McCoy bright spot on gloomy day
Like most, I braced myself for the worst: A talented and mean Pittsburgh defense fired up to play at home.
So when that goon James Harrison did what goons do and knocked Josh Cribbs and Mohammad Massaquoi out of the game with dirty helmet-to-helmet hits, I was more than prepared for an ugly performance from the Browns offense.
A wet-behind-his-ears Colt McCoy making his first NFL start looked around the Browns huddle and he didn’t find many weapons at his disposal.
The Steeler defense was sure to key on the human wrecking ball Peyton Hillis who was valiantly playing through pain.
Other than Joe Jurevicius’ spirit possessing the body of Evan Moore, McCoy was left with a receiving core of Brian “The Invisible Man” Robiskie, Chansi “Stone Hands” Stuckey and Ben “Gator Arms” Watson.
I was not a fan of drafting McCoy in the third round. I was not convinced he was anything more than Brady Quinn 2.0.
The kid won me over.
It did not take long for McCoy to get his jersey dirty. The Browns offensive line in the first half looked like a chain-link fence trying to hold back a tsunami. McCoy was on his back after every passing play.
With Cribbs out, the Browns’ game plan was put into the shredder. No one would have blamed McCoy for panicking. No one would have blamed him for failing.
Instead McCoy showed something that has been missing in this endless parade of young Browns quarterbacks since the parade — moxie.
McCoy showed leadership. He threw strong accurate passes. In the second half, the Steelers knew McCoy had to throw the ball.
The offensive line played a little better and McCoy stood tall threading passes into tight spaces.
I’m not saying McCoy is the answer. But you have to admire how the kid handled his first big test.
McCoy completed 23 of 33 passes for 281 yards. He had a touchdown and two interceptions — neither as ugly as the ones veterans Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace threw in the first two games of the season.
McCoy’s throw to Evan Moore down the sideline in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty.
It was the type of throw that in a lost 1-5 season that makes you consider letting the kid keep the keys to the offense even if Delhomme or Wallace gets healthy.
No matter how hard he was hit, McCoy dusted himself off and went right back to the fire.
You have to believe that McCoy won over the locker room with his performance. Something Brady Quinn was never able to accomplish.
During the fourth quarter I was frustrated — frustrated because the Browns seemed so close.
At the start of the game, a blowout seemed inevitable. But while a win was never likely the Browns held their own against a team ranked No. 1 in many power polls.
Before Stuckey’s bone-headed fumbled punt, the Browns were close enough to at least daydream of a lucky bounce leading to a stolen victory.
Despite the losses, I like this Browns team.
There is a serious talent gap and few players who need a kick in the butt (looking at you Eric Wright) but overall this team plays like I want a Browns team to play. They are tough and disciplined.
I think Eric Mangini and his staff is doing a great job. Brian Daboll rightfully takes a lot of abuse, but after losing Cribbs I thought he opened up the playbook just enough to protect McCoy yet let him be an NFL quarterback.
This Browns team is not that far away. Other than a lack of wins, I like what I am seeing. This is not an embarrassing 1-5 team with no future. The Browns are getting closer.
While that is not satisfying now, count me in on the Holmgren-Heckert-Mangini Kool-Aid. There is a light at the end of this decade-long tunnel of darkness.
I really believe that.