Browns Outlast the Jaguars 14-10 In Nail-biter

The Cleveland Browns offense passed the eye test today.  That is something that we haven’t been able to say about this team this year.  The team was going up against a depleted Jaguars defense that got even more banged up during the game, so save the punch and pie for now.  They didn’t blow the roof off the stadium with scoring either.  Still, they moved the ball.  They spread it around to guys like Josh Cribbs, Jordan Norwood, Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi.  The offensive line protected Colt McCoy pretty well and opened enough holes for 4th string runner Chris Ogbonnaya to go for 115 yards and a TD.  It is exactly what the Browns needed at this time of the year with the schedule coming up.

A lot of people were angry that the Browns won today because of the impact on the NFL draft.  I understand that line of thinking, but it isn’t very useful from a pragmatic standpoint while running a professional football team.  You make your plays in the draft by accumulating picks, not by losing intentionally.  Every time you put your team out on the field you have to try to win.  Anyone who expects the Browns to field a team week-in and week-out without attempting to win has no respect for the players as competitors and professional athletes.  While it might seem like sound strategy, a team can’t tank on purpose without also impossibly hurting their culture long-term and possibly irreparably.  Back to the Browns win though.

The Cleveland Browns survived some questionable officiating and some scary Blaine Gabbert passes into the end zone to win number four on the year.  It wasn’t easy.  Phil Dawson missed a field goal that would have put the team up a full touchdown.  The call on the field was that it was no good, but Phil Dawson begged to differ on the ball that floated somewhere above the upright.  According to the referee, the play couldn’t be challenged because the ball was above the upright as opposed to being low enough to have gone through the uprights.  I can’t say for sure that it was good or missed based on the video replay, but it was close.  You just have to count on the official standing right underneath to make the call.  Dawson’s field goal attempt wasn’t the only close call.

The Jags were driving for the game-winning touchdown.  On 3rd and 10 from the Browns 29 yard line, Joe Haden was whistled for interference, but it sure looked like a combination of jostling for both he and receiver who was also pushing off.  It was an automatic first down and set up some crazy breath-holding plays to end the game.

Once Browns fans started breathing again, D’Qwell Jackson was slapping hands with fans around the stadium and Colt McCoy was running in to congratulate his defense for holding up.

We will have a lot more on this game as the week unfolds, but it was full of some good signs, finally.  You can’t draw big decisive conclusions from good games any more than you can from the bad ones.  The Browns still need to play offense consistently before anyone should feel great about the future.

Even with that being said, it is nice to see Colt McCoy run a TD drive after throwing an ill-advised interception.  It was nice to see Pat Shurmur put Colt McCoy in the shotgun and also throw the ball rather than just sitting on a 14 point lead.  It was nice to see an offensive line work together to keep their quarterback upright while that QB also exploited the defense on runs when he needed to escape.  Finally it is a luxury to see that offensive line enable a Browns running back to go for over 100 yards regardless of how banged up the opposing defense was.

You have to walk before you can run and you have to crawl before you can walk. Considering all the crawling we’ve seen so far this season today was a very welcome light jog.

(Photo – The Official Cleveland Browns on Facebook)

  • -bobby-

    Again, the NFL is not the NBA. Draft position is not all that important.

    And yes, Ill take Taylor, Little, Marecic, and Atl 1st and 4th this year for Green or Peterson. Like you said, we have an overall talent deficit, and those 5 players increase the overall talent.

  • -bobby-

    Agree jim. We still need to beef up the the OL and our D. But thats what Heckert intends with the draft.

  • K magic

    To those that would like to tank for a top pick… Over the past 5 years, are each of the top 5 draft picks performing at the level they should for the spot they were picked? Or is it not true, that though there is a higher percentage of success, this percentage is quite small. And almost just as great a chance to draft a top player in the 11 spot as opposed to the 5 spot…

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    I root for Scott Fujita because of his hair.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    @Jack

    I don’t really disagree with you…sort of. Regardless of draft order, you can move into the top 5 to take a certain player if you feel that you specifically need him.

