Through five weeks the Browns are 3-2, tied for first place, and barking is prevalent along the shores of Lake Erie.
Sitting next to a Ravens fan on my flight last Sunday night after their win over the Dolphins, I kindly welcomed him along side us into first place — a position us Browns fans had been comfortably lounging in for the past three days. I couldn’t help but gloat. But as the portly, Flacco jersey wearing gentleman pointed out, “You’ve got to enjoy it while you can”.
Considering the new Browns have never been 3-2 through the first five weeks of the NFL season, and are sitting in the driver’s seat of the AFC North, albeit a crammed driver’s seat, you can be damn sure Cleveland is going to enjoy it. Since this is rarefied air for Browns fans many are acting shocked at the strong start, but is it really that surprising?
Entering the preseason there was plenty of excitement and optimism surrounding the team, as which is the case with most teams in July. The additions of Paul Kruger, Desmond Bryant, Barkevious Mingo, and defensive coordinator Ray Horton all seemed like valid reasons to think the Brownie’s D would be improved in 2013. On the other side of the ball the acquisition of Davone Bess as a third down target, Trent’s fantasy hype, and Norv Turner’s vertical passing offense even had us thinking the Weeden led offense would be able to put some points on the board.While few expected the Browns to a first place team, the vibe around town was this would be a watchable and competitive squad.
Then came the flawless performances in the first two preseason games. Jordan Cameron looked like he was finally coming into the player fans dreamed of when they saw him dunking footballs with Blake Griffin, Weeden was picking apart the vanilla defenses he saw, and the defense was playing shutdown football.
With optimism at a fever pitch it was easy to look at the schedule and see the chance for a strong start from the Browns.
Home opener against Miami – Winnable.
Going to Baltimore as the Super Bowl champs get their rings – Most likely a loss.
Minnesota with Christian Ponder at quarterback – Very winnable.
Home against the division favorite Bengals – It’s going to be tough.
Home on Thursday Night Football against the Bill’s and their rookie QB – Again, very winnable.
3-2 didn’t seem too far-fetched considering the match ups early in the season.
But after two ugly, yet close, losses to Miami and Baltimore, then the trade of the most recognizable name on an already struggling offense the city went into panic mode. Fans have been through so much that it was hard to see the fact the Browns were leading in both those games at the half against two good football teams, that they were missing their best offense weapon in Josh Gordon, and that the “superstar” that had just been traded was in fact just a physical specimen that gave us three yards and a cloud of dust.
Give credit to the Coach Chud, D’Qwell, Joe Thomas and the leaders of this team for not buying into all the negativity, buckling down, and staying the course.
That course resulted in three straight wins to the tune of hard nosed defense, timely quarterback play from both Hoyer and Weeden, and explosiveness from the likes of Gordon, Cameron, and Benjamin.
It’s hard to say if the Browns have what it takes to keep it up. The schedule on the horizon looks ominous with their next five opponents being Detroit, Green Bay, Kansas City, Baltimore, and Cincy. And it’s still very early to start planning a playoff tailgate, but it’s also nowhere near the point where the draft should be the primary focus for Browns fans. As the weeks go by there are sure to be many more twists and turns, but just as we imagined before the year — the defense will be tough, and the offensive will be capable of big plays — who knows how many wins that will translate to, so for now let’s try not to get too high nor too low, but most definitely enjoy this thing called first place.