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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Even In Defeat, Mangini Gets One Right

I was wrong.

It happens on occasion. My wife thinks it happens more that I do, but I digress.

Derek Anderson is a better NFL quarterback than Brady Quinn. This much was evident Sunday in the Browns’ 23-20 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Having been a Quinn advocate since the day he was drafted, this is a difficult admission for me to make, but the proof was on the field. The offense was competent…heck it was almost good at times. It was light years from what the Quinn-led offense had been able to muster during the first three weeks. The Browns’ offense actually outscored the Bengals’ 20-16. Were it not for a defensive fumble return for a touchdown (on a questionable no-call from the refs), Cleveland would be celebrating win number one of the Mangini era.

Alas, as is prone to happen at a disproportionate rate in Cleveland, heartbreak reigns again, and the Browns remain winless at 0-4.

Now with that out of the way, there are certainly some other reasons for optimism in Cleveland this season and further down the road.

It appears that a star was born in rookie Mohammed Massaquoi, who caught everything thrown his way (quite an accomplishment when Derek Anderson is your quarterback). Massaquoi caught 8 balls for 148 yards. (On a side note, this was 8 more catches and 148 more yards than Braylon Edwards had.)

On the other side of the ball, it’s amazing what a defense can do when it’s not on the field for two of the first three quarters. Cincinnati went the entire second and third quarters without gaining a single first down, leading me to wonder if the two teams had managed to magically switch uniforms at the end of the first quarter without anyone noticing. The Browns actually managed to win the time of possession battle 38:55-36:01. This can be a solid (dare I say good) defense if the offense can keep them off of the field.

Whatever excuses the Browns have been feeding Joshua Cribbs and his agent as to why they haven’t re-worked his contract need to go away now. This man needs paid. Cribbs is the only player that the Browns have that strikes fear into the hearts of the opposition. This was evident in overtime, as there wasn’t a single Bengal punt that ended up in the same zip code as Cribbs. I know he just got a new deal. I know he is already one of the highest paid special teamers in the league. He needs to be the highest. There is no special teams player in the NFL that is more important to his team than Cribbs is to the Browns, and the club should make sure he has absolutely no reason to want to leave Cleveland.

Now for the bad news. 0-9 looks like a real possibility with upcoming road games at Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Chicago, and home dates with Green Bay and Baltimore.

In the meantime, Eric Mangini has bought a reprieve from me. No one expected the Browns to be world beaters this season, but most Browns fans I know at least expected to field a competitive team on a weekly basis. The Browns finally looked like a team worthy of being called an NFL franchise Sunday, and there was certainly improvement from previous weeks. The Bengals are a miracle fluke play away from being 4-0, and the Browns gave them everything they wanted and more. Even in defeat, there were many positives to be had from this game, and as long as the Browns get better as the season goes on, I will be happy.

I had been giving serious consideration to selling my tickets to the Browns-Steelers game on December 10th in Cleveland. What I saw Sunday gives me hope that even if the Browns don’t beat the Steelers that night, at least I won’t have to take a brown paper bag to wear over my head.

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Man, that chick beside me is smokin'.

Imagine waking up and seeing this on ESPN. I look like I'm having a stroke back there. Good Lord.

Imagine waking up and seeing this on ESPN. I look like I'm having a stroke back there. Good Lord.

3:30 AM, after the Louisville game.

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