On Sunday afternoon, I commented on Twitter that it appeared at least a handful of Browns players were wearing Scott Fujita jerseys as the man was seemingly everywhere. Whether he was sacking Drew Brees, stopping the run, or playing in pass coverage, it was Fujita who led the way for the Cleveland Browns as they stifled the heavily-favored Saints.
Turns out that while Fujita was very familiar with his former team’s way of life, the defensive team captain was actually aware of almost every play prior to the Saints snapping the ball.
All game long, he monitored the Saints’ sideline between plays, tracking substitution patterns, then signaling what he saw to Cleveland coaches and helping with pre-snap adjustments.
Fujita would finish the day with a team-high 11 tackles, a sack and an interception – one of four that four-time Pro Bowler Drew Brees would throw on the day. And on top of his day on paper, Browns head coach Eric Mangini gave Fujita the game ball, rewarding not only a great day in the office, but a full week’s worth of work with the Cleveland defense.
“I tried to do my best early this week in practice to prepare our team for what we would face today, as it’s no secret that I am familiar with the Saints,” Fujita said. “It’s one thing to plan the X’s and O’s, but it’s another to come out and execute it. The way we did it was pretty impressive. I didn’t think we’d shut them down like that.”
While the Browns didn’t exactly throw $8 million in guarantees toward Fujita for this one game, Tom Heckert’s addition of the veteran linebacker paid dividends on Sunday. The Browns defense held Drew Brees to a passer rating of 65.8 (53 points lower than Peyton Hillis!) thanks to a boat load of defensive schemes that managed to muzzle Brees for the entire day.
The Browns currently roster plenty of players who have recently played for teams that are opponents during the 2010 season. Starting with head coach Eric Mangini, he will face his old boss Bill Belichick following the bye week. Chasi Stuckey and Jason Trusnik will face the Jets on Week 10, and Jake Delhomme will take on the Panthers on Week 12. Can these guys provide the same benefit of their teammate Scott Fujita? Only time will tell.
(AP Photo/Bill Haber)