Outsiders may view 11 straight hours of watching football on a Sunday as a rather sloth-like way to spend 11 hours of a Sunday. On the surface, I can understand why those on the outside looking in would find this to be a pretty unproductive and relatively stress-free way to blow a Sunday. So I’m not going to dispute this stance taken by legions of females across the country, but I am going to counter it with the idea that watching 11 straight hours of football on Sunday is by no means as relaxing and carefree as these women might think.
The truth is, in 2010, technology and fantasy football has forever altered the fan experience and erased the days when fans cared only about their team winning and the Steelers losing. Things have changed significantly for the average fan with the implications fantasy football creates and the ability to place a bet with your fingertips, both of which are only amplified when you have access to Direct TV’s Sunday Ticket, which is truly a gift from God.
Now, from your living room, you can watch 8 games at once, which means you can also bet on 8 games and monitor them all on one channel, or you can merely stalk your entire fantasy team if you prefer safer, more legal alternatives. I don’t mean to offer up an excuse for all the gambling degenerates and fantasy junkies out there, but Sunday Ticket truly is an enabler for a lot of these problems .
In spite of that, when you factor in the implications created by fantasy football and gambling, NFL Sundays present quite the give and take situation. You still might be pissed that the Browns lost to the Ravens, you’re just not THAT pissed because the Browns only lost by 7 points and Anquan Boldin went off for 3 touchdowns. Or maybe you hate the Steelers, but you don’t mind the fact that they won by 3 touchdowns . The point is, watching 11 hours of football on a Sunday is by no means as simple and worry-free as it might appear. More often than not, NFL Sundays leave the average fan disappointed in some capacity.
Still, that doesn’t prevent man from searching for that ideal Sunday where everything just clicks and works out the way they want it to. Personally, I was starting to believe that ideal Sundays were actually unattainable until I watched 11 hours of football on Sunday and experienced my first taste of NFL nirvana.
For the first time ever, everything I wanted to happen, or needed to happen – actually happened. Everything I touched turned to gold and everything worked out perfectly in fantasy land. For instance, not only did the Steelers lose a heartbreaker, but the Jags won even though Peyton Manning still chucked it for over 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns, all of which made me very happy. As did Jay Cutler posting -3 points before getting concussed and exiting the game, which is most telling of my “perfect” day. I mean, you know you got a horseshoe up your ass when your fantasy team is up by one with no guys left to play while your opponent has Cutler in the Sunday nighter – and then that happens. Now, obviously, I wasn’t hoping for a Cutler concussion, but you tend to look the other way when you pull out a W like that.
Needless to say, that all helped make last Sunday very enjoyable for me, which I’m sure not too many people care about. What you do care about, though – and what truly made my ideal Sunday complete – was the fact that the Browns finally got off the schneid and finished a football game by beating the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20.
So without further ado, the Good, the Bad(Ass), and a tiny bit of Ugly from the Browns first victory of the 2010 season….
(1) The Browns offense IS WHAT WE HOPED IT WOULD BE! And needs to remain that way.
Last week against the Baltimore Ravens, the Browns found their offensive identity in the form of running back, Peyton Hillis. This week against the Bengals, it was more of the same as the Browns offense once again imposed their will on the defense through a power running game featuring the Albino Rhino, who carried the ball 27 times for 102 yards and a touchdown
The running game didn’t get off to quite the start it did against the Ravens as Hillis only had 37 yards on 11 carries at the half, but give credit to offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for mixing it up in the first half en route to 13 Browns points before committing to the running game in the second half.
Hillis did most of his damage after halftime as he wore down the Bengals defense on 16 carries for 65 yards and a 1 yard touchdown run, his fourth of the season and one that was aided by the blocking of tight end Robert Royal, who took out like 3 guys on the play. Another second half highlight from Hillis came early in the third quarter when he knocked Bengals safety Roy Williams silly for an 8 yard game. I mean, Hillis absolutely dismissed Williams.
Give credit to the offensive line and fullback Lawrence Vickers, too, for Hillis’ second consecutive 100 yard rushing day. The O line has definitely gotten better since Tony Pashos took over at right tackle for John St. Clair, and Vickers once again proved why he’s one of the better fullbacks in the NFL.
It’s great to see that the Browns are becoming the tough, physical running team a lot of people hoped they would be this season. As long as this keeps up and Hillis continues to run people over, the Browns are going to find themselves in a lot of close football games this season.
(2) Chansi Stuckey is alive and apparently a viable slot receiver.
Even though it’s discouraging to think that the Browns number 1 wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi only caught 1 pass for 5 yards against the Bengals, it was good to see slot receiver Chansi Stuckey step up and make some plays.
Stuckey out did his season total in Week 4 by catching 5 passes for 56 yards from quarterback Seneca Wallace, with 4 of these grabs going for 1st downs.
