Colt McCoy looked lost, the accuracy that he’s so often credited with conspicuously absent. His team was seemingly willing to follow their quarterback’s lead – the first three quarters of the Browns’ game against Miami was punctuated by holds, dropped passes and a pass defense that made Chad Henne looking like the second coming of Peyton Manning.
But by the end of the game, both sides of the ball proved their mettle, highlighted by a group of first-and-second-year players staring down a healthy dose of adversity.
His sophomore NFL season only three weeks young, Colt McCoy’s 80-yard two-minute drill embodies why the Cleveland faithful have so much hope. With the game on the line, he stepped up, dissecting a Miami defense with a series of smart, quick passes, including a crucial fourth-down swing to Montario Hardesty and a game-winning fade to Mohamed Massaquoi.
Hardesty also stepped up in a big way, pushing lingering concerns about his health on the field onto the backburner. He looked strong running through the middle, quick enough to escape from Miami’s first line of defense. Rookie wideout Greg Little also came up big in the game’s final drive.
On the defensive side of the ball, rookies Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard looked great, at times dominant. Taylor continues to show the pure, unadulterated strength needed to command double-teams, which is generally how Miami countered him. He still went on to register four solo tackles, including a sack and a TFL. Sheard’s stat line was much less impressive, but he basically lived in Miami’s backfield, pressuring Chad Henne and constantly coming this close to recording a sack.
Add those names to the list of established young playmakers Joe Haden and T.J. Ward, and the Browns have blossoming young talent at five, six, even seven crucial positions.
As Browns fans have learned after years of watching the Steelers and Ravens dominate, good teams are built through the draft. It wasn’t going to happen overnight, and one come-from-behind win shouldn’t inspire anybody to order playoff tickets, but two years of Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren at the helm have produced an exciting young nucleus of players.
Winning games like this — coming back in front of your home fans — is going to do wonders for a team this young. As their confidence continues to soar, look for players like McCoy, Hardesty and Taylor to let their talent speak for itself.