BEREA – The nine punts on Sunday and the 2-6 record stand tall, but there is also this little reality about the Cleveland Browns:
If they win Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens, they’ll enter the bye week having won three-of-four. And by any measure, that’s not half bad.
Let’s also not be shy about this truth: The Browns had a chance to follow their first win with a second win over a very beatable Indianapolis team. They didn’t. They fell flat. Now they have a chance to follow a win over San Diego with a win over Baltimore, How they handle it could help determine their second half — at least the post-bye second half — because the schedule gets a tad lighter as it gets into December.
Baltimore is not the team it once was. It’s still a very good team, with an outstanding quarterback and outstanding running back. But its defense is missing cornerback Lardarius Webb and middle linebacker Ray Lewis. Lewis is not what he was, but the Ravens still look on him as their spiritual leader (make of that what you will).
Baltimore has Terrell Suggs back, but the Ravens defense is not what it was either. They rank 28th overall (heading into Monday night), 22nd in points at 24.9 per game and 30th in rushing at 142.9 yards per game.
And this team is leading the division?
Too, Baltimore has been lousy on the road. The Ravens average 32.3 points at home, 15 on the road. In the last 10 quarters on the road, Baltimore has scored one touchdown.
And this team is … never mind.
They are showing signs that things may be working. The signs come slow, but they are arriving.
Say what you will about the quality of Sunday’s game — there really wasn’t much — but the win goes on the ledger as a win whether it was a stick figure drawing or a Picasso.
Trent Richardson appeared fully healthy, and he ran well.
Brandon Weeden has played better every week.
Josh Gordon looks like a real receiver.
The defense — with the aid of Mother Nature — held lifeless and listless San Diego to six points.
And the offense somehow found a way to win a game without Owen Marecic.
Cynicism aside — and there’s reason for plenty — it’s still a win, and still two in three.
This season was meant to be one that put down building blocks, and after losing five in a row and six of seven, the Browns are still a woeful 2-6.
There’s no hiding that reality.
But there’s also no hiding from the reality that if the Browns beat a very beatable Baltimore team, then they will be 3-6 heading to the bye week.
That’s not a good record, but it looks a little different rom the prism of an 0-5 start.
And … heading to the bye winning three of four qualifies as a good streak. And coming off an 0-5 start, it might even be a little better than good.