Stuckey may not be Wes Welker, but he’s Welker-ish in both size and his ability to get open on the underneath routes. Hopefully, whoever the QB is against the Falcons continues to utilize Stuckey in the slot because he’s a chain mover that can help open up things downfield for Massaquoi and others.
Or at least that’s how it plays out in New England with Welker scampering around underneath, Randy Moss going deep, and Tom Brady orchestrating.( At least it did when Moss was still a Patriot.)
(3) Seneca Wallace isn’t great, but he’s not bad either.
Compared to Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn, Wallace is Steve Young. Compared to teammate Jake Delhomme, he might just be the better option.
On Sunday against the Bengals D, Wallace again made progress in his third start this season in place of the injured Delhomme. Wallace didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard or set the fantasy world abuzz with his 18-30, 184 yards, 1 TD day, but he made just enough plays with both his arm and his legs to help offset the power running game of Hillis and co. and put some points on the board.
Wallace’s best sequence of the game came during the Browns third offensive series as he coolly directed a 8 play, 87 yard drive scoring drive. Two plays that stood out on this drive and illustrated the playmaking skills Wallace brings to the Browns’ offense were his 15-yard completion to wide receiver Josh Cribbs and the 24-yard touchdown strike to tight end Evan Moore. On the first play, Wallace felt pressure in the pocket and escaped to his right before firing a strike to Cribbs, once again demonstrating his ability to keep plays alive and deliver the football on the move. The touchdown pass was even better, though. On this play, Moore, who’s a tight end in title only, was split out wide right and ran a seam route. Wallace did just enough with his eyes to freeze Bengals safety Roy Williams in centerfield before lasering a perfectly thrown seam ball into the hands of Moore. Great, great throw.
Wallace also aided the Browns’ other scoring drive to start the third quarter when he converted a big 3rd and 3 by again extending the play with his legs before finding Stuckey for a key first down conversion.
My point is, Wallace didn’t just do enough against the Bengals to put the Browns in position to win, but he MADE some big plays that enabled the Browns to win.
That’s what separates him from a healthy Delhomme and why I think he gives the Browns the best shot at winning football games this season.
He may not be your ideal starting quarterback, but he’s more than capable of distributing the football in Cleveland’s short, West Coast passing attack, plus he brings that extra element to the Browns offense which Delhomme does not have, and that’s the ability to keep plays alive with his legs. Throw in his even keeled demeanor, and there’s a lot of things to like about what Wallace brings to the quarterback position.
Now I’m not particularly a fan of starting QB’s losing their jobs due to injury, but I just think that reinserting Delhomme into the lineup might do more harm than good against the Falcons. The Browns offense is moving in the right direction, and I’d hate to see them take a step backwards by inserting a guy into the lineup that hasn’t experienced live game action in over a month.
(4) The defense was aggressive and opportunistic.
I wouldn’t say that the Browns defense played great against the Bengals considering that Carson Palmer threw for 371 yards and Terrell Owens had 222 receiving yards, but I still liked what I saw out of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and his unit.
Ryan employed a very aggressive and persistent gameplan that involved bringing pressure/ run support from the secondary all day long, and it ultimately paid dividends. The Browns defense was very opportunistic as they forced two fumbles that led to 6 points and sacked Palmer 4 times, with outside linebacker Matt Roth delivering the knockout blow on the Bengals’ final drive of the game.
I guess the moral of Sunday’s defensive story is that pressure at least has the potential to bust pipes, while a prevent defense does not. Good to see that Coach Ryan recognized that.
The Bad (Ass)
Props go out to Browns rookie safety, T.J. Ward, for not giving a damn and just hitting people.
For the third time this season, the rookie from Oregon led the Browns with 9 tackles (6 solo) from his safety spot. What everyone remembers, though, is the crushing hit he put on Bengals slot receiver Jordan Shipley in the end zone, which knocked Shipley out of the game, drew a flag, and caused an uproar.
Personally, I don’t think it was a dirty or malicious hit by Ward, but just an aggressive, violent hit from an aggressive, violent football player. Even though you hate to hear about a player’s eyes rolling in the back of their heads, I don’t mind the fact that Ward made sure Shipley wasn’t catching a touchdown pass in that situation.
The bottom line is that the Browns finally have an aggressive, playmaking safety at the back end of their defense. Ward brings an edge to the unit that I absolutely love.
So keep hitting, T.J., and Browns fans will always have your back.
For the second consecutive week, the Browns struggled against the pass as Palmer and Owens basically had their way with the secondary. Some of these problems can be attributed to the aggressive game-planning by defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, but a lot of it is just bad coverage. I wish I had time to elaborate, but I’ll just say that Eric Wright is having major problems operating on the inside and it’s not the last time we’ll see Sheldon Brown get beat deep.