AFC North: MNF6 Giants

Browns keep their season alive

October, 14, 2008
10/14/08
1:29
AM ET
 
 Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
 Cleveland's Derek Anderson rebounds in a big way with 310 yards passing and two touchdowns Monday night.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CLEVELAND -- It took six weeks, but the real Cleveland Browns -- the team everyone expected heading into the 2008 season -- finally showed up Monday.

The Browns pounded the reigning Super Bowl champion Giants 35-14 in front of a sellout crowd of 73,102 and a national audience of millions on "Monday Night Football."

Cleveland had its highest point total of the season and played its most complete game against arguably the NFL's best team. The performance showed what the Browns potentially could be if they can remain consistent and stay healthy.

"It's the guys I've been telling you about," Browns quarterback Derek Anderson said of his team. "I never doubted it -- ever. It's the same guys that made plays last year all season."

Here are three things we learned about Cleveland in the victory:

1. Anderson should remain the starting quarterback
After three consecutive losses to start the season, Anderson was put on a short leash by Cleveland's coaching staff. The losses were not all on Anderson, but replacing the quarterback is usually the easiest thing for teams to do to shake things up.

But coming off a Pro Bowl year, the Browns' brass did not want to give up on their starting quarterback too soon. It turned out to be a great move as Anderson has found a way to win his last two starts. He had one of his best performances of his career on Monday, throwing for 310 yards, two touchdowns and holding a 121.3 passer rating against the Giants.

"It's good, because I've put the work in and it was kind of like beating my head against the wall every weekend," Anderson said. "You put in the long weeks of work and you don't see the results, but then to see it tonight was just huge."

Anderson's performance can be closely tied to the stellar play of receiver Braylon Edwards, who also had his best game of the season.

The Giants played a lot of man-to-man defense, which gave Edwards opportunities to make big plays. Catches of 70 and 49 yards, as well as an 11-yard touchdown reception, highlighted his five-catch, 154-yard night.

2. Cleveland's defense is getting better
The Browns spent all season in the top half of the NFL rankings in total defense. But the unit wasn't making many game-changing plays and some saw it as a fašade.

Against New York, Cleveland's defense did make game-changing plays, which included three interceptions of Giants quarterback Eli Manning. The biggest turnover was cornerback Eric Wright's 94-yard interception return that gave Cleveland a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter and sealed the game.

"We really just focused on playing sound and solid and not giving them anything cheap," Wright said. "We have the athletes where, if we play our responsibilities and do the things that we should do, we can compete against anybody."

The Giants were able to run the ball successfully (181 yards, 7.2-yard average). But Cleveland's offense continually put points on the board to negate the Browns' biggest weakness. With New York forced to pass, Cleveland pressured and rattled Manning.

"We played solid all four quarters," Browns DT Corey Williams said. "If we keep playing solid like that for four quarters on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, we'll put up a lot of points."

3. The Browns are still in it
The Baltimore Ravens (2-3) lost their third-consecutive game Sunday and the Steelers (4-1) were on a bye. The Browns gained some ground on both teams that were ahead of them in the AFC North.

Twelve of the 16 teams in the AFC have at least two victories. Cleveland is now among them.

There's a lot of football left. If anything, the Browns proved after Monday's win that anything and everything is possible in the NFL.

"Every time you can win a game, that helps your team's confidence," Browns head coach Romeo Crennel said. "I think the fact that we were able to beat an undefeated team, going forward we can tell them that 'You can play against any team.'"

Rapid Reaction: Browns 35, Giants 14

October, 13, 2008
10/13/08
11:58
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CLEVELAND -- Every under-Dawg has its day in the NFL.

Facing a must-win situation, the Cleveland Browns showed plenty of bark and plenty of fight Monday, beating the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants 35-14. The Browns keep their postseason hopes alive with the victory.

It was the final upset of weekend that had plenty. The Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos all suffered unexpected defeats in the past 24 hours.

For the Browns (2-3), this win keeps Cleveland's season alive. A loss would have dropped Cleveland to 1-4 and essentially ended hopes of vying for a playoff spot in the deep AFC.

