I went to bed Sunday night knowing the Browns had won 17-6 and were now tied for first place in the AFC North; the Steelers and Ravens, as well as the Bengals, had lost; and the Indians clinched home field for the AL Wild Card game. Wow, too much for a boy raised in the suburbs.
And what about that game. The Browns/Bengals game left the fans in the stands at First Energy Field in a state of extreme happiness with a big dose of shock mixed in. On the field they saw the Browns defense play its best game in years against the team picked by most to win the AFC North; Hoyer, Cameron, and company did enough on offense to get things done; the scoreboard flashed that both the Steelers and Ravens were losing; and the Tribe was on its way to clinch home field for the AL Wild Card game by winning for the 21st time in September. It was just too much good stuff at one time. Did I tell you the Steelers lost?
The story of the afternoon was the Browns defense that dominated the Bengals from beginning to end. Lead by the teams three best players, Joe Haden, D'Qwell Jackson, and Phil Taylor, the Browns defense held the Bengals to just two field goals. The Bengals only once threatened to score a touchdown, but were stopped on a 4 and 1 on the seven-yard line when Jackson and Desmond Bryant stopped BenJarvis Green Ellis for a two-yard loss.
Haden was suburb, spending most of the game controlling Bengals premier receiver A.J.Green. Green finished the day with seven catches for fifty-one yards and didn't come close to sniffing the end zone.
Meanwhile the offense is still a work in progress. The offensive line played better, but still hasn't dominated a game. Jordan Cameron is playing like a Pro Bowler. Josh Gordon had a quiet seven catches. Chris Ogbonnaya had five catches out of the backfield, including a touchdown. Greg Little was a nonentity. Willis McGahee showed a little flash at running back, carrying 15 for 46 yards.
And Brian Hoyer had another steady game. He does some things so well, especially a great touch on screens, short out patterns, and check downs. And he is 2-0 as a starter and deserves some of the credit for both wins. However, there is still the big question that needs to be answered. Can he throw the deep ball in what has been labeled as a downfield passing attack? He did not throw one ball in the Bengals game that you could call a downfield vertical pass. Cameron's balls were on crossing routes,
Ogbonnaya's were on arrows out of the backfield. He hit on one pass to Gordon for 33 yards, and a short one to Travis Benjamin that he stretched for 39 yards. He needs to show us he can throw long or things, sooner or later, or not going to be good for him or the Browns. I don't want to rain on our great sports day, but in the NFL an offense must be able to attack the whole field. Hoyer has not yet showed that he has the arm and moxie to do it. I hope he does soon.
Browns General Manager Mike Lombardi has been much maligned in the press, some of it deserved, but you must give him credit for signing Brian Hoyer.
We should also be grateful for two things the Browns didn't do, even though they very much wanted to. The first goes back to the previous regime and their efforts to trade up to draft Robert Griffin III. He is a damaged athlete who is trying to make the transition from running college quarterback to pro style drop back quarterback. The list of those who have tried and failed is long, Google Vince Young as a starting point. The second thing that didn't happen was sign Chip Kelly as head coach. He is out of his element, as is Gary Scianno, and both of them will soon join Steve Spurrier back in the college game. And both will be successful there again. Kelly cannot practice, let alone execute in a game, his fast paced offense with only twenty-five or so offensive players that the NFL's 53-man roster allows. At Oregon he had twice as many offensive players, probably more, young guys that can run on and off the field like deers. It's just not going to work in the NFL, as simple as that.
It was a great day in the Dawg Pound. Very upbeat crowd that was really into the game, wanting to see if last week's win against the Vikings wasn't a mirage. It was a beautiful fall Sunday in Ohio, the type of day that Alex Bevan wrote about when the world was a younger place for those of us on the north side of fifty.
And did I tell you the Steelers lost and are 0-4?
One last item…I know the Muny Lot gets all the credit for being the big time Cleveland tailgate place, but I have to say the Flats still have it. I know we lost several big lots when the Ernst and Whitney building was started ten years ago, but the lots south of there are still a great place to socialize before Browns games. You can walk to the game or take the Lake Front Line from the Settler's Landing Station. If it rains you can set up shop under several bridges. You are close to some good bars like the Flat Iron, and you are not that far from the Warehouse District. Check it out sometime.
Dawg Pound Season Ticket Holder
Section 120, Row B, seats 3 & 4