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The Cleveland Browns may have revived their season with an upset of the defending Super Bowl champions. Now they have a chance to generate more momentum when they try to knock off a tough NFC East team for the second straight week.
The Browns look to build on their big victory and even their record when they face the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on Sunday.
A popular pick to win the AFC North this season after going 10-6 and just missing the playoffs last year, Cleveland (2-3) was a major disappointment through its first four games, getting outscored 78-46 and losing its first three contests before knocking off lowly Cincinnati on Sept. 28.
The red-hot New York Giants came to Cleveland for the Browns’ first Monday night game in five years, and few gave the hosts much of a chance of winning. Instead, Cleveland turned in its best performance of the year, winning 35-14 to deal the Giants their first loss in five games this season.
“This springboards us into our second season,” said receiver Braylon Edwards, who caught five passes for a career-high 154 yards and two touchdowns. “The first three losses are over. We have 11 games left to play like we did tonight.”
Derek Anderson, who before last week was on the verge of losing his starting job, went 18-for-29 for 310 yards - 225 in the first half - as Cleveland was able to insulate him from New York’s usually ferocious pass rush. Anderson wasn’t sacked in the game and faced very little pressure.
The Browns racked up 454 yards of offense, and didn’t punt for the first time since 1995. Coach Romeo Crennel, however, didn’t want to overstate the importance of the win.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “The season is still a long season and just because we won one game it doesn’t put us in the playoffs. We’re not even .500.”
Crennel’s team committed 10 penalties for 55 yards, a problem that has plagued the Browns all season. Cleveland has been called for 52 penalties, tied for fourth-most in the NFL.
Still, Crennel had to be happy with the stunning all-around performance by the Browns. Eric Wright was named AFC defensive player of the week for returning an interception 94 yards for a touchdown, one of three Cleveland interceptions of Eli Manning, who was limited to 192 yards passing.
Now the Browns will try to duplicate that effort against Washington (4-2), a team that was on the wrong end of an equally shocking result last week.
Coming off back-to-back road victories over Dallas and Philadelphia, the Redskins returned home to face winless St. Louis with a chance for their fifth straight win. Washington’s offense, though, committed its first three turnovers of the season, and Josh Brown kicked a 49-yard field goal on the last play to give the Rams a 19-17 victory.
Washington was playing as a huge favorite for the first time under coach Jim Zorn, and it showed. Running back Clinton Portis said the Redskins overlooked the Rams, who were supposed to be the first of three easy wins in the soft part of the schedule.
“The headlines got good. The guys started high-fiving,” Portis said. “We hadn’t thought ahead all season long until this week. … The previous four games, the focus was there.”
Zorn’s team will try to recapture it after blowing a late lead last week. Portis’ 2-yard run with 3:47 left put Washington ahead 17-16, but Marc Bulger hit Donnie Avery for a 43-yard gain on third-and-13 to move the Rams into field-goal range.
“I don’t think we saw ourselves as an elite team, strutting ourselves, walking in and saying ‘We are so awesome,’” said Zorn, whose offense committed four false starts that killed those plays. “I just think we tried to win the game. We played hard. … I don’t think we overlooked this team at all, and I don’t think we’re going to overlook any team.”
The Redskins seem all but certain not to take the Browns lightly after the results in each team’s last game. Cleveland could look even more formidable offensively than it did entering Monday’s game, as tight end Kellen Winslow returned to practice Friday and may play after sitting out against New York with an undisclosed illness that put him in the hospital.
Washington, meanwhile, will have running back Shaun Alexander in uniform after signing the 2005 NFL MVP on Tuesday. Alexander, cut by the Seahawks in April, rejoins Zorn, Seattle’s quarterbacks coach for seven years before taking the Redskins job. Alexander will back up Portis, the league’s leading rusher with 643 yards.
The Redskins also cut Durant Brooks, who ranks last in the league in punting, and replaced him with former Seahawks punter Ryan Plackemeier. Plackemeier won a competition among four free agents flown in to audition at Redskins Park on Tuesday morning.
The Browns have dominated the series with the Redskins, leading 33-9-1, but the teams haven’t met since 2004 and only twice in the past 17 years.