Cleveland starting quarterback Derek Anderson also had a stellar game, throwing for 310 yards and two touchdowns. That should also quiet speculation of a quarterback change.

The Browns will aim to get to .500 next week on the road against the Washington Redskins (4-2).

Browns taking control vs. Giants

October, 13, 2008
10/13/08
11:08
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CLEVELAND -- The Browns continue to make plays and are putting a lot of pressure on the New York Giants.

Receiver Braylon Edwards scored an 11-yard touchdown reception to give Cleveland a 27-14 fourth-quarter lead over the Giants. The Browns have led for most of the night and are in the process of putting together their most complete game of the season.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning and New York's offense has sputtered in the second half but will attempt a comeback.

Update: Manning throws his third interception of the game and it is returned 94 yards by Browns cornerback Eric Wright for a touchdown. A two-point conversion gives Cleveland a 35-14 lead, sealing the game.

Giants-Browns halftime notes

October, 13, 2008
10/13/08
10:19
PM ET
 
 AP Photo/Mark Duncan
 Braylon Edwards and the Browns lead the Giants, 17-14, at halftime Monday. Edwards has 129 yards receiving in the first half.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CLEVELAND -- The Browns lead their "Monday Night Football" matchup against the New York Giants, 17-14, at the half.

Some thoughts through two quarters:

  • Cleveland's offense is resembling last year's explosive group. Quarterback Derek Anderson had two big connections with receiver Braylon Edwards of 70 and 49 yards. And tailback Jamal Lewis is providing balance on the ground, rushing for 39 yards on 11 carries. New York is playing a lot of man-to-man coverages, which has opened up the deep ball for Cleveland.
  • The Browns learned something from their win over the Bengals two weeks ago. They are more aggressive defensively with their blitz packages, particularly on third downs. A key blitz in the first-quarter caused an interception of Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
  • The Giants entered the week No. 1 in the NFL with 8 yards-per-carry and are having similar success on the ground in this game. New York has 66 rushing yards and averaging 6 yards per attempt.
  • New York receiver Plaxico Burress is into the game. Following a one-game suspension, he has two catches for 28 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly for the Giants, he's playing hard, running good routes and is being vocal on the field, which shows his head is in the game.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CLEVELAND -- This is a big week for Derek Anderson and his longterm status as Cleveland's starting quarterback.

So far, so good.

Anderson, who has been looking over his shoulder in recent weeks, is playing his best stretch of the season and getting rid of the football quickly against the New York Giants. He has thrown for 225 yards at the two-minute mark of the second quarter, including a pair of big completions to receiver Braylon Edwards and a touchdown throw to tight end Darnell Dinkins to give Cleveland a 17-7 lead.

Fans should not expect to see Browns backup Brady Quinn play tonight with Anderson playing extremely well.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CLEVELAND -- New York Giants tailback Brandon Jacobs said during the week that it was a "bad move" for Cleveland's defense to talk trash.

Jacobs showed why Monday night.

The burly tailback scored New York's first touchdown and collected another victim along the way, running over Browns safety Mike Adams. Browns defensive lineman Corey Williams had some harsh words for Jacobs during the week.

Meanwhile, the Browns are throwing caution to the wind. Receiver Braylon Edwards got past Giants cornerback Aaron Ross for the second time to set up Cleveland's first touchdown. Jamal Lewis scored on a 4-yard run.

The Browns lead 10-7 as both quarterbacks and running games are clicking. Could we be headed for a shootout?

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CLEVELAND -- The Browns offense came into this week as the worst-rated unit in the league in yards per game.

But under the bright lights of "Monday Night Football," Cleveland's offense looked sharp and showed some resemblance to last year's version.

The Browns drove 69 yards on the opening series to take a 3-0 lead over the New York Giants after Phil Dawson nailed a 28-yard field goal. Receiver Braylon Edwards caught a 49-yard slant in the key play of the drive.

