bad decision. I agree with Dilfer’s analysis that Braylon Edwards has let Anderson and the Browns down with his drops, and it hasn’t helped that Kellen Winslow hasn’t made it onto the field too much this year. At the same time, I thought it was a bad decision to give Anderson a contract extension in the first place. I felt all along that Anderson played well at the beginning of the season last year before teams had film on him and that he only padded his stats against the league’s worst defenses. As the season went on, Anderson’s yardage totals and completion percentages dropped tremendously, and his interceptions went up. Translation: he became Derek Anderson again. While I think Brady Quinn will be a good quarterback and I think the Browns should have made the change weeks ago, I’m all for any analyst calling an organization “dysfunctional.”

Kellen Winslow Is Not Happy with the Browns, GM Phil Savage

Though Kellen Winslow has quite the rocky past with the media, he has very little history here at LBS. Matter of fact, this might be a first in terms of mentions for K2. There was an easy opportunity I passed on last week when I chose not to get in the middle of Winslow’s “undisclosed illness” that caused him to miss the Monday night game against the Giants. I felt it was more important to respect K2’s privacy in the matter. Now Winslow has come out and explained he was sidelined by a staph infection which has been quite the killer in Cleveland. Staph infections have claimed seven players over the last four years, including a near-death situation for LeCharles Bentley. Winslow explained his frustration:

“A big reason I’m upset right now has to do with [the staph infection],” said Winslow. “I heard from Romeo Crennel and I heard from my position coach [Alfredo Roberts] when I was in the Clinic. I heard from my teammates. But I never heard from the main man — Phil Savage — and that really disappoints me. Sometimes I don’t even feel a part of this team.

“I feel I’ve done a lot for this team, played through a lot of pain and given it my all. I just thought there’d be a little more ‘how are you doing?’ by him.”

Winslow said he was so disgruntled that he held back from going T.O. or Ocho Cinco on the Browns. Furthermore, he restrained from requesting a trade from the team at the deadline. I admire all the pain K2 has played through and it does sound pretty inappropriate that Savage didn’t call him. Additionally, if Cleveland can’t get something as routine as medical care for its players down properly, I wouldn’t want to be around either. What the heck is their deal with those staph infections??

Derek Anderson Is Playing Like a Star

As much as I’ve verbally dry-humped Randy Moss, the Patriots, and a few other players this year, there’s one man to whom I’ve devoted a tremendous amount of praise. If you saw my week 10 picks, you would know that it’s none other than Browns QB Derek Anderson. A few weeks ago, I proclaimed that Derek Anderson was playing like a star this year. Naturally, I drew a few blanks from the crowd with the statement. I gave my argument, but it’s been hard to win people over. So let me just say it here for all of you: Derek Anderson right now is the third best quarterback in the league behind Manning and Brady.

Crazy, right? Sure, you could make an argument for Romo, Favre, Roethlisberger, but no, in my opinion, you would be wrong. The same player who was apparently beaten out in the preseason by Charlie effing Frye, has developed into an elite quarterback in the NFL. I’m not saying he’s going to keep it up the rest of the season, but I think it must be acknowledged that he is straight up balling right now. The Browns have become a scoring machine, and Anderson is connecting with receivers Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow Jr., and Joe Jurevicius on the regular.

My man Michael David Smith had a great article this week pointing out that the Ravens originally drafted Anderson but waived him. Clearly neither they nor the Browns realized what they had. Now I’m not anointing him as the next great NFL quarterback, but I’m comfortable saying that Brady Quinn can only aspire to be as good as Derek Anderson has played over the past two months. The Browns have the best possible problem on their hands.

Browns Say Patriots Were Shady

If you remember not too long ago, I presented a story from the Lions and Bengals who both complained that their coach-to-quarterback headsets went out when the were playing the Patriots in Foxboro. Now you can add the Browns to the list:

In the wake of the Spygate scandal involving New England coach Bill Belichick, there were accusations the Patriots may have manipulated radio frequencies during games in their stadium, ostensibly to disrupt the coach-to-quarterback radio communication for visiting teams.

Well, it happened to the Browns during their game on Oct. 7 in Foxboro, Mass.

A team source said Browns coaches lost communication with Anderson eight to 10 times.

None of the breakdowns occurred prior to any of Anderson’s three interceptions in the game.

Headset malfunctions or not, the Browns still weren’t likely to compete with the Patriots. Still, this is the latest charge against New England and it doesn’t make them look any better. Here’s a thought: Why not just win controversy free? Do they really need to keep messing with headsets? Can’t they just win straight up, considering they are one of the best teams ever? Complaint by complaint, their legacy is being tarnished, and that’s a damn shame.
(photo courtesy Elsa, Getty Images)