We will be BOLD.
We will have a CHAMPIONSHIP LEVEL QB.
We will be great in both the LINES.
We will be a TOTAL TEAM.
We will all do our JOBS.
Those are the five guiding principles of the Cleveland Browns that are outlined on a wall somewhere in Berea. After starting the season 0-2 and looking nothing like the exciting team that they were in the preseason, the Browns delivered something special on Sunday.
They were certainly bold. They were led by a quarterback that at least showed the moxie of one that is at a “championship level”. The lines were pretty great. They were a total team. They all did their jobs.
On Wednesday afternoon, Joe Banner won the ESPY for “Most Ballsy NFL Executive” (a real award) after trading the one player that the country readily identified as the face of the Browns. Still recovering from waking up to news that Brian Hoyer would be the starting quarterback, fans (this one included) were literally enraged, some claiming that the Trent Richardson trade was the last straw.
They had a point. Nobody could sanely rationalize that the departure of Richardson meant a dramatically worse Browns team, but the shock value of a blockbuster trade after week two turned beaten-down Clevelanders into savages that were out for blood.
Then people started realizing that getting a first round pick for a back that averaged 3.5 yards per carry was a pretty good deal, especially since the Indianapolis Colts’ schedule isn’t necessarily a cake walk. They also used Richardson’s previous injuries as sufficient reasoning, coupled with the fact that the Browns quickly moved to sign veteran back Willis McGahee.
OK, nobody thought McGahee was any sort of consolation.
Nobody’s exactly sure how it all came together to equal a win, but here’s a list of things that may have had something to do with it:
- St. Ignatius wasn’t the only one praying for Hoyer in just his second NFL start, but his performance deserves some kind of an award. It’s safe to say that the first half blew everyone away, and when it seemed like the inevitable Browns collapse was in progress, he led the drive of his life to win it. Why not give him another start against Cincinnati?
- Jordan Cameron may be the best player in the offense other than Pro-Bowler Joe Thomas. Still wishing he was on one of my three fantasy teams daily. Looking at you, Kyle Rudolph.
- There’s no doubt that the Minnesota Vikings were exactly what the doctor ordered as far as a favorable opponent for a team dealing with distractions, but the difference in energy and execution from last week is far more important to note.
- The Browns aren’t “tanking” this season. Teams trying to tank don’t fake punts and field goals. It’s clear that the current brass simply didn’t like Richardson for this team, and they got a deal that they couldn’t refuse in their eyes.
- Furthermore, it’s obvious that Richardson wasn’t the glue holding the team together. If it weren’t for a few bad picks from Hoyer, the offense looked exponentially better.
- Part of that offensive explosion was thanks to Josh Gordon, who better not be traded. Ever. Speaking of receivers, the addition of Davone Bess cannot be understated. He clearly has the best hands on the team.
- Buster Skrine was outstanding. For all of the heat he’s taken, not all of which has been unfounded, he came up with big plays for a defense that stepped up when they needed to. Don’t forget how well the rest of the secondary played, with the likes of Joe Haden, T.J. Ward and Tashaun Gipson all coming up with memorable plays.
- Barkevious Mingo’s third quarter sack of Christian Ponder illustrated everything anyone needs to know as to why he was the Browns’ favorite in the first round of last year’s draft. His athleticism is off the charts, and it’s perfect for the kind of attacking style Ray Horton has implemented.
- Having Ahtyba Rubin back helped the defensive line tremendously, but John Hughes and Billy Winn stood out. Hughes’ fourth quarter stuffing of Adrian Peterson on a Vikings second down is something that doesn’t happen often. If those two are able to contribute along with stalwarts Phil Taylor and Rubin, the front seven will flourish this season under Horton. Holding Peterson to 88 yards with a long run of nine is a hell of a start.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was thoroughly entertaining. At the end of the day, it’s exciting. It’s easy to say that the Browns wouldn’t mind having a chance to draft Teddy Bridgewater or another top quarterback, but that doesn’t mean that the current roster is going to roll over and die.
Happy Victory Monday.