For the first time in 329 days, the Cleveland Browns were victorious. With 11 losses in a row, almost everyone was expecting the Browns to set a franchise record for the longest losing streak. Leave it to the Browns to once again come up short of a record. However, I think I speak for all Browns fans when I say “Hallelujah!” Clearly, that is one record we are relieved we didn’t set.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden celebrated his 29th birthday with his first NFL win. It didn’t come easy, though. On Cleveland’s first drive, Weeden threw an interception, and it seemed that Browns fans were in for another long day. That interception was Weeden’s only miscue of the game, though, and he finished with an impressive stat line. Weeden completed 17 of his 29 attempts for 231 yards, and finished with two touchdowns. Most impressive was Weeden’s toughness. Weeden injured his ankle in the second half, and was clearly in pain as he came off the field. Just when it seemed Colt McCoy would get a chance to come in, Weeden trotted back on the field, and completed his next seven passes. I’ve bashed Weeden in the past, but I found an all new respect for him. I don’t often admit that I’m wrong, but I think I highly underestimated Weeden.
Before I say what I’m about to, I want everyone to know that I’m a big fan of Joe Haden. I’m joking when I say this, but it seems he must’ve passed some Adderrall on to his defensive teammates, because the defense was more focused than they’ve been all season. Haden missed four games because of his suspension, and the defense was burned every game he missed. The defense looked completely different against the Bengals. Haden, Sheldon Brown, and Usama Young each recorded an interception. If the defense can continue to play like this, the Browns may be able to turn this season around.
The biggest surprise in this game, was the play of Montario Hardesty. Who would’ve thought prior to this game, that Hardesty would be the offense’s spark plug? Hardesty hadn’t played all season, but after Trent Richardson suffered a flank injury, Hardesty came in and ignited the running game. Hardesty carried the ball 15 times, picked up 56 yards, and scored a touchdown. Richardson looked sluggish all game, so it was a pleasant surprise to see Hardesty rack up so many yards. Do we possibly have a running back controversy? I’m not sure, but Hardesty proved himself, and he needs to share the ball more with Richardson.
Other highlight plays offensively, came from Josh Gordon and Josh Cooper. Gordon, who hasn’t been a big factor for the Browns offensively this season, looked like the type of receiver we’ve been dying for. He had a 71-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter, making a beautiful one handed catch. Gordon finished with three catches for 99 yards. Cooper, who was called up from the practice squad this week, reunited with Weeden, his quarterback in college. Cooper had two catches for 39 yards, and it was no mystery why he was Weeden’s favorite target at Oklahoma State. Cooper was called up because of injuries to Mohammed Massaquoi, Jordan Norwood, and Travis Benjamin. Once these players recover, they should send Norwood to the practice squad, and keep Cooper.
One thing I still don’t understand, is playing Owen Marecic at fullback. He can’t block, he can’t catch, he can’t run the ball, yet he’s still playing. He dropped two easy passes today, and he is a poor excuse for an NFL starter. The Browns need to call up Brad Smelley. He looked strong in the preseason, and clearly, he can’t do any worse.
Even though the Browns won, they are still not an elite team. One win doesn’t make a season, and one win should not solidify Pat Shurmur’s career in Cleveland. He called a good game, and I’ll give him that. However, Jimmy Haslam will take over ownership of the team on Tuesday, and Shurmur still has a lot to prove if he wants to keep his job.
I’m going to remain optimistic, and hope and pray this is a sign of good things to come. The Browns have a lot of talent on this roster, despite the 1-5 record. We’re missing a few pieces, but I truly believe that player-wise, we’re headed in the right direction. Who knows, maybe we’ll go from losing 11 games in a row, to winning 11 games in a row. Crazier things have happened. Stay positive, Cleveland!