On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns pulled off an upset over the New Orleans Saints. Not only did they win the game, but they won it by driving the length of the field and kicking a field goal with almost no time remaining.
It was a good win, beyond the “every win is a good win” way. The Browns jumped out to a nice lead, only to see it vanish. The Saints scored a touchdown and went up 17-16. Isn’t this the time that the Browns become their Browns-iest?
Can’t we just see the team losing here, choking away a 16-3 lead and losing because they couldn’t get a drive when they needed it most?
But the Browns drove back down and scored a touchdown on their own, a rushing touchdown! 23-17. The Saints got the ball back and they scored a touchdown, 24-23. And the Browns responded with another drive and they came away the winner, 26-24.
They won, not through gimmicks or some out-of-the-blue dominating performance. They simply looked like an NFL team that played better than their opponent. Twice they needed to drive down field and twice they did it.
The Browns fan in me wants to hesitate, play wait-and-see on this team. I’ll believe they are a different team when I see they are a different team. To be honest, this is how I have coped for the past 10 years.
But as someone who covers the team, I feel a need to be above that, to look through the emotions and truly evaluate who this team is and what we might expect. But separating these two people inside of me is not easy.
I will be honest: I love this team so far. Not because they are 1-1 and not because they have played six straight quarters of NFL football. I love the attitude. I love them keeping their heads and making plays. I love that head coach Mike Pettine seems grounded with winning and losing.
In the offseason, I loved Ray Farmer’s approach as well. I didn’t like that he seemed to ignore the wide receiver position. But I loved his attitude.
Laugh at that all you want, but it’s about time this team had the right attitude. It’s a start. This is not a, “Hey, we’re bad today, but stay with us because we’ll be good tomorrow.” This is not, “We’re the smartest guys in the room and you’re lucky to even have us here.” This is a, “We play games to win, we want to win them all, and we plan on holding guys accountable.”
The fans and media aren’t getting pleads to be patient. I love that. None of that guarantees a winner, but I still love it. The fans have been waiting a long time to feel that the team wants it as badly as they do.
While I suppose it would be foolhardy to overreact to two games, one of which they’ve lost, it is also unfair to judge this team through the lens of past failures.
I think the win on Sunday was a good one. The team played pretty good defense, pretty good offense, and made big plays when they had to. They did not win this game with smoke and mirrors — they won it with determination and execution. Can they continue doing that? I don’t know, but I admit it makes it more interesting to see what they do next.
I can’t say that the team has made me a believer, but at least I’m no longer a disbeliever, either. As cynical as I can be about this team, I suppose that is a step in the right direction.