Browns Are Slowly Growing Up Colt

Elias Sports Bureau had an interesting footnote to yesterday’s Browns win-- it was the first time since 1980 that the Browns won a game with a passing TD in the final minute at home.  The last time it happened at home it was Brian Sipe to Dave Logan in a game against the packers.  Granted, the stat does use the ‘at home’ qualifier, but you do get the sense that the teams from the last few years wouldn’t have pulled out a win like they did yesterday.

It’s the type of game that the Browns have been missing for several years.  There are countless times where they were able to snatch defeat from the hands of victory (see two weeks ago, Bengals), but this time they actually came out on the winning side of a close game when they hadn’t necessarily played good enough to win.  The thing that has been missing is the ability to make a play when needed, which is exactly what Colt McCoy did when he deftly placed the ball down the sideline for the game winner.

But one play does not make a whole performance, and it’s the 59 minutes prior to McCoy’s pass that makes me wonder if this team is really any better than last year’s version. 

Offensively, they really haven’t been any better.   Peyton Hillis has failed to make plays like he did last year, averaging just 3.4 per carry.  McCoy has made plays, but has looked out of sync at times and has missed some open receivers.  He’s also averaging a Brady Quinn-esque 5.71 yards per attempt.

The defense has definitely stepped up when needed, especially near the redzone.  But it’s not as if they have gone against any juggernaut offenses.  When Chad Henne is the best QB that you have faced it hasn’t been a tough schedule.  You have to like what you have seen from the group so far,  but it’s tempered by the level of competition.

This team actually reminds me a lot of the 2001 team, which was the first year under Butch Davis.  It was a young team coming off of a very bad season that won 7 games, and was in contention in December until an official thought it would be a good idea to review a play that took place two plays previously (I think there may have been some beer spilled that day).  That team took advantage of an easy schedule to parlay some wins together and set the stage for a playoff year the following season.  I feel like that is what we are in store with the 2011 incarnation. 

If you are being objective, you can’t think that this year’s team is playoff caliber.  But being Cleveland fans we are in no position to turn down a winning season , which is what we have right now.   And should this team stay in contention until December, the league had better schedule a referee that knows how the replay system works.

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