Browns now believe they can beat anyone
Belief is a powerful tool.
The Cleveland Browns now believe they are a good football team, and that can carry a team a long way.
I don’t want to hear the words “shocking” or “upset.” The Browns win over the New England Patriots, the team with the best record and supposedly best coach in the NFL was a beatdown. An upset implies luck or fortune — that if two teams played 10 times that this was the one time and probably only time the underdog would win. The Browns did not squeak out a win. They were the better football team as they out-gained New England 404 to 283, dominated possession and were the aggressors in every faction of the game.
End all talk about head coach Eric Mangini’s job security. The Browns can now confidently line up on any given Sunday against any team in the NFL and believe they will win the game.
For the second game in a row, the stars of the Browns’ win were Eric Mangini and his coaching staff. The Browns won all four aspects against New England. Their offense, defense, special teams and coaching was better.
In the first three games of the year, the Browns had second half leads and lost. They were lacking two key ingredients. The Browns did not have a culture of winning to fall back on and they did not have a quarterback who could make plays when needed.
Colt McCoy has firmly entrenched himself as the Browns quarterback of the present. The rookie from Texas was 14 of 19 for 174 yards but most importantly he was mistake free. Three separate times flushed from the pocket, McCoy rolled and on the run threw a perfect strike for positive yardage. We know the Browns are lacking playmakers at receiver but when guys believe in their quarterback, they give maximum effort and the Browns wide outs did just that on Sunday.
McCoy’s 16-yard touchdown run was the type of play that fires up an entire football team. The locker room is now McCoy’s. And how about that block from Joshua Cribbs on McCoy’s touchdown? Cribbs finds ways to help this team week in and week out.
So while McCoy is now the face of the franchise, Peyton Hillis is now its heart. In just eight games, Hillis has become the most beloved Brown since Bernie Kosar. Hillis rumbled for 184 yards on 29 bruising carries. From his first carry where he tried leaping over a New England defender to his back-breaking 35-yard touchdown run, Hillis pounded the Patriots defense into submission. He was also McCoy’s safety valve as a receiver to pick up huge first downs.
Most importantly, the Browns had drives. McCoy and the offense had the ball for 16 minutes more than New England. The media and fans have brutalized Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll during his tenure but he had a perfect day as a play caller. He trusted his rookie quarterback to make plays. He went into his bag of tricks for a huge touchdown with the Chansi Stuckey play call. Daboll’s emotion on the sideline showed how much this game meant for him.
While it was Mangini’s gutsy call to go for it on fourth and one early in the game, it was Daboll who designed the right play to get it done.
The special teams set a tone early in the game by recovering the ball on a short kick that confused the Patriots. All game the coverage was perfect and with the lead, Cribbs was smart enough to play it safe on returns.
There is not much more you can say about Rob Ryan and his defense. It is obvious how much his players adore him. For two weeks in a row, Ryan and his staff have perplexed two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. The Browns held the Pats to 68 yards rushing and made Tom Brady look mortal.
When Mike Holmgren was hired, everyone assumed he would clean house. Once he retained Mangini and his staff, the assumption became Holmgren would bid his team and ride in on his white horse to take over as coach to save the franchise. It’s not needed; the Browns have a great coaching staff. Holmgren was smart enough to hire Tom Heckert who already has had an impact on this team with the Brady Quinn for Peyton Hillis trade, the pickups of Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita at linebacker and the drafting of T.J. Ward and Joe Haden in the secondary.
Holmgren is smart man and he knows he has a good thing going. The offensive and defensive systems may not be his but he knows they are working. The key will be knowing when to interject himself like he did when he insisted the Browns draft Colt McCoy. Holmgren was right on that one.
A good thing is happening in this town. Browns fans can now replace hope with belief.
And that is a powerful thing.