Phil DawsonBrowns Keep Rolling Along!

Make that 3 in a row. The Browns overcame a 21-9 halftime deficit yesterday to put down the Seattle Seahawks 33-30 on a Phil Dawson FG in overtime. The Browns’ 3rd staright win leaves the record at a remarkable 5-3 at the midpoint of the season. It’s really hard to figure out how we got here, but faster than I think any of us realistically could have expected, this team is turning the corner right before our eyes. Many NFL analysts pointed to 2009 or 2010 as the earliest they thought the Browns would be in the playoffs. I don’t want to get ahead of anything here, but it’s getting to be about that time. I’ve already caught myself looking at the standings and schedules and trying to figure out the scenarios by which we get into the playoffs. 2009 or 2010? No thanks, this team is ready to push for the playoffs this year, and if not this year, some wise offseason signings by Phil Savage could have this team eyeing the division title in 2008.

So what are the scenarios with which this team makes the playoffs? Well, the easiest route is to win one of the next two games. These ones are gonna be tough. Playing at Pittsburgh and at Baltimore back to back is going to be a tough battle for the team. Lose them both, and we’re back at .500 on the season at 5-5, with 9-7 as the perhaps the best realistic record for the team based on the remaining schedule. The final 6 games will see the Browns play Houston, at Arizona, at New York Jets, Buffalo, at Cincinnati, and San Francisco. A 4-2 record is a likely result of those 6 games if the Browns play at least no worse than they have been thus far. If the defense were to step up, then 5-1 isn’t impossible. But what that means is that these next 2 divisional games are mildly huge. Win at least one, and then pick up the 4-2 final stretch, and the Browns will be 10-6 and almost certainly in the playoffs.

But enough playoff dreaming, lets break down game #8. First things first, the defense is still so disappointing. Once again they put us in a quick 14-6 hole as Matt Hasselbeck sliced the sceondary apart. On a horrible attempt at punt coverage (aided by an obvious uncalled block in the back against Josh Cribbs), the Seahwaks were able to take a commanding 21-6 lead. The defense left everyone watching feeling no confidence whatsoever that they could do anything to slow down Hasselbeck’s west coast attack. That being said, in many ways, the defense came up huge in the second half. For the rest of the game, the defense was able to keep Seattle out of the end zone (although who knows what Seattle may have done had they not just needed a FG to tie at the end of the game), holding them to just 3 FGs for 9 second half points. Also, the run defense was much improved. They were able to hold Seattle to just 104 yards rushing, frustrating Shaun Alexander early before giving up some moderate success to Maurice Morris. The frustrating part was how easily the defense let Seattle move the ball right down the field after the offense was able to give the Browns the 3 point lead at 30-27 with just 2:17 left in the game.

The only other negatives in the game were the dropped passes. Braylon had a couple particularly maddening drops and even the normally sure-handed Kellen Winslow dropped a couple passes. But really, it’s hard to sit here and talk about any of the negatives of this game. The offensive line was once again stellar, as Derek Anderson was pretty much the only player to leave the game with white pants and a clean jersey. Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach continue to absolutely shut down the opponents best pass rushers, giving DA all the time in the world to get the job done. Anderson once again showed perfect poise in the pocket and made all the right reads and took control of the offense, which was virtually unstoppable in the 2nd half. A nice job by Jamal Lewis of pounding through the defense at the goal line, scoring 4 TDs on the day. K2 with an unreal game, especially considering the obvious pain he was in, hauling in 11 catches for 125 yards. And even the defense managed to come up huge in the overtime period, stuffing the Seahawks on the pivotal 4th and half a yard play.

An all around great game as the team is currently in second place in the division, and depending on the outcome of tonight’s MNF game, we will either be in a 3 way tie for 1st place or all by ourselves in 2nd place, just a game back of the Steelers as we head to Heinz Field next week. I think K2 summed up this game perfectly, saying:

“It’s about how bad do you want it. I’m just so proud of us because we fought as a team. We deserve this.”