Happy Days: Notes From The Browns' Win Over New England

Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis leaps into the bleachers after a 34-14 win over the New England Patriots on November 07, 2010 in Cleveland. UPI / David Richard Photo via NewscomThe Browns creamed the New England Patriots 34-14 on Sunday, and now, this is starting to get fun. Brian Daboll getting chest bumped to the ground, another Gatorade shower, killing the guy who cut Bernie. Another win, another blowout – it’s all just so sweet.

Other game notes and fun thoughts:

Colt had me at hello (more specifically on the throw to Brian Robiskie)
I had been on the fence on Colt McCoy until now. I liked the guy a lot, don’t get me wrong, I just didn’t want to get my hopes up too soon. Lots of my friends and fellow fans were ready to jump in bed with McCoy after two games, but I needed a third date. I saw him play well when the Steelers stopped blitzing him, and you could argue the credit he was due in defeating the Saints was minimal.

But, in the third quarter, when he rolled out to his right and fired a first down pass on the money to Brian Robiskie, I saw it.

The “It.”

He gets equal credit for defeating the Patriots with Peyton Hillis; they don’t do it without Colt. And it’s all downhill from here so turn the kid loose.

A Hillis by any other name
The Browns have a credible leader in Mike Holmgren, but it’s absurd that Peyton Hillis doesn’t haven’t a credible nickname yet. Can you think of any player in the NFL who embodies the spirit of their team the way Hillis does the Browns? The guy needs a handle.

Here are a couple of nicknames my friends and I have tossed around: Cypress Hillis, The Hillis are Alive, Over the Hillis and Far Away, Capitol Hillis, Beverly Hillis 9021-ohh!, Lake Effect WindcHillis, Whatchu Talkin ‘bout Hillis, Sargent Slaughter, Vanilla Shake, and, my current favorite, White Castle.

Think about that catching on. Chris Berman and Shannon Sharpe exclaiming as he plows over Jonathan Joseph, “Looks like John just got lunch at White Castle,” BAM. Or “Peyton Hillis is taking the whole Patriots defense to White Castle,” BAM BAM.

And you know we have White Castles in Cleveland. What are the odds that Peyton Hillis is the one man on earth who doesn’t like eating at White Castle, and wouldn’t want to be in a White Castle commercial? Every time Hillis scores a touchdown, free White Castle hamburgers for everyone.

No good? How about a free Colt 45 every time McCoy throws a TD pass?

On a serious note, here’s to hoping this Peyton Hillis thing lasts as long as possible. I found myself holding my breath after every one of his carries, worrying he might get injured. Let’s hope the Browns can find someone else to step in and take on 8-10 touches per game for everyone’s sake, because this team won’t be able to survive losing him.

So far, everyone they have tried in relief has failed miserably:

  • Patriots game: “Mike Bell, get in there and take over for Hillis for just five minutes.”
    –Mike Bell: [injured after six carries]
  • Falcons game: “Jerome Harrison, get in there and take over for Hillis for just five minutes, his thigh can’t take too many more hits.”
    –Harrison: [insert audible of a toilet flushing]
  • Ravens game: “James Davis, get in there and take over for Hillis for just five minutes, his thigh can’t take too many more hits and Jerome Harrison is a total piece of crap.”
    –Davis: [injured after four carries]

Poise counts
For me, the key moment in the game actually came after their best player made a mistake.

In the first quarter, the Browns were driving down the field into Patriots’ territory with a 10-point lead. New England had gift wrapped their only touchdown at that point (muffing the kickoff), so it didn’t feel like the Browns were in control so much as the they were getting all the breaks thus far.

Then the Patriots got a break when Hillis fumbled after a 16-yard run. The crowd choked up and everyone started to wince as Tom Brady took over in good field position after the Browns’ error. We’d read all week that Brady kills you when you make mistakes, the Browns have to play perfect to win, and so on…

But the Browns held their water and forced the Patriots punt after one first down. That is when I knew, and more importantly the Browns knew, they belonged on the same field as the Belichick’s Patriots. They had the ability to overcome a mistake.

In fact, realizing that may be a revelation for the season in a grander sense. Maybe it’s impossible to play a perfect game. The Browns may now believe, where they didn’t early on against Kansas City and Tampa Bay, that they can take a punch or two and still win. They’re a real team. If they turn the ball over its not the end of the world. It’s starting. Confidence. Poise.

Wide receivers
I have not been a fan of what the Browns have been doing with Josh Cribbs so far; I think he should be a kick returner exclusively. But I can see how they are desperate for receivers, and Cribbs did make a spectacular diving catch in the fourth quarter. You got to give it to him, Cribbs is learning. And how about the block he threw during McCoy’s TD scramble? Gamer.

Equal kudos to Mohamed Massaquoi, who looked healthy coming back from a concussion. He played great and really gives the offense an extra angle. I am excited to see if he and Colt McCoy can develop a little more chemistry over the next few games. After all, yesterday was the first time he’d played with Colt for longer than five minutes before getting his head blown off.

Chemistry and trust is the next step. All the great teams start their year with a quarterback who has been on the team for a while, and knows the receivers and how they work. It takes time to learn what works.

I will try to do this without complaining, but it’s hard to look at this team and equate it to the one that dropped its first two games to Tampa Bay and Kansas City. For one thing, both KC and Tampa still have winning records and are making noise in the league, though they both lost Sunday.

But what if the Browns had played them when they actually knew what their identify was? Maybe the Browns always get off to slow starts because they start a new quarterback every year, and have to reinvent themselves every year? It all comes down to chemistry.

Look at how close the Browns are to escaping Thunderdome
This five game stretch was completely brutal: Atlanta, @ Pittsburgh, @ New Orleans, New England, New York Jets.

If you would have told me the Browns had a chance to get through that with a winning record I would have slapped you, but a win over the Jets gets them to 3-2. The combined records of those teams minus the outcome of when they played the Browns is 26-10. Every team on that list is at least tied for first place in their division.

How many other teams do that? Even if they lose to New York I take the results without thinking twice. The Browns really learned a lot about themselves since in a month.

Looking ahead they get Jacksonville, Miami, Buffalo, and Carolina. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Two of those teams are just .500, and the other two are the worst teams in the league, flat out. The Browns have played one team in eight games with a losing record so far (Cincinnati). New York will make it eight of nine next week, but after that they could feasibly play four straight losers. Not that I feel good about any of them. A lot can change in a month, but Buffalo, Miami, and Jacksonville will still be tough outs. Carolina stinks though.

Random thoughts
Was the best part of the game seeing the Patriots kneeling on the ball to end it? Belichick begs for mercy.

Was I the last one to notice Eric Mangini with a dip in on the sideline? I love it. I heard he quit chewing tobacco but then Colt McCoy begged him to bring it back.

The weather is only going to get colder, and that means the Browns are only going to get better.

There is 0% chance the Jets look past the Browns next week the way the Saints and Patriots claimed to have done. This will be a Monday Night game for Braylon Edwards. New York has the best rush defense in the league, and they’ll be ready to eat some White Castle in Cleveland.

It might be the Browns toughest game of the season, but its winnable, and also has the potential to dish out the greatest satisfaction.

Follow me on Twitter @JimmyCTown – throw me a Hillis nickname if you got one.

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