Yesterday I wrote that the Browns’ game against New England would be an “acid test.” Today the Browns passed that test, and in smashing fashion. They pulverized the Patriots, who came into the game with the best record in the NFL, 34-14.
There was a lot to like about this game. Offensively, the Browns were aggressive and took the game to the Patriots. The Browns’ offensive line was stellar. On running plays they smashed the New England defensive line, and Peyton Hillis — a big back who can deliver a crushing blow at the point of impact, yet who is nimble enough to hurdle a tackler or get far downfield and catch the ball on the wheel route — blew through the Patriots for more than 180 yards and two touchdowns. (Brady Quinn’s greatest contribution to the Browns was being traded for this guy!) The line also provided good pass protection, and Colt McCoy played a careful, error-free game that featured a brilliant scrambling run for a touchdown. On that play, Joshua Cribbs delivered a de-cleating, pancake block. Cribbs also played a key role in the Browns’ other touchdown, where he handed off from the wildcat formation on a modified fumblerooski play that caught the Patriots totally off-guard.
On defense, the Browns forced key turnovers and also kept Tom Brady and his corps of receivers off their games. The Browns’ ever-changing and inventive (some might say downright weird) defensive formations and schemes clearly bugged Brady. Having to deal with no down lineman sets, then three-lineman sets, then corner blitzes, acted on Brady like a combination of itching powder and atomic balm in his jockstrap. He seemed irritated and frustrated throughout the game. The Patriots’ offense, one of the better offensive units in the NFL, was never able to get untracked.
Of course, this is just one win for the Browns, who are still only 3-5 — but it is a very satisfying win. Let’s hope the Browns have found their stride. Next up is the New York Jets, next Sunday.