Monday, November 24, 2014

View from the Dawg Pound Browns at Atlanta 23 Nov 2014

            The Browns last second 26-24 victory over Atlanta Sunday made two big statements about the state of the team: #1 This was definitely a game they would have lost in the past, but they weren’t going to; #2 Even with the last drive, Brian Hoyer is not the guy to lead the Browns to the Promised Land.
            Much good comes out of the game, especially the win and the team’s record improves to 7-4. Who would have thought that in August?  Another quality win to go along with previous victories over Bengals, the Steelers, and the Saints. The Browns did it on the ground and in the air with the return of Josh Gordon.  And they did it at crunch time, with a time management gift from the Falcons, with a classic Brian Hoyer drive and a Billy Cundiff 37 yard field goal as time expired.
            Remember, the goal for each team in the NFL is the same every season, to win the Super Bowl.  In the big picture only one team has a good season, the last team standing holding the trophy.
            The Browns are not that team this year, but can be in the near future.  Wins over teams like the Falcons are little steps to the big prize. The Browns are becoming a talented, seasoned team. Their window for big success is beginning to open. How long it will remain open is uncertain. The Browns need to make sure things are settled at quarterback.
            A lot of things are falling in place for the Browns. The culture of losing is disappearing.  After years of change and dysfunction, there is a good general manager making personnel decisions. The coaches so far appear to be the best staff in who knows how long. High draft picks, for the most part, are producing, and the current crop of rookies and free agents, again for the most part, have been solid. They have two first round picks next year. They will end this season fighting for a play off spot. The core of the team is young and talented on both sides of the ball. I know this is the Browns, and we have been conditioned to expect the worse, but when did the future ever look brighter?
In the big picture I hope that Brian Hoyer will remain part of the team. Because when the team does get deep in the playoffs, and the starting quarterback gets dinged up, there is no one else I would rather have to come off the bench for a game or two.  But to get to that point the week-by-week quarterback must be able to lead a balanced offense that includes a downfield passing attack. One of the most misleading stats this year is the Browns success with long passes. Most of the yardage has come after the ball has been caught. The Browns need someone who can throw the long ball, as well as the short stuff, consistently.
A balanced NFL offense is like an empty tick-tack-toe puzzle. The bottom three boxes represent the running game and the short passing game. The Browns have upgraded their running game tremendously over last year. The middle three boxes represent the short to medium passing game that Brian Hoyer is so good at. Play action passes, slant routes, out routes for first downs. The top three boxes represent the deep passing game, from passes in front of the safeties in zone coverage to deep routes against man-to-man coverage. It is that deep passing game a team must have in its arsenal if it is going to go deep in the playoffs, and Hoyer has yet to show that he can master. And, his history in the league, as well as with the Browns, probably shows he never will. It is time to see if the other guy can do it.
Each season for us Browns fans is a roller coaster, but usually by this time the ride would be over with. Lets enjoy the moment, there will be plenty of time in the offseason to discuss quarterbacks and draft picks and free agents. This week it’s the Bills in another crucial game and of this writing we don’t even know where the game is going to be played. There is nothing like being a Browns fan.  
We watched the game this week at Grub’s, a sports bar in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where we went to watch the Arkansas/Ole Miss game the day before. It was a great experience watching games in a football crazy place without a nearby professional team. Tables of fans all rooting for their different favorite teams. It seemed like everyone in the place, including all the waitresses, had a fantasy team or two. When it became known we were Browns fans we were bombarded with questions about Josh Gordon. It was an enjoyable day and the Browns win made it even better.

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