Earlier this season I wrote off the Browns and decided to keep my Sundays to myself. Two weeks ago, however, the Browns limped in to New Orleans with a 1-5 record and somehow came out with an impressive win over the defending Super Bowl champions. They did it by forcing turnovers, scoring on defense, pounding the ball on the ground, and pulling just about every play imaginable out of the playbook. The unexpected win has encouraged some Browns fans — who are desperate for good news — to believe that the team has turned a corner.
I saw a bit of the win over the Saints, and the Browns played well, but one game does not a season make. The Browns had a bye last week, and the banged-up team has had a chance to heal. This week they have a tough game, at home, against the 6-1 New England Patriots. If the Browns want to make a statement about where the franchise is headed, this is the week to do it.
If the Browns hope to beat the Patriots, the defense will have to play like it did against the Saints. It will have to force turnovers and confuse Tom Brady. It isn’t clear whether Seneca Wallace or Colt McCoy will start at quarterback, but the real key to the Browns offense will be the offensive line and big back Peyton Hillis. If the line can get a push and Hillis can successfully pound away at the Patriots defense, keeping the Patriots offense off the field, that will be more than half the battle. Against the Saints the Browns were able to grind away on the ground, racking up crucial first downs and milking the clock.
This week will be an acid test for the Browns. Was the win against the Saints a fluke? Or, was it the start of a turnaround?