Three leftover thoughts on the Cleveland Browns in their aftermath of their big comeback of Tennessee to get to 2-2 on the season…
1. The comeback from 28-3 down was nice. It was incredible, and it was an NFL record for biggest comeback ever by a road team. Ever. Now, no one should ever be down 25 points to the Tennessee Titans and the Browns clearly have major defensive issues. But the Browns are 2-2 because Brian Hoyer kept punching, receivers made plays and a whole bunch of things went the Browns way. That makes four Browns games decided by a total of 8 points. These Browns certainly aren’t boring, and there are reasons to think these Browns are better. The defense and special teams are still so unpredictable, though, that maybe the Browns aren’t better. Last year’s team was 2-2. The 2011 team was 2-2. The difference seems to be in the offensive line, the running game, the offensive identity and of course in Hoyer, the quarterback. He’s playing smart, confidently and certainly delivering in the big moments. The winning touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin was as good a throw as you’ll see anywhere. If these Browns really have a quarterback, they have a chance to be different. Stay tuned.
2. Perhaps the Browns should send a thank-you card to Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt. Now, Whisenhunt had to play with Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback after losing Jake Locker to injury, and there’s no football coach in America who would wish that on one of his rivals. But there’s really no excuse for Whisenhunt — leading by six points — to not punt the ball from his own 42 with 3:09 left. Then, to make matters head-scratchingly worse, after Whitehurst got nothing on the quarterback sneak in a big pile of very big people, Whisenhunt challenged the spot despite it being clear that the officials could give no clear answer. So, instead of making the Browns go 80 yards or so — plus, the Browns don’t even field punts — they only had to go 42, and when they did the Titans were down a timeout from that inexplicable challenge. Too, the Titans actually dropped back to pass more often in the second half than the first and only ran by design 11 times in the second half. The Titans insisted on leaving the door open and Hoyer eventually slammed it shut.
3. On to Pittsburgh. The Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger, who’s 18-1 against the Browns. Eighteen and one, really. It’s not a one-game season because there are 12 games left, but it’s damn close to a one-game season. The Browns are already 0-1 against the Steelers and 0-2 in the division. Frankly, beating Tennessee and maybe Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa Bay is nice based upon where the Browns have been, but they won’t really make any progress until they make progress in the AFC North Division. The Browns are at home, the Steelers clearly aren’t a juggernaut and opportunity is here. If the Browns are good, if the Browns are ready, if the Browns are really trending up, they’ll take advantage of it. A potential franchise-changing game is six days away. Show us. We’ll be watching.