COMMENTARY | What a difference a week can make.
It was just one Monday ago that the Cleveland Browns had possibly the worst offense in the NFL. Since that time, the team traded away arguably its most talented player, Cleveland appointed a third-string quarterback as starter in place of the injured Brandon Weeden, and, oh yeah, the Browns also defeated the Minnesota Vikings. One result alone does not make or break a season for any football team, but I'm confident in saying that everybody who has followed the Browns would agree on one thing:
Mondays aren't so bad following a Cleveland victory on Sunday.
Five thoughts on the Browns beating the Vikings: A reminder
Somewhat lost in the excitement caused by the Cleveland offense finding the end zone multiple times in a single game was that the defense of the Browns put in another commendable performance. Ignore that the Vikings put 30 points on the scoreboard, as they were given a big assist in four Cleveland turnovers. Adrian Peterson was held to 88 rushing yards on 25 carries, and the Browns thrice stopped the Vikings in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.
One could argue that the play of the game was made by Cleveland defensive back Buster Skrine. Kyle Rudolph was streaking toward the first down marker halfway through the fourth quarter when Skrine made an ankle tackle that prevented the Vikings from continuing their drive. Rather than Cleveland being deflated and Minnesota having the ability to erase at least a couple of more minutes off the clock, the Vikings had to give the ball back to the Browns. That Skrine tackle eliminated what could have been a massive momentum shift, one that likely would have changed the outcome of the game.
Five thoughts on the Browns beating the Vikings: Rookie savior
The Browns going with rookie punter Spencer Lanning before the end of preseason looks like a stroke of genius after September 22. Lanning threw a touchdown on a fake field goal, he kicked an extra point while filling in for the injured Billy Cundiff, and he also had a nice afternoon booting the ball down the field. Outside of QB Brian Hoyer, wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron, Lanning was Cleveland's MVP in the team's first victory of the season.
Five thoughts on the Browns beating the Vikings: Three
That is the amount of times the previously mentioned Hoyer was sacked by the Vikings. Minnesota recorded seven QB hits on Sunday. To compare, Weeden has been sacked an average of 5.5 times per game in 2013. In fairness to Weeden, the Cleveland offensive line wasn't nearly as inexcusable when protecting Hoyer as it was in the team's first two games of the campaign. More important, however, was Hoyer's ability to get rid of the football quickly and without hesitation. That trait as much as anything else could ultimately be why Weeden's Cleveland career came to a screeching halt on Sunday.
Five thoughts on the Browns beating the Vikings: Still a problem
Hoyer or no Hoyer, Cleveland without Trent Richardson looks to have zero rushing attack. The team's leading rusher against the Vikings was defensive back Josh Aubrey, who gained 34 yards on a single play, a fake punt. It became clear once the Browns dealt Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts that the current administration wants the team's offense to go through the passing game. That's fine and all, but a team needs to have either a serviceable running game or an elite quarterback in order to compete against top-tier opponents. The Browns have neither at the start of the fall season.
Five thoughts on the Browns beating the Vikings: Don't look now...
but the AFC North isn't all that great. The Cincinnati Bengals gave a game away against the Chicago Bears, and they were somewhat gifted a victory when hosting the Green Bay Packers yesterday. While still good, the Baltimore Ravens aren't the team that won the Super Bowl last season, and I'm not convinced that they aren't average, at best, when not playing at home. The Pittsburgh Steelers are absolutely awful, a side that could be on the cusp of some major changes.
The Cleveland team that took it to Minnesota can hang with any division opponent. It's now on head coach Rob Chudzinski to make sure we see that Browns team every week, and that the win over the Vikings wasn't merely a one-off. Cleveland let loose, had some fun, rallied from behind, and then stopped Minnesota cold in the closing seconds of the game.
All of that will mean little, though, if the Browns of Weeks 1 and 2 of the 2013 season return next weekend when Cleveland hosts the Bengals.
Zac has been following Cleveland sports since a little before his birth, and thus his heart breaks a little more with every year. He has been covering the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and the NFL for Yahoo Sports since 2010
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