Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Browns are a team to be proud of despite loss

I am not going to second-guess any decision the Browns coaching staff made in the overtime loss to the Jets. I am not going to blame Chansi Stuckey for the letting the Jets rip the ball of his hands after fighting to get into the field-goal range.

I am not going to rant and rave or throw things around in anger.

Why? Because I have my football team back.

The Browns are relevant again. For the third straight game, they went toe-to-toe with a Super Bowl contender. And the pain that comes with a close loss is welcomed after years being overmatched and out-classed.

It is all right to be disappointed with a loss that could have easily been a win. It should hurt to lose a football game.

However, at the same time, once again I am proud of my football team. Hard-nosed and tough, resilient to the very end, the Browns took the best effort of a very good football team.

The Browns fell short and they got beat. And I would wager they are really ticked off about it. That’s the fight I am looking for.

You could feel the rekindling of a love affair this week. People who never talk about the Browns were talking about the Browns at grocery stores, at water coolers and with random strangers on the street. Despite being 3-5, there was talk of the playoffs.

National pundits started giving the Browns respect and were picking the Browns to beat the Jets, which would have sounded ridiculous at the start of the season. CBS sent their No. 1 announcing team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to call the game instead of the bottom of the barrel announcers usually assigned.

Typical of Browns fans, this made us nervous. How would the team respond? Were they primed for letdown?

Instead, the Browns and Jets played an entertaining football game. In fact, the Jets are exactly what the Browns aim to be — tough as nails on defense a with bruising ball-control offense. The Jets happen to have more playmakers on both sides of the ball, but Browns were worthy adversaries.

While the Browns are well coached and play hard, what they are not is deep. Losing three starters in the first half looked like it would spell doom for the Browns. With cornerback Sheldon Brown and linebacker Scott Fujita out, the Jets opened the second half with 19-play, 10-minute drive but no points.

With Josh Cribbs out, the Browns offense went stale. The Jets could line up nine in the box and take away Peyton Hillis.

But the Browns didn’t back down. The defense got abused most the second half, but found ways to keep the Jets out of the end zone.

After doing nothing in the second half on offense, Colt McCoy drove the Browns down the field in the final minutes to get the tie and force overtime.

The Browns’ quarterback search is over. The kid has earned the right to be the man. I think Eric Mangini knows this as well but will continue to mess with the beat reporters, and I think he also has earned that right.

This is Eric Mangini’s football team. He has built it in his image and what he wants as a coach. He has given the Browns an identity and it is one that fits this town perfectly.

The Cleveland Browns are a flawed football team. They lack depth, playmakers and they need to play perfect to have a chance to win.

But they are tough, they play as hard as they can and fight to the end. The safe thing to do at the end of overtime would have been to run the ball three times into the line and take the tie. The Browns dropped McCoy back to pass twice because they wanted to win.

They didn’t. It allowed the Jets to get the ball back and gave them enough time to make a play and win the game.

I can second-guess that play call, but I respect it. The Browns played to win the game and isn’t that what we have been asking for the last decade?

Welcome back, Browns. Next week is Jacksonville and the Jaguars know they are in for a fight.