Browns coaching staff propels team to victory over Saints
How can one tell when the warm glow of the honeymoon between fans and franchise after a Super Bowl win is over?
When the lowly Browns kick their butt.
For the third straight season, the Cleveland Browns took the defending Super Bowl Champions to the woodshed.
Two years ago, the Browns ambushed the Giants on Monday Night Football. Last season, years of frustration were alleviated on a Thursday night when the Browns took it to the hated Steelers ruining their playoff hopes.
Yesterday, the Browns went into the Superdome and made a loud statement with a road win over the Saints.
Why did the Browns win this football game?
Because Eric Mangini and his coaching staff out-coached the Saints coaching staff.
Special teams coach Brad Seely proved why he is one of the best in the business. Teams have keyed on Josh Cribbs all season. He has found return yards tough to get. With his return from a concussion, everyone thought Cribbs would be keyed up to make a big return. So Seely pulled a trick from his bag and had Cribbs throw across the field to Eric Wright. Nearly a touchdown, it set the Browns offense up with great field position and an early lead.
Later deep in their own territory ready to punt yet again, Seely’s video work paid off once more. He called for a fake punt. Reggie Hodges saw I-90 open up in front of him and scampered 68 yards to set up another field goal. Taking that kind of chance only comes after long hours watching film.
Drew Brees is known for being one of the NFL’s most cerebral quarterbacks. He can carve up some of the best defenses in the league. Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and his staff came up with a game plan that thoroughly confused Brees.
Ryan took the pieces he had and found ways to hide what the Browns wanted to do. Often standing nearly the entire defense at the line scrimmage, Brees had no idea where the rush was coming from and who was sliding into coverage.
Former Saint Scott Fujita set the tone early with a sack and interception. Fujita led the team with nine tackles and has emerged as the leader the unit has been looking for. David Bowens was in the right place at the right time twice. After watching Browns defensive backs drop interception after interception all season, the grizzled veteran Bowens showed what you do when the ball comes your way and took it to the house twice.
The Saints out-gained the Browns 392 to 210. New Orleans had the ball for 11 more minutes, but the Browns offense did their job.
Rookie Colt McCoy did not have impressive numbers. He completed 9 of 16 passes for 74 yards, but most importantly he didn’t turn the ball over.
Peyton Hillis found the rushing yards difficult. Until the very end it seemed like Hodges would be the Browns leading rusher. The Saints scored their first touchdown to make it 20-10 with 13:29 left in the game. The game was in the balance. Eric Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll put the game on Hillis’ shoulders.
Six straight times Hillis blasted into the New Orleans defense gaining 31 yards. After a one-play breather facing third and 6, Hillis took the direct snap and fired a perfect strike to McCoy for a 12-yard gain and a Browns first down. It would lead to another field goal and increase the lead to 13.
I have made no bones about how I like this football team. I like the coaches. I like the team’s character and toughness. The one thing they have been missing is wins, which is all that matters in the National Football League.
The Browns schedule remains the same. Because of their talent limitations, the Browns are going to need to play mistake free football to win every week. This one win doesn’t change that challenge.
But lets end all talk about firing Eric Mangini and his staff. This is a well-coached football team. As Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert continue to gather talent, Mangini and his staff will coach them up.
Rock bottom is over. The climb back up is underway.