How the Browns Beat the Carolina Panthers, 24-23

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CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 28: Quarterback Jake Delhomme of the Cleveland Browns calls a play against the Carolina Panthers at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)The best part about the NFL is that on any given Sunday, any team can win. Even 1-9 teams playing on the road should be taken seriously, and the Browns nearly learned that the hard way on Sunday, escaping with a 24-23 win over the Carolina Panthers.

The Browns found a variety of ways to throw this one away, including fumbles, interceptions, and poor playcalling, but, for once, an ugly game went in their favor. The Browns didn’t have to be perfect – and they were far from it, doing their best to lose this one – but in the end, a win’s a win. Eric Mangini’s job security seemed to sway back and forth as the game got closer and closer, until the Panthers took the lead late and he was as good as gone.

Then, suddenly, Jake Delhomme helped engineer a game-winning field goal drive and a missed field goal by Panthers kicker John Kasay – which only occurred because of a botched call – helped stabilize the Browns’ up-and-down season, at least for a week.

It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Browns managed to find a way to win. Good teams find a way to win, and

Here’s why the Browns were able to beat the Panthers on Sunday:

  • Once again, the Browns rode Peyton Hillis to victory, and this time, the Juggernaut (yeah? should we go with that one?) ran 26 times for 131 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught six passes for 63 yards, meaning you were very happy if he was on your fantasy team. On the season, Hillis has now rushed for 905 yards with 11 rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns. Those 13 total touchdowns ties him for second in the NFL, one off the leader, Dwayne Bowe of the Kansas City Chiefs, who has 14. Barring an injury or a complete offensive meltdown, it looks like the Pro Bowl is in Hillis’ future.
  • Despite all the problems we might have with Jake Delhomme, he does know how to spread the ball around. If you told me that Brian Robiskie would have caught seven passes for 50 yards, I would have laughed in your face. Laughed and laughed and laughed. So it’s good no one made that prediction to me. Mohamed Massaquoi and Ben Watson each caught four balls, with Evan Moore catching two and Chansi Stuckey catching one. Massaquoi and Robiskie looked especially impressive as they made catches in crucial situations. It’s amazing what getting opportunities will do for a receiver’s development, isn’t it?
  • Despite some shoddy tackling in a few key situations, the Browns defense actually played pretty well. T.J. Ward made a number of impressive tackles (his tackle for a loss on one particular blitz comes to mind) and Joe Haden had what should have been the game-clinching interception. Abram Elam also tossed in two sacks, which is great, but it’s also evidence that the Browns need to acquire more pass rushers – either on the defensive line or at linebacker – in the off-season.
  • The Browns also have John Kasay to thank for their victory on Sunday. He had made three field goals in the game, and it looked like he would get his fourth as time expired, thanks in large part to a mistake made by the referees. Wide receiver Brandon LaFell should have been ruled down in-bounds on the previous play, and the play was reviewed, but it was not noticed that Sheldon Brown touched LaFell when he hit the ground. The clock should have run out before the Panthers could kick the field goal, giving the Browns regardless. Either way, a win’s a win…right?
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