Any Browns win should be cause for celebration, right? At the very least a satisfied smile when you got up for work this morning. Victory is so rare around the lakefront these days, we should consider it a gift when it does arrive, no how crinkly and stained the wrapping paper might be.
It seems cynical to be searching for positives in victory, but in what’s undoubtedly an evaluative season from the coaching staff on down, it would be short-sighted to cop a “win-is-a-win” attitude when this team has such a distance to go before fans can get truly pumped.
The Browns 7-6 squeaker over San Diego on Sunday was pig-ugly and CSPAN-dull. A gridiron war of attrition played in miserable conditions that seemed to chase half the crowd from the stands by halftime. It was a game that the Browns easily could have lost, and Twitter wiseguys were busy predicting the anvil to fall at any moment as it has so many times with these New Browns.
On this day, however, the crushing blow Browns fans were fatalistically expecting did not come. That, of course, is a bonus in and of itself. And there were other aspects of the game to feel encouraged about. Really!
Despite missing several key players, the defense made plays when it needed to. Yes, the team frustratingly went into semi-prevent mode at the end of each half, allowing Chargers’ running back Ronnie Brown to make easy catch-and-run plays that gobbled up massive chunks of yards. The Browns also got lucky when San Diego receiver Robert Meachem dropped what would have been a sure touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Enough of that Negative Ned talk. Let’s instead examine how the Browns bottled up tight end Antonio Gates, who had just two catches for 14 yards. Let’s also give a nod to rookie tackle Billy Winn, who’s emerging as a playmaker for a unit that desperately needs one. The big man had a fumble recovery and a sack yesterday afternoon.
On the other side of the ball, the Browns spent a good portion of the game making like a tractor spinning its wheels in thick mud. What they did do was avoid was the killer turnover. Quarterback Brandon Weeden’s numbers were well below average, but he did not try to force throws and made some good decisions late to flip the field position that had been in the Chargers’ favor much of the day.
The day’s brightest light was Trent Richardson, who was coming off a couple of score-free games as well as a rib injury that rendered him useless against Indianapolis. On Sunday, Richardson was adroitly running downhill behind an offensive line that’s had trouble getting a push at times this year. His 26-yard game-deciding touchdown scramble caught the eye of legendary grump/Hall of Famer Jim Brown, who visited the winning locker room following the game.
Realistically, today’s victory is not going to change Pat Shurmur’s future, nor will it appear on ESPN Classic as the game of the week. That’s not to say the win was meaningless, either. There were good signs against a team with some talent. Maybe the Browns really are building something here. Maybe the pieces are in place for a sooner-than-we-think run of sustainable contention that new owner Jimmy Haslam says he wants to bring to Cleveland. Maybe a win is really a win, no matter how it’s wrapped.
Then again, there wouldn’t be all these qualifying “maybes” if the Browns played a bit more decisively in victory. When that corner is finally turned, Cleveland will have reason to be excited, no “maybes” about it.