Off the Bye

Since my Brownies were getting some much needed (and, might I add, well deserved) rest and relaxation last weekend, I decided I could take some time off too. Thus, I delayed blogging my jubilation over our glorious triumph over the Ravens. (You may think referring to the Browns win over the Ravens as a “glorious triumph” is a tidbit melodramatic here… I can assure you, it’s not. The Browns victory over the reigning Super Bowl Champions was glorious, heavenly, and all other wonderful things.) I also delayed my thoughts on our upcoming battle with the Cincinnati Bengals. (Again, no melodrama.) Indeed, this weekend’s showdown is a battle—one act in the ongoing war between the teams of the AFC North. The outcome of that war will determine which team’s campaign continues into December, and who gets to sit on their couches eating Cheetos and watching the Broncos win the Super Bowl. (That’s right. That’s my prediction. Deal with it.)

Anyway, I am getting WAAAAAAY ahead of myself. Back to the Browns’ GLORIOUS TRIUMPH (never going to get sick of saying it…) over the Baltimore Ravens.

1. I’m Sorry.

First, before I do anything else, I must apologize. You see, I have been terribly mean to two men who deserve my sincerest remorse. Davone Bess. Greg Little. I am SO sorry. Please forgive me. I called you awful. (Actually, in Greg Little’s case, I may have said worse.) But, I was wrong. Usually when I am wrong I buy my friends “I’m sorry” macarons. I’m not going to do that here, but you know, mental macarons to both of you. Muah!

You see, both of these men have suffered from severe Ball Dropsy this season. (Ball Dropsy, n. An unfortunate ailment that makes wide receivers incapable of performing their job functions. Side effects include making diehard fans scream at their TVs and then wish not-so-nice things upon your head.) But not against Baltimore! Bess caught two touchdown passes and made an awe inspiring fourth down catch in the fourth quarter that guaranteed Baltimore would not have time to mount a comeback. Little had a career high seven receptions for 122 yards, often extending possessions that resulted in points for the Browns. (Little also survived a weird choking incident at the hands of Ravens safety James Ihedigbo that is now being referred to as Choke-gate. Side Question—Why do we feel the need to “gate” everything these days? Enough already.) Anyway, Bess and Little totally brought it against Baltimore, and I apologize to them for my lack of faith and occasional verbal haranguing. It was clearly uncalled for (well, maybe not, but we’ll let that slide), and I look forward to watching them both play this Sunday!

2. The 5 Stages of Browns Fandom/Grief

I had the unusual pleasure of watching the Browns play the Ravens from Denver. (I was in Colorado being sworn in as an attorney. Because, you know, even Batman has a day job.) Anyway, I got to watch the game with my mother-in-law and several of my husband’s siblings. This was probably somewhat of a “go see the animals at the zoo” experience for them. See, Broncos fans are used to winning. They watch football with a calm, assuredness that I have never before experienced and do not know how to summon.

So, that Sunday the Broncos were on a bye, and my in-laws really got to witness true Browns fandom in all its glory. When Jason Campbell went down with a rib injury, they saw my whole special (read: borderline psychotic) reaction. Browns fans know what I’m talking about. It’s the 5 stages of being a Browns fan, and here’s how they played out:

1. Horror—Campbell goes down, and you stare at the TV as though you have actually witnessed a terrible car accident or natural disaster. 2. Disbelief—You shake your head and try to silently convince yourself that Campbell will get up and be fine, even though you know the Browns never have that kind of good luck. 3. Anger—You scream at the TV because, no matter how legal the tackle was, that defensive player definitely made a late hit, or roughed the passer, or is just an asshole. No matter what, he sucks. 4. Unbelievably Fast Onset Depression—You put your head in your hands and resign yourself to losing your mind because no brain can comprehend this amount of bad luck. And 5. Resignation/Acceptance—You watch Weeden run onto the football field and accept the fact that the Browns are going to lose this game and every other game for the rest of the season.

But, wait! After Weeden (shockingly!) went three and out, and the defense managed to keep Baltimore from scoring, Campbell ran back onto the field. And for maybe the first time since the Browns came back to Cleveland, there was a moment of luck. A beautiful, precious moment of luck. And that good fortune followed Jason Campbell throughout the rest of the game. He played like a boss, completing over 65% of his passes, throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns, and racking up a QB rating of 116.6! So Jason Campbell, you are the man! (Please don’t ever scare me like that ever again!)

3. MVP! MVP! MVP!

After his awesome performance, you might think that I would declare Jason Campbell the MVP of the Browns game against the Ravens. But, while he was awesome, another person deserves this honor: Rob Chudzinski.

I feel like I am witnessing something I haven’t seen in Cleveland in a long time—a coach that actually believes that this team can win. And not only does Chud seem to believe the Browns are winners, he calls the game that way. The Browns, more than any other NFL team this season, go for it on fourth down. In fact, the Browns have attempted to extend their offense on fourth down 19 times so far this season. But here’s the thing. The Browns don’t just lead in fourth down attempts, they have also been successful on fourth down more than any other team—more than 50% of the time. Why does this make Chud awesome? Because it is indicative of his faith in his players and their talent. And it is clear he has made them believe in themselves as well.

Now this may sound corny to you. But there is a reason we love to watch Remember the Titans, and Major League, and every other sappy sports movie Hollywood makes. We all want to believe the impossible is actually possible, that a coach can come in and take a bunch of guys who never win and turn them into champions. And for the first time, Chud has done that–for his players, for Browns fans, and for me. I actually believe the Browns might win on Sunday. And that is awesome!

And also terrifying, but I’m trying to be positive, so let’s move on…

Here’s what I want to see when the Browns play the Bengals:

4. 3 from D

I want to see the Browns defense do 3 things. First, Joe Haden needs to shut down A.J. Green. This shouldn’t be a problem. During their first matchup this season, Haden kept Green from even being relevant. I expect the same result during this meeting.

Second, the defense needs to blitz, blitz, blitz. For the past few weeks Andy Dalton has been running down the path to self-destruction. If the Browns bring the pressure early and throw Dalton off his game, there is good reason to believe he won’t be able to recover, which will give the Browns offense plenty of chances to score.

Third, the defense needs to shut down the Bengals on third down. The. Browns defense has struggled on third down all season, but they looked considerably better against the Ravens during the last game. I expect to see continued improvement in this area as we progress through the second half of the season.

5. 3 from O

I want to see three things from the Browns offense. First, I don’t want to see any dropped passes. Second, I want to see excellent O-line protection. Which leads to my third point, which I offer up as a prayer, a Hail Mary if you will–I want to see Jason Campbell make it through the game without injury. Because let’s be real. Without him, we have no offense.

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