    The trade option to make this happen is always available. I agree that this team needs playmakers. I just don’t like the Lions model. It sounds like you’re saying that the Browns would be better off finishing with 1 or 2 wins for a couple years to land a Stafford and Megatron. That doesn’t strike me as a good strategy for improvement. That sounds like you’re hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.

    I think you build through the draft AND through smart personnel management.

  • Chuck

    @ jack. It’s all about who is drafting for your team. Disregarding the last draft (because we still have picks from that trade) I would argue that Joe Haden and alex Mack have outperformed the players we just missed out on (Eric berry and Aaron curry). Not to mention some impact players can be found in late first round (clay mathews, dez Bryant, Hakeem nicks, Kenny britt)

  • Realist

    There’s more to getting quality players than just draft order. You can draft busts from #1 all the way to Mr. Irrelevant. For every Peyton Manning out there, there’s a Jeff George, or even worse a JaMarcus Russell.

    But if you’re disciplined and know your system, you can still find quality starters in the bottom third of the first round. It depends on what teams ahead of you need, and how rich the draft is at your position of need. Look back at the ’05 draft and see how many teams that need a good QB now could’ve had Aaron Rodgers. We picked Braylon Edwards in that draft. *sigh*

    I want to see them fill out the depth chart with above-average (for NFL and for a given slot on the depth chart) guys for a few more years. (At least 2 years to go IMO…) Along the way, they need to win what they can and pick in the draft where they deserve to. Above all else, they need to learn from every mistake. That’s the real value of losing during a rebuilding year.

    Once you have that above-average talent level across the board, you can start adding a few blue-chip guys in key positions through FA and start making deep runs into the playoffs. Not a huge fan of trading up in the draft. There’s never going to be a time when you don’t need those picks to plug holes caused by injuries, losses to FA, and previous draft mistakes.

    I’d rather see a team managed correctly and built to compete for the long haul than to see a team of the five most physically gifted players in the league surrounded by a bunch of yahoos. The latter approach is a great way to get stuck in the middle.

  • James

    Today was a great win! I had almost forgot how great it was to see my favorite team win. I am sooooo happy right now! OGBONNAYA!!!!!!!!

  • C-Bus Kevin

    @Scott

    Thanks for the mental evaluation, but if you can’t root for the improbable, then why follow sports?

    Also, I think the NBA/NFL comparison explains it well. One or two great players won’t turn it around in pro football like they can in pro basketball. That’s probably one reason why one league needs a lottery to prevent tanking while the other does not.

    Rooting for losses just sounds gross.

    “Boy…we’re not much to look at now, and if we’re lucky, they won’t win more than 4 or 5 next year so that they can have a top 10 pick, but just you wait and see. In 2013, we will be great!”

  • Roosevelt

    I’m usually negative when the score ends up the way it did today. But I have to admit, they looked better than they’ve looked in a while. Greg Little looks like a real NFL receiver – the first one we’ve had in years. The O-Line gave Colt a reasonable amount of time to throw. The D-line was in the general vicinity of the quarterback on most plays. I know it was just the Jags, but hey, it’s better than that 6-3 Buffalo game a couple years back.

    At the end of the day, I will be happy if there’s hope that we won’t be starting from scratch again after next season. After today, it looks like there’s a chance.

  • Thomas

    The only reason I would like the Browns to have a top 5 draft pick is to be able to trade down and get more picks… but wins are better than any draft selection.

    More picks = better chance of getting some good players, and players is what we need.

    Out of the last 5 drafts in round 1, 2 players (#3 Thomas and #21 Mack) have made the pro-bowl while only 1 so far (Quinn) has really been a bust.

  • jimkanicki

    sorry to repeat myself, but i do think karma or whatever does attend to organizations who engage in not playing to win.

    i noted the t-wolves above who seemed to work very hard to get the worst record in the nba last year while the cavs played hard with baron davis and came up with several wins down the stretch. cavs actually went 4-2 in final six games. thus it was quite fitting that the balls fell our way.

    i can also remember tony dungy ‘resting’ peyton manning in their final game against the titans. sorgi sucked, titans won, browns missed playoffs. suitably, the colts lost in the first round that year.

    so. in addition to the instinctive goodness of playing to win… imo… if you overthink these things and start getting cute, it will bite you in the you know what.

