Keys to Cleveland Browns' First Victory

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For the fourth time in as many games this season the Browns managed a fourth quarter lead. This week, however, the Browns were able to make the leap and finally finish a game with some quality play. The biggest problem for the Browns so far this season has been an inability to score in the second half, which was the key on Sunday as they put up 10 second half points including a fourth quarter touchdown. While the Browns looked good in their first win of the season there are still many negatives mixed in with the positives for Cleveland, a quarter of the way through the season.

  • For the first time the Browns were able to limit major mistakes and capitalize on the mistakes they forced the Bengals into. So far this season the Browns have had trouble with penalties and turnovers which were not as  big of a deal on Sunday. The Browns limited themselves to 44 yards in penalties, about half of the Bengals 79 yards, while winning the turnover battle 2-1.
  • Despite the relatively strong and clean game played by the Browns they were still dominated through the air. Carson Palmer was 25-36 for 346 yards and seemed to be able to find any receiver at any time. Eric Wright had some decent plays but on the whole still had trouble for the second consecutive week. Sheldon Brown and T.J. Ward were not immune either from mistakes in coverage. I don’t think that the overall talent level for the Browns’ secondary is a problem, but until Joe Haden gets comfortable on an NFL field the Browns lack a top corner who can come close to covering a top receiver.
  • Despite the weak showing in the passing game, the rush defense and pass rush were fairly effective. The Browns held the Bengals to 3.7 yards per carry for 67 yards while also tallying five tackles for a loss and four sacks. Despite this success, the Browns still seem to lack a true play maker in the front seven. There is no one that the offense has to key on and worry about either in run defense or the pass rush. Until the defense is able to get or develop a true play maker it will be difficult to consistently stop top teams from scoring
  • Offensively the team continues to be balanced and to get solid play at the quarterback position. The differences at QB from the past few years to this year are quite noticeable and Jake Delhomme has still played in just one game. Seneca Wallace had another good outing today showing that he has the ability to make plays with his arm and to limit his mistakes. While he did throw an interception, he was sacked only once and spread the ball to seven different receivers.
  • The running game lead by Peyton Hillis was big yet again for the Browns going for 116 yards. The key difference from weeks past was the ability for this offense to grind out yards and kill the clock in crunch time. It will be interesting to see how the running game develops as Jerome Harrison gets back to form and whether or not he will get a sizable portion of the carry load. Hillis has overcome his fumble problems and shown he is an effective all around back that has huge value for Cleveland moving forward, leaving Harrison to fit in as a change of pace back for the Browns looking ahead.
  • Despite the overall lack of big play talent on offense the Browns still have trouble creating touches for their two players who are most talented in this area, Josh Cribbs and Mohammed Massaquoi. Massaquoi and Cribbs combined for just six touches on Sunday and just three catches. With Cribbs, the Browns need to be more creative and run more bubble screens, drags, and pitches for Cribbs to get him the ball in space and allow him to make plays. With regard to both Massaquoi and Cribbs it seems that this team could also take more chances down field on early downs, especially with the effective running game they have paraded out on the field so far this season.

All in all this was a solid performance for the Browns who struck the win column for the first time. I am excited to see this season develop and see if they will be able to continue developing and finding fixes for their outstanding weaknesses.