The meat-grinder to start the season ended Sunday in New England, and the Browns made it through alive. Two wins in five games won’t bring a tickertape parade, but they kept the season afloat and make looking down the road more than a futile exercise.
The Browns have a chance to do some unexpected things this season. After hosting winless Miami on Sunday, they have a bye, then travel to winless St. Louis. If the Browns avoid the letdown that bit them in Oakland, they will be 4-3 — matching their win total from last year.
The Browns haven’t been above .500 that late in a season since the playoff year of 2002. If the Browns could win just one of a three-game stretch vs. Seattle at home and on the road for Pittsburgh and Baltimore, they would be 5-5 with six winnable games to end the season.
Believe it or not, the playoffs wouldn’t be out of the question in a top-heavy AFC that should have a wild-card spot or two available.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, the Browns must take care of the Dolphins, who will have Cleo Lemon at quarterback following a concussion to veteran Trent Green.
“It’s our one game before the bye week, so you can’t overlook the team, I don’t care who’s coming in,” guard Eric Steinbach said Monday. “We can look at it like a one-game season and then go back to the drawing board in the bye week, clean up all the stuff we’re doing wrong and come back.”
Two of the losses came to Pittsburgh and New England, two of the three best teams in the NFL (Indianapolis). The other came the last time the Browns were expected to win, when they laid an egg in Oakland. They started flat and finished with a blocked field goal. They talked Monday as if they’ve learned their lesson and will be ready for Miami.
“We’ve got to keep our edge and prepare as we’ve done every week,” running back Jason Wright said. “It’s more a mental thing than anything else. We have to realize that these guys are talented. It’s not like they’re a bad team … at all.”
The division wins against Cincinnati and Baltimore aren’t the only reasons to be excited about the rest of 2007. The offense has been solid since Derek Anderson took over as starting quarterback in Week 2. When he’s not throwing multiple first-half interceptions – Oakland and New England — the offense is productive and explosive. And he’s shown the ability to bounce back from a bad half.
Braylon Edwards is playing the best ball of his pro career, including a diving one-handed sideline catch vs. the Patriots. Kellen Winslow is always a threat. And Tim Carter (three catches, 50 yards, one touchdown) finally did something vs. New England.
The defense is a different story, but we’ll save that for another day. For now the focus is on Miami and continuing the turnaround that finally seems to be picking up steam.
“The only game I know about is Miami,” cornerback Leigh Bodden said. “I’m not even saying that to be cliche. That’s the next team we’re playing. I have no idea who we play after that.”
What about a run toward the playoffs, a foreign concept the last few years?
“It’s still early,” he said. “If we get some wins back-to-back, that will just catch on and be contagious and we can go on a roll hopefully.”
Believe it or not, that’s actually a possibility.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.