CLEVELAND — The kid brother is growing up. He’s getting stronger. He’s getting faster. He’s getting tougher. He’s getting more aggressive. And he isn’t the pushover he once was.
Following Sunday’s 24-18 win over the Baltimore Ravens that snapped the 11-game losing streak in this series, the Cleveland Browns are a factor in the AFC North.
Joe Haden is right. This isn’t the same Ravens team.
This also isn’t the same Browns team.
Since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999 the No. 1 problem has been the lack of a franchise quarterback. Problem No. 1A has been a lack of victories within the AFC North.
“We’ve been the kid brother for a long time,” coach Rob Chudzinski said. “If you want to change that you have to do things to change that.”
Chudzinski set the tone on second possession of the game. Facing a fourth-and-goal from the Ravens 1-yard-line, the Browns passed up a field goal. Jason Campbell found Davone Bess for a 1-yard touchdown pass capping an eight-play, 80-yard drive.
“It’s important in this game for our guys to have the mentality to play to win,” Chudzinski said. “That drive exemplified that. We were able to convert, fortunately.”
How often have the Browns of year’s past opted for the easy three points. You don’t win games, especially against divisional opponents, kicking field goals.
Chudzinski began implementing his aggressive nature the first day he was hired.
He was the team’s offensive coordinator in 2007. That season the Browns found some success within the AFC North finishing 3-3.
If he was going to succeed in Cleveland as the head coach, winning within the division was a top priority. A new identity needed to be created.
“We’ve really worked to build that aggressive identity and philosophy with within the team,” Chudzinski said. “These guys understand it. They want to be that way. They want to pay that way. You can say it and talk about it, but you’ve got to do it on the field.”
The Browns are an NFL best 10-for-19 on fourth down conversions. They have the highest conversion rate and the most attempts. Chudzinski understands that players don’t want to be conservative. They don’t want to settle for field goals. They want to go for it. Chudzinski is showing the faith in his players and the players are responding.
That’s just good coaching.
“Sometimes it’s going to work, sometimes it won’t work,” Chudzinski said. “Knowing they want to play that way, they love playing that way, the defense wants us to play that way, everyone busy into what we’re doing. Then, you can do it.”
The Browns enter their bye week two games out of first place in the AFC North at 4-5 behind conference-leading Cincinnati at 6-3 and ahead of the Ravens at 3-6 and Pittsburgh at 2-6.
The Browns won a must-win game Sunday for not only this season, but for the attitude of this franchise. The kid brother grew up Sunday thanks, in large part, to his new mentor, Rob Chudzinski.
“I’m going to be aggressive,” the Browns’ first-year coach said. “It’s not just a matter of being reckless, but aggressive. I understanding sometimes it isn’t going to work. Fortunately, it paid off today.”