Sunday, September 30, 2007

Browns 27, Ravens 13
My built-in cynicism usually causes me to pick against my hometown team. But as the week wore on, I got a strange (in Cleveland sports, strange means good) feeling about the Browns-Ravens game.

It wasn't enough to make me take the Browns, but I had an inkling the team would fare better than it did last week.

The Ravens dominated a number of statistics, but the Browns dominated the game from the opening kickoff. The Ravens offense could move the ball, but had trouble scoring touchdowns (or anything, really).

Most of the pregame chatter surrounded Ravens' Ray Lewis, and Browns running back Jamal Lewis. Ray Lewis is still looked at as one of the best defenders in the league.

The problem is he's not.

Ray may be the emotional leader, and he still may be an effective player, but his days of scaring offenses are gone. After all the talk going in, the Ravens' linebacker was quiet Sunday. It's possible the injuries and his age are catching up with him.

Regardless, the Ravens defense couldn't keep the Browns from scoring, and didn't force a punt until the fourth quarter.

Derek Anderson was effective. Jamal Lewis was effective. But the Browns won this game because two turnovers became 10 points, and because the defense manned up in the red zone.

The Ravens reached the end zone with 7 minutes left. But the drive took 6 1/2 minutes to complete. The Browns secondary was not beat over the top. The linebackers contained Willis McGahee, who broke a few big runs but didn't dominate. The Browns didn't get much of a rush on Steve McNair -- and when they did, it usually came from Kamerion Wimbley -- but McNair just couldn't convert from up close.

This win is more satisfying than the Bengals game, because it didn't feel like a fluke. The Browns won because they deserved to. They played with more energy than the Ravens, and played like winners, instead of like a team hoping to pull an upset.

Of course, the Browns will need an upset against New England next week. A big one.

But that's for another post. Hold the orange helmets high.



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