AFC North: Browns-Eagles

Eagles keep pushing for playoffs

December, 16, 2008
 Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
 Donovan McNabb and the Eagles have won three straight.

Posted by's James Walker

PHILADELPHIA -- Tease or contender?

Playoff bound or delaying the inevitable?

These questions still remain unanswered following the Philadelphia Eagles' easy 30-10 romp over the Cleveland Browns on "Monday Night Football." The Eagles (8-5-1) are playing their best football of the season, outscoring their last three opponents 98-44, but they remain on the outside of the NFC playoff race.

Over the past four years, the postseason has begun in December for the Eagles. This has been both a blessing and a curse during the Andy Reid-Donovan McNabb era in Philadelphia.

For whatever reason, the Eagles in recent seasons have slumped at midseason but found a way to finish strong. Sometimes it leads to a postseason berth. Other times, such as last season, the team falls short.

Philadelphia is trying desperately to avoid back-to-back non-playoff seasons for the first time under Reid. In addition to Monday's win over Cleveland, the Eagles will need to sweep a pair of NFC East rivals -- the Washington Redskins (7-7) and Dallas Cowboys (9-5) -- to have a chance.

"The players understand what's at stake," Reid said of the final two weeks. "You saw that by their effort tonight. They played a very aggressive game on both sides of the ball and special teams."

But don't read too much into Monday's victory.

Cleveland, losers of four straight, was the perfect prey for the surging Eagles. The Browns (4-10) have a coach in the hot seat, two injured quarterbacks, and they haven't scored an offensive touchdown since Nov. 17.

The Eagles were sloppy at times with three turnovers. But Philadelphia took care of business by jumping out to a 17-3 lead and never looked back. The 20-point win could have been more lopsided had the Eagles not thrown two interceptions in the end zone and pulled their starters early in the fourth quarter.

"Our guys tried," Browns head coach Romeo Crennel said. "But I don't think we have enough ammunition to match up with them."

The Eagles have been among the most schizophrenic teams in the NFL this season. The same team that blew out the Arizona Cardinals by four touchdowns on Thanksgiving lost to the Baltimore Ravens by 29 points and benched McNabb five days prior.

Now McNabb is back. He looks far removed from the lowest point of his career and put up another stellar game Monday, completing 26 of 35 passes for 290 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 105.7 passer rating.

"He's playing like he does," Reid said. "This is what Donovan McNabb is all about."

McNabb and the Eagles need to maintain this level of play. McNabb is once again playing confident football and the vintage smile is back on the face of the veteran quarterback.

"I'm always happy. I'm happy to be out here just playing football and that's the most important thing," McNabb said. "That's something I told myself no matter what situation I'm in, I'm going to have a ball out here and the people around me are going to enjoy it, too."

The Eagles will need to upend two teams that beat them earlier in the year in Washington and Dallas. Philadelphia believes it's a different team now, but a pair of wins still could leave the team sitting at home.

The Eagles also need help in the form of a loss by either the Atlanta Falcons (9-5) or Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5) in the final two weeks.

But this is usually the type of situation that brings the best out of the Eagles. Whether it works this year or it's too late remains to be seen.

Rapid Reaction: Eagles 30, Browns 10

December, 15, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

PHILADELPHIA -- If the players are still fighting for Cleveland Browns head coach Romeo Crennel, it's very difficult to tell.

The Browns put together their fourth consecutive listless performance during a 30-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on "Monday Night Football." A nationwide audience got to see the train wreck Cleveland (4-10) has become since its head coach and many others within the organization have come under fire.

Cleveland had no chance against the surging Eagles (8-5-1) with a porous defense and a third-string quarterback in Ken Dorsey (156 yards, two interceptions). The Browns have gone four consecutive weeks without an offensive touchdown, as cornerback Brandon McDonald recorded a "pick six" in the fourth quarter.

The loss broke Cleveland's two-game winning streak on "Monday Night Football." The Browns will finish their season against two division rivals in the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Another good night for McNabb

December, 15, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb is having another solid outing.

The longtime Eagle is looking sharp in tonight's 30-3 rout over the Cleveland Browns. McNabb so far has thrown for 290 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Jason Avant has been the target of choice with five catches for 101 receiving yards so far.

At this point, the Browns are simply trying to get out of Philadelphia with no more injuries or embarrassment.

Update [11:08]: With under 10 minutes remaining in the game, McNabb has come out and backup quarterback Kevin Kolb has come in.

Browns' Heiden out for game

December, 15, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

PHILADELPHIA -- The Cleveland Browns likely suffered another serious injury Monday as starting tight end Steve Hieden hurt his right knee and ankle.

Heiden, who recently replaced the injured Kellen Winslow Jr., went down in the third quarter and needed to be carted off the field. With just two games remaining, his prospects for the rest of the season look grim.

Backup tight ends Darnell Dinkins and Martin Rucker will replace Heiden for the rest of the game. The Eagles are cruising 23-3.

Browns' Dorsey struggling again

December, 15, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

PHILADELPHIA -- The rout is on at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Philadelphia Eagles have been dominant, marching up and down the field and taking a 17-3 lead in the second quarter.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Ken Dorsey is being battered for the second straight week. He gave up a "pick six" to Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel, has been sacked once, and hit several more times.

You wonder if the Browns are due for a quarterback change in the second half? The team signed Bruce Gradkowski recently and hasn't scored an offensive touchdown since Nov. 17.

Eagles strike at Browns early

December, 15, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles, as heavy favorites, are doing exactly what they should against the struggling Cleveland Browns on "Monday Night Football."

Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb connected for a 14-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Curtis to complete an eight-play, 64-yard drive to take an early 7-0 lead.

