What do you get when you cross an offensive powder keg like Cincinnati with a Browns team struggling to find an offensive identity? An unbelievable offensive shootout, of course.
Everyone expected Carson Palmer to pick apart the Browns defense with his usual skill while Rudy Johnson ran through the defense like water through a sieve. And that’s pretty much how it happened. Palmer threw for 401 yards and a career high 6 touchdowns. Rudy rushed for 118. Chad Johnson was on the receiving end of 2 of Palmer’s touchdowns and over 200 yards receiving. Sounds like the recipe of a horror story for the Browns this weekend . . . but wait there’s more to this riddle.
Derek Anderson, 0-4 in his previous starts, went into the game as the clear starter for the first time with Frye in Seattle charting the Seahawks’ offense and Quinn not quite ready for the number one spot. He responded with career numbers of his own: 20 for 33 with 328 yards and 5 touchdowns as the Browns turn the nightmare into a dream win 51-45.
The skilled positions came through in a big way. Edwards finally found his hands, catching 8 passes for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. The often vociferous but rarely effective Winslow had 6 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. Jurevicius also raked in 2 touchdown receptions.
Cleveland also found a running game as Jamal Lewis abused the Bengals the way he did frequently against the Browns when he wore a Ravens uniform. Lewis racked up 216 yards on 27 carries and rushed for a score of his own. His total is the best rushing performance for the Browns since Jim Brown ran for 223 yards against the Eagles in November of 1963. I guess Lewis still has some good playing time left in those legs.
Tack on 3 Phil Dawson field goals for a total of 51; the best scoring day for the Browns since pounding the Steelers 51-0 in 1989.
So where did this come from? Was it the long standing rivalry for bragging rights in the state of Ohio? Was it an offense with clarity of focus without a quarterback controversy? Was it 72,000 raucous, screaming fans willing their team on? Was Charlie Frye really holding this team back that badly? Where the heck was either defense during the game?
There are a whole lot of questions with very few answers. The short of it is: the Browns get the victory and win their first division game in over a season. I’ll take it. Will we see this kind of performance weekly now from the Browns? . . . Don’t hold your breath.
There are still a lot of issues to address on this team before we can declare them true contenders in the NFL. I’m sure the clarity of Derek Anderson as the definite number one guy was inspiring, but don’t forget Derek did little to improve the Browns finish against the Steelers. And what about the defense? That was supposedly the strength of this team (if it had a strength). They gave up 531 yards of offense, that can’t help Romeo sleep soundly this week.
I’m not ready to declare this team as a 10 game winner yet. I’m still hoping for 8-8. But a win is a win and I will savor this for the week and look forward to Oakland next week.