This was an important win for the team as it was a divisional game, where, coming in, they were 0-2 on the season; as it finished the season series at 1-1; and as it got the Browns over the .500 mark. All of those things are very important.
But for the fans, there was something personal about the win.
They have had to deal with Ohio Steelers fans constantly berating them, constantly pointing their fingers and laughing in their faces. Look, I’m not going to get into how I feel about all of that, but I’m pretty sure that it’s about the way the other fans feel. Sunday’s win was an opportunity for Browns fans to point back. Personally, that is not my thing, but I was very happy for the fans, more so than for the team even.
But enough of that; let’s get to the game and the season so far.
The Browns dominated the Steelers in every facet of this game. Obviously holding a team to one touchdown is big when you’re talking about Ben Roethlisberger and his ability to make things happen out of nothing. Add to that how the touchdown came in garbage time, and it’s an even bigger testament to what the defense was able to do.
The defense gets a lot of well-deserved criticism for their play, but this team is 3-2 overall and 2-2 against some of the league’s best passers: Roethlisberger (twice), Drew Brees, and Joe Flacco. Funny that their NFL-road record comeback was against Jake Locker (gag-reflex) and Charlie Whitehurst (vomit). They still rank 29th in yards allowed per game, but 16th in points allowed per game. Not great, maybe not even good, but at least manageable.
The Browns offense was very efficient, the popular word to use with the team these days. But seriously: They scored 31 points yet, officially, the Browns ran 56 plays. That, my friends, is efficiency. On the other side of the ball, the Steelers ran 20 plays more than the Browns’ offense, yet only came away with 10 points.
Take a look at another game on Sunday where the winning team scored similarly to the what the Browns scored. The Indianapolis Colts got 33 points against the Houston Texans. They did it on 82 plays, almost 30 plays more than the Browns ran. The Texans ran fewer plays than the Browns (52), but they scored almost half the amount of points.
Oh, and by the way, look at the personnel the Browns have at wide receiver versus the Colts. The Colts have T.Y. Hilton who averages 100.7 yard per game, and Ahmad Bradshaw with 5 TDs. The Browns leading receiver in yards per game is Andrew Hawkins with 54.0, and in touchdowns it’s Travis Benjamin with 3.
Their offense averages 26.8 points per game, officially ranked 9th in the NFL in points scored, the same as Cincinnati. The Green Bay Packers are 8th with 26.83 points. (I call that a 3-way tie. When you’re getting down to hundredths of a point, it’s a little ridiculous.) They average 383.2 yards per game, good for 10th in the NFL. Did anyone expect to be comparing the Browns offense to the Packers offense, tying them in PPG and averaging 64 more yards per contest?!
As for special teams on Sunday, they didn’t miss a field goal, didn’t turn the ball over, and didn’t give up the big play on coverage. After all we’ve watched the last decade and a half in Cleveland, I’m remissed to talk about special teams. I’ve seen enough field goals and punts to last a lifetime. However, it is an important part of the game and they have had their troubles this season.
The Browns have half of their divisional games played already and are 1-2. Like the defense, not great, not good, but manageable.
I’ll tell you right now, Browns fans, you can be happy with your team. I talked to some fans after Sunday’s game and there was a lot of hand-wringing and talk of jinxes. Come on, Browns fans. I know you’ve suffered at the hands of this team, but your team is finally performing. Enjoy it! Might they come back down to earth? Of course! We’ve seen it before.
But Peter King is talking about them. John Clayton is talking about them. I know you’re worried about the loss of Alex Mack. I know the defensive line, which hasn’t been playing great so far, is really banged up and Armonty Bryant is gone for the season. I know they combined record of their opponents thus far is under .500.
So what? Would you rather they were 1-4 at this point? Would you be happy if the team couldn’t move the football when they needed to? Stop looking for reasons to be miserable. The team isn’t the only part of this equation that needs to learn how to win. You do, too.
Next up: The Jacksonville Jaguars, who are still looking for their first win. How many times in the past have we cringed at something like that, a little too sure that the Browns could be the team that allows another team to get its first win? Now we’re talking “trap game.” Trap game! And for once, we’re not the trap!
I’m not talking playoffs. I’m not clearing my calendar for the postseason. But I am enjoying this season so far and so should you. Let’s all say it together: Go Browns!