  • Yngwie

    This is so ridiculous that the Browns play a good game start to finish like they belong in the NFL, make a few key mistakes and still overcome them to win the game–and all we’re commenting about is whether or not we should be throwing THE TENTH GAME OF THE YEAR to get a slightly better draft pick. What a shame.

    I enjoyed watching the game today. Our run game finally wore someone down. Ogbonnaya played hard like he wants a job next year. McCoy again had a great YPA avg. The play calling was better. Little looked good. As usual our pass D was very solid. Goal line stand. Two long drives for touchdowns.

    Go Browns.

  • Kildawg

    Good win for us, even without T.J. Ward, but now we deal with division. We shouldn’t be perennially rooting for a top 5 pick, but for a playoff spot and rooting for some color on our uniforms besides grass stains. Need to draft a WR, RT, depth at WR, DL (possibly another starter), LB, secondary, and possibly RB (if we don’t re-sign Hillis.)

  • saggy

    @Thomas 60, good point on draft picks. but in the end, was Quinn really a bust since he brought us Hillis?

  • 5KMD

    Root like hell for the Browns to win every game. If they do lose, you have the consolation prize of improved draft slot. But to actually hope they lose while the game is going on is absurd.

  • stevo

    As much as I like the guy, I would say the jury is still out on Hillis.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    I can’t bring myself to hope that they lose, but if they do, and that results in a higher draft pick at this point in the rebuilding process, I’m OK with that. It’s pretty clear that this isn’t the year that we will be contending, so anything that happens that increases the talent level and outlook for the future is OK by me. If winning does that, great…if getting a higher draft pick does that, fine.

    I’m not picky about how we do this…I just want a competitive team, however it works out is just details.

  • Dave K

    On whether you tank for draft picks, well, I’m going to offer a bit of evidence of how little that gains you:
    – Tom Brady: drafted in the 6th round, 199th overall.
    – Brett Farve: drafted in the 2nd round, 33rd overall.
    – Brady Quinn: drafted in the 1st round, 22nd overall.
    – Josh Cribbs: not drafted.

    The one thing we know for sure is that on draft day, some gems are going to be overlooked completely, and some very hyped players will get a big contract and promptly fail when they get to the NFL. Tanking for draft picks is simply pointless.

  • Thomas

    @Dave: Let’s add this one to the mix

    – Tim Couch drafted #1 overall

    (I am still bitter about this one)

  • Jack

    Dave – that is quite the swiss cheese argument you’ve got there…

  • Craig

    @66 – This sums up exactly how I feel.

  • Porkchop xpress

    Just wanted to put to bed the notion that you need top 5 draft picks to get “impact” players. The only group I see panning out as can’t miss when taken in the top five are O Linemen
    Here are last years “Impact” starters and draft slot on the All-Pro team (Much more reliable than pro-bowl)
    1. Tom Brady 6 round
    2. Jamaal Charles 3 round
    3. Arian Foster undrafted
    4. Reggie Wayne 30th pick first round
    5. Roddy White 27 pick first round
    6. Jason Witten 3rd round

    The idea that you need top 5 picks to amass talent is patently false. If you look at this small sample or go find a larger sample I believe you will see that having a consistent coaching/front office staff is a far greater indicator of players making an “impact”. If you have a long term coach/GM then they see skill position players every day in practice employing their system. Over time they intuitively know what physical/mental skills it takes to work their system. When they go to the draft those skills jump out at them and they are more likely to find a player that will have success for them, even if that player isn’t drafted until the end of the first or 2nd/3rd rounds. So can we please stop with the “Tankom for Blackmon” (I know it doesn’t quite sound as good as suck for luck) thinking.

    I think the biggest question we should really be concerning ourselves with and something the media seems to ignore is who replaces Holmgren in 3 years? IMHO that guy should be being groomed in the organization right now, and I’m pretty sure nobody is even thinking about it.

  • Albert

    Coming through in the clutch and winning close games is vital to a young team growing up and learning to improve in the NFL. Infinitely more important than a slightly higher draft pick.

  • -bobby-

    @73- Just guessing, but do you think Heckert came here with the promise that he takes over for Holmgren and they are developing someone to take over for Heckert? I could see that happening, but I am just guessing.