Getting on the board early is crucial for the Browns, who have made a habit of playing from behind most of this season.

Browns and Giants inactives

October, 13, 2008
10/13/08
7:41
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CLEVELAND -- Here are the inactives for Monday night's game between the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants.

Browns

QB Ken Dorsey

DB Sean Jones

DB Hamza Abdullah

OL Kevin Shaffer

OL Scott Young

TE Kellen Winslow

TE Martin Rucker

DL Shaun Smith

Giants

K Lawrence Tynes

S Sammy Knight

RB Danny Ware

CB Sam Madison

LB Jonathan Golf

OT Adam Koets

DE Dave Tollefson

WR Sinorice Moss

Metcalf likes what he sees in Cribbs

October, 13, 2008
10/13/08
5:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CLEVELAND -- Former Pro Bowl returner Eric Metcalf can relate to the type of special teams returns he's seen from the Browns the past couple years.

It is often said that Joshua Cribbs is the best return man in Cleveland since Metcalf, who had 12 career returns for touchdowns.

Metcalf agreed as he returned to Northeast Ohio during ESPN's Chalk Talk series in preparation for Monday night's game between the Browns and New York Giants.

Cribbs made his first Pro Bowl last year and has five career touchdowns.

"He's great returner," Metcalf said. "He's so exciting for the team, the fans, and he helps the offense get an opportunity for first downs. That's how I used to see it as a kick returner and a punt returner: Every time he gets 10 yards, that's a first down."

Metcalf made the trip from the West Coast to be a part of the festivities. Currently, he's coaching high school track in the Seattle area but understands Cleveland doesn't get to host a "Monday Night Football" game often.

"Definitely, when you're a kid growing up you want to be a football player, all you think about is [playing on] 'Monday Night Football,'" Metcalf said. "So it's a good feeling to be here and be a part of it."

Browns approaching breaking point

October, 12, 2008
10/12/08
11:40
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CLEVELAND -- On Columbus Day, the Cleveland Browns will attempt to discover their identity for the 2008 season.

Are they the talented collection of players that many felt were playoff contenders in the AFC? Or are the Browns an over-hyped, underachieving group that might fail to duplicate the success of the 10-win 2007 season?

The Browns and the rest of the nation will get their answer when Cleveland plays host to the undefeated New York Giants on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" (8:30 ET). The Browns, with no expectations, surprised the league last season.

At 1-3, Cleveland enters this game as significant underdogs to the Giants, who have won eight in a row and an NFL-best 11 straight road games.

 
 G Fiume/Getty Images
 

Romeo Crennel and the Cleveland Browns will learn a lot about their season Monday night against the New York Giants.

The Browns find themselves at a breaking point. It's only October, but if Cleveland wants to keep its postseason hopes alive it comes down to a one-game season against the defending champs.

"[A win] would have a lot of impact because it would put us back in the mix," Browns Pro Bowl wide receiver Braylon Edwards said. "If you look at how the [NFL] season is going right now there is a lot of up and down things happening. Everybody is really in the thick of things for the most part. If we come out and get this win, it will boost us a little bit and I definitely think it will help us moving forward toward the rest of the season."

So what happened?

How did a 10-win team with seven returning Pro Bowlers from a year ago enter a must-win situation in early October against the defending Super Bowl champions?

The Giants contributed to the demise.

In New York's 37-34 preseason win over Cleveland Aug. 18, the Giants' starters pounded the Browns starters in the first half physically and on the scoreboard. New York jumped to a 30-3 lead and knocked out starting quarterback Derek Anderson (concussion) in the process before pulling its starters.

"The Giants were playing the game like it was a regular season game, and we were playing the game like it was a preseason game," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said.

Anderson, who missed the remainder of preseason, hasn't been the same. He has twice as many interceptions (six) than touchdowns (three) and the NFL's worst passer rating (49.9) of any quarterback with at least two starts. The poor performance through four games has Anderson dangerously close to losing his starting job to 2007 first-round pick Brady Quinn.

The Browns also have never been the same.

(Read full post)

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