With playoff hopes on the line, the Eagles do not want to let the Browns hang around for a potential upset. It will be interesting to see if Philadelphia puts Cleveland away early.

Browns-Eagles inactives

December, 15, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

PHILADELPHIA -- Here are the inactives for Monday night's game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns.


QB A.J. Feeley

RB Lorenzo Booker

LB Joe Mays

DE Bryan Smith

OT Chris Patrick

OG/T Shawn Andrews

WR Reggie Brown

TE Matt Schobel


CB Travis Daniels

RB Jerome Harrison

S Hamza Abdullah

LB Kris Griffin

LB Beau Bell

OL Scott Young

TE Kellen Winslow Jr.

DL Santonio Thomas

Browns under review

December, 14, 2008
 AP Photo/Tony Dejak
 Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage remain on the hot seat in Cleveland.

Posted by's James Walker

There is a large cloud of uncertainty hanging over the Cleveland Browns' organization.

That cloud involves the futures of Browns head coach Romeo Crennel, general manager Phil Savage and many of the team's top players. Last year at this time Cleveland (4-9) was considered a team on the rise. Now it is merely a sinking ship. Such is life in the NFL, where yesterday's darlings can quickly become today's disappointments.

As major changes loom, a national audience will get to see one of the final chapters of the 2008 Cleveland Browns on "Monday Night Football" (ESPN, 8:30 ET) when they travel to face the Philadelphia Eagles. Cleveland has lost three straight and mercifully ends its run of five prime-time games this season.

Following a 10-6 record in 2007, expectations were very high. As a result, Browns owner Randy Lerner recently said the entire organization is under review.

Here are some of the decisions facing Lerner and the Browns:

Keep or fire Crennel?

It's assumed that Crennel will not be back with the Browns next year, despite Lerner's assertion that he will wait until the end of the year to make a decision.

There have been reports of preliminary interest in former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher and longtime head coach Marty Schottenheimer. Cleveland likely wants to go the route of searching for an experienced coach who is a proven winner, and Cowher and Schottenheimer are the biggest names available.

"Randy has said that he's going to wait until the end of the season to make any kind of determination," Crennel said of his situation last week. "I think that we're going to go through the season and then we're going to sit down and talk and see where that leads."

Although many of Cleveland's players are pulling for Crennel, his resume will not look good by the end of the season. He is 24-37 entering Monday's game against Philadelphia (7-5-1). Crennel also has struggled in areas such as game and clock management, and his defense, which is his specialty, has never been ranked higher than No. 16 in four seasons.

Keep or fire Savage?

Savage's circumstance is less predictable. Browns ownership has three choices: Keep Savage, fire him or ask him to take a lesser role with the organization.

The Browns were building from the ground up when Savage took over as GM in 2005. It took two years to gut the roster and bring in his own players, and last year's 10-win season was expected to be the beginning of a good run.

Savage has deemed 2008 an aberration. But in reality, Cleveland has only had one 10-win season since returning to the NFL in 1999. Savage shares the same record as his coach at 24-37, and a loss Monday would cement three double-digit losing seasons in four years. The draft record for Savage is decent.

Savage found a franchise left tackle (Joe Thomas) and potentially a franchise quarterback (Brady Quinn). But former first-round picks in receiver Braylon Edwards and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley have been inconsistent. Some high-priced free-agents, such as tackle Kevin Shaffer and receiver Donte Stallworth, haven't panned out, while the trade for defensive tackle Shaun Rogers did.

This is what makes Savage's situation a more thought-provoking decision for Lerner. Savage has added talent, but he's also proven he's still a young GM learning on the job. In addition to his misses, high-profile mistakes such as the handling of Kellen Winslow Jr.'s staph infection and his e-mail that included profanity to a fan doesn't help his case.

"I said on the radio ... that I am an open book," said Savage, who has four years left on his deal. "I can walk with my head held high. I think we have done a lot of positive things here."

What about player changes?

Whether it's Savage or someone else making the decisions, that person will have to hit the ground running this offseason.

Players such as Winslow and former starting quarterback Derek Anderson could be on the trading block. The Browns also have starters who are pending free agents in safety Sean Jones and linebackers Willie McGinest and Andra Davis. Edwards and kick returner Joshua Cribbs, both under contract, could seek new deals in the near future.

The past 365 days have provided a hard lesson for this franchise. Next time the nation sees the Browns, it could be a totally different team based on its shoddy performance this year.

"I think the lesson learned for a lot of our players is that every season is a new season," Savage said. "It doesn't matter what you did last year. It doesn't matter what you are planning on doing next year. It matters what you are doing today."

Scouts Inc. on Jamal Lewis

December, 10, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

In this week's visit to the film room, we take a look at the struggling Jamal Lewis, who had just seven carries for 7 yards in Sunday's loss to the Tennessee Titans.


Here is comprehensive film analysis from Scouts Inc.'s Keith Kidd:

"Nothing is going right in Cleveland that revolves around the offensive side of the ball. Let's face it, no team in the NFL is equipped to handle the adversity of losing both the starting the quarterback (Brady Quinn) and the backup (Derek Anderson) in the same season and expect to survive. On top of that, the offensive line has not been real consistent either this year. Let's take a deeper look at Jamal Lewis. Based on last week's performance, it was obvious that the Titans were going to stack the line-of-scrimmage and force Ken Dorsey to beat them through the air. So the running game wasn't an effective option in this game. With that said, Lewis still has very good size and strength as a runner. He is still light on his feet with good quickness, balance and control for his size. He's best suited as a downhill runner that keeps his legs and knees moving on contact. But he doesn't look to have the lateral slide, quickness and speed to consistently get out on the edges. To me, he is still a good first- and second-down running back in the NFL who is best suited running behind a fullback in the Browns' standard two-back base offense."