Sunday, January 06, 2008

Reliving the 2007 Browns season
We went from Romeo on the hot seat to a coach of the year candidate.

We went from Charlie Frye to "When will Brady play?" to "Who cares?" to "When will Brady play?" to "What's up with D.A.?"

I'm starting to rhyme and I like it.

We went from bad to passable to good to almost fantastic.

All in four months.

Let's re-live it.

Week 1
Browns lose to Steelers, implosion imminent

What I said:This may have been Charlie Frye's final NFL start. Frye looked overmatched physically and mentally by Pittsburgh. He was pulled some 23 minutes into the first game of the season, a feat not even Ty Detmer can claim.

What it meant: It was the end of Charlie Frye in a Browns uniform. He was traded two days later to Seattle, and the Browns gave the job to some guy from Oregon State.

Week 2
What the Hell? Browns offense feasts, defense can't quite choke it away against Bengals

What I said: No one's ready to call Derek Anderson a long term starter. But for one day, he looked like one. He made a few bad passes, and was intercepted on the first play of the second half.

But he was more effective than he has ever been in his life. The numbers are amazing. He threw for 328 yards. He threw five touchdowns. He didn't get sacked.

What it meant: At the time, it meant the Browns wouldn't go winless. But it did two things: it brought confidence in Anderson, and it sent the Bengals into a season-long slump.

Week 3
Back to reality? Browns blocked out in Oakland

What I said: Yes, the Browns didn't play well. But if Dawson makes the kick, as he has done so many times before, we're all happy.

What it meant: We had no way of knowing at the time, but the blocked kick became a huge factor in the Browns missing the playoffs.

Week 4
Something strange is going on: Browns win against "powerful" Ravens

What I said: 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.

What it meant: This was the win where we started to wonder if we had more than a four-win team on our hands.

Week 5
Browns don't get humiliated against NFL's best

What I said: But the time for moral victories is over, and no matter what the final score was, the game was never close.

What it meant: It showed Derek Anderson still had moments of mediocrity, which came back to haunt him, albeit not for several weeks.

Week 6
Browns hold off hapless Dolphins

What I said: The Browns offense hasn't been this energized since Bernie Kosar and Webster Slaughter donned the colors at the old stadium.

What it meant: The players started talking playoffs after this one. I was just thankful the Browns hadn't lost to a winless team.

Week 8
Braylon has arrived: Receiver downs Rams

What I said: This was Braylon Edwards' game. He was the star, the big-budget leading man, an action-movie protagonist. He had a great supporting cast: Derek Anderson, Kellen Winslow, Joe Jurevicious and Jamal Lewis all played significant roles.

But if the field turf at whatever they call that dome in St. Louis was a stage, Edwards deserved the curtain call.

What it meant: Braylon Edwards was becoming a force, and he was far from done.

Week 9
Time to believe after OT win over Seattle

What I said: No one knows where this will lead. But when Dawson's chip shot went through the uprights, I had a strange feeling. It was a feeling I'd had before, but not for a long time.

I felt like the Browns were a real football team. Not a bunch of imposters in orange helmets who were thrown together after Art Modell skipped town.

What it meant: This was the game when fans realized they had a pretty decent team. A win over a playoff team was huge for everyone's esteem.

Week 10: Browns can't break Pittsburgh

What I said: Is there progress? Yes. But the close loss only means something if the Browns beat Baltimore next week. If the Browns play the way they did after the last time they lost a close game to Pittsburgh (remember Braylon Edwards grabbing Charlie Frye?), this promising season could be nothing more than a tease.

What it meant: It made winning the division almost impossible. It also raised questions about what Jamal Lewis had left. He answered those the next week.

Week 11
Browns get a lucky bounce; effectively end Ravens' season

What I said: I called my parents after the Phil Dawson kick at the end of regulation. By the time I was done complaining, the referees had reversed themselves. Interesting.

What it meant: It was the beginning of the end for Brian Billick in Baltimore, which is justice for any old-time fan. More importantly, Josh Cribbs broke out like never before, and teams had to at least consider not kicking to him. It also showed you could never, ever turn a Browns game off.

Week 12
No drama: Browns close out Texans

What I said: A few weeks ago, some wondered if Jamal Lewis was done. Well, he's not. In the second half, he wore down a tired Texans defense and scored a clinching touchdown. He saw the finish line after Brandon McDonald's fourth quarter interception, and decided it was up to him to send the Browns fans home happy.

What it meant: It moved the Browns into the upper echelon of contenders in the AFC at 7-4. It also showed they could win a game without sending us out for anti-anxiety drugs.

Week 13
Pushed around Browns can't get out of their own way in Arizona

What I said: When it started, you hoped the game would be the like the one against the Rams. Down 14-0, the Browns would rally and win. Instead, the game was like week 3 against the Raiders, where the Browns did everything to give the game away, but still had a chance to win on the final play.

What it meant: The Browns were not quite there, showing they could still lose to teams worse than them. It was also a bit of foreshadowing, with Derek Anderson playing (to that point) his worst game of the season. It was remarkable, however that by the letter of NFL rules, the Browns should have beat the Cardinals.

Week 14
Jamal carries Browns over Jets

What I said: Jamal Lewis has earned all his money this year. Barring a disaster (always possible with this franchise) he will rush for 1,000 yards. But the most important plays are not the ones that always show up.

What it meant: The Browns 5-0 after a loss. But it also showed what Lewis was capable of, as he carried the Browns (and a few Jets defenders) into a good spot.

Week 15
While I freeze, Browns please against Bills

What I said: And why not believe? If the Browns can win in a December blizzard, if that defense --that defense -- can shut out Buffalo without forcing a turnover, why can't this team do something great.

What it meant: The Browns appeared to be on the verge of a playoff run after surviving blizzard conditions. There was no one in that frozen stadium who didn't think the Browns were at least a wild card team.

Week 16
Bad Derek returns, crushes Browns playoff hopes

What I said: The memory I'll have of this game is Anderson grabbing his head after another ridiculous interception. He was "bad Derek," today, no doubt.

What it meant: The Browns lost control of their destiny, and for that matter, their season. The game really was a must-win, and everyone played like it except Anderson, starting whispers for Brady Quinn -- which had not been heard since September.

Week 17
Season ends when Indianapolis throws in towel

What I said: The Browns did more than any of us could have expected this year. And maybe it was better for the fans if the last memory of this season was Derek Anderson and the offense in victory formation.

What it meant: The Browns' 20-7 win over the 49ers was meaningless, but the season ended on something of a high note. Hopefully this is the start of a run, and not a blip on the radar.

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