Note to readers: In order to fulfill head coach Romeo Crennel's desire not to have his red-hot team even mention or think about the `P' word, the following column regarding the Browns' 27-17 victory over the Texans was written without the use of that evil word. What's more, there's not a single word used that has that letter in it. Fortunately, the Browns only have six guys who have you-know-what in their names. So this week, and this week only, Chaun, Brodney, Antwaan, Ryan, Dawson and Roye will become the Browns' version of Elvira, Cher and Liberace.
It's a mighty good thing that Brandon McDonald doesn't have a you-know-what in his name. Otherwise, this column would have been extremely difficult to write because McDonald was truly Mr. Everything for the Browns Sunday afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
He knocked down several throws. He made a touchdown saving tackle. He made a key theft midway through the fourth quarter that led to Jamal Lewis's game-clinching touchdown. He even made a nice tackle when the Browns' offense and defense were off the field.
Filling in at cornerback for injured first-round draft selection Eric Wright, McDonald was a difference-maker on a day when the defense had to elevate its game.
Normally, when the Browns come away a winner, it's because the offense and the kicking teams are better than their foes.
Sunday afternoon, the offense did its usual fine job, thanks largely to the Derek Anderson-Kellen Winslow Jr., combination that the Texans had no way to counter. Winslow caught 10 bullets from Anderson, good for 107 yards and one touchdown. In addition, Jamal Lewis had an outstanding game, running for 134 yards and one touchdown.
But the Browns' kicking teams were not at their best, even though Dawson did hit two relatively short field goals. Other than that, they were mediocre most of the day.
For instance, Dawson kicked one ball out of bounds, allowing the Texans to start on their own 40. Dave Zastudil had two boots of less than 30 yards and two others that traveled less than 40 yards.
Ace return man Joshua Cribbs was human after all as he had only two or three good returns, including one which was nullified by a foul on Darnell Dinkins, his second key mistake in two weeks. Dinkins, a little-used tight end who signed with the Browns as a free agent before the 2006 season, also nullified a long return by Cribbs late in the game against the Steelers. Dinkins needs to be under more control or his days on the return units may be numbered.
But never fear. The Browns, who are on a definite roll, were not about to let this game get away from them.
The much-maligned defense came through with one of its best overall shows of the year thanks to McDonald, who many fans undoubtedly didn't even know was on the team before Sunday's game.
McDonald, the Browns' 2007 fifth-round draft choice, looked like a first-rounder as he covered Andre Johnson, one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, like a glove. In fact, McDonald looked better in his first extensive action of the season than Wright has at any time during his rookie season.
McDonald is listed as the Browns' third string cornerback and No. 2 return man. I have a feeling he'll be at least No. 2 on defense very soon. His main claim to fame with the Browns before Sunday's game were two games – at the Steelers and home against Miami – when he made four tackles in each game on kick returns.
Several of McDonald's teammates also were big against a very good Houston offense that came into the game ranked eighth overall in the NFL. D'Qwell Jackson made a beautiful diving theft early in the second quarter and finished with a game-high 12 tackles. KamerionWimbley forced a fumble in the third quarter that was recovered by Leigh Bodden. Antwaan made an excellent one-handed sack in the fourth quarter.
Overall, it was the kind of defensive effort the Browns had on a regular basis a year ago. Maybe McDonald will be the guy who allows the defense to return to form.
The Browns are now 7-4 and have won five straight at home, where at long last they seems to be an advantage. With just five games to go, the Browns are getting very close to having to work in January, something which will be welcomed by Browns fans everywhere.