COMMENTARY | The Cleveland Browns are back on the map.
At 3-2 after a solid 37-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills on October 3, the Browns are alone atop the AFC North standings for the first time in nearly 11 years. A season that looked lost after the September 18 trade of running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts now holds some very real potential for the Browns to make a legitimate stab at their first winning season since 2007.
Even though Cleveland dealt with their fair share of adversity against Buffalo, the Browns were able to overcome an early 10-0 deficit and the loss of starting quarterback Brian Hoyer to a first-quarter knee injury in rallying to defeat the Bills.
With this win, Cleveland is bound to be more on the radar of football fans who watched this nationally-televised matchup between two teams that have been disappointing for way too long. The Browns team they saw on this night was a calm and confident unit unlike any I've seen in recent years.
That cool demeanor was evident even in beleaguered quarterback Brandon Weeden. After Hoyer was hurt on Cleveland's second drive, Weeden entered the game, much to the dismay of Browns fans. A pair of incompletions brought out the boo birds, and it looked possible the Browns would be in for a rough night with Weeden at the helm.
Then something funny happened.
Weeden seemed to make better decisions in this game than he has at any point in his two-year NFL career. His throws on intermediate routes were for the most part accurate, and he really didn't force the ball into double or triple coverage at any point in the game, despite the fact that he once again faced heavy pressure from an opposing pass rush.
The end result for this new, relaxed Weeden was a pretty solid performance with 197 yards through the air and a 37-yard touchdown strike to Josh Gordon. Hopefully, he can keep playing like this, because depending on the severity of Hoyer's injury, Weeden could be the man leading Cleveland's offense on October 13 against the Detroit Lions.
Regardless of who is manning the controls of the Cleveland offense against the Lions, one thing is certainly apparent five games into 2013 -- this is a Browns team that is no pushover.
Though the Browns' defense was shaky at times against Buffalo, they took care of business after Bills starter E.J. Manuel was knocked out of the game in the third quarter. That, along with the dynamic punt returning abilities of speedster Travis Benjamin showed that the Browns have the potential to play quality football in every aspect of the game.
After years of futility, it looks like this Browns team has the heart and talent to open up the eyes of more and more folks around the NFL as the 2013 season wears on.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Browns for over 25 years.
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