BROWNS LOSE AZ GAME LONG BEFORE CONTROVERSIAL CALL
As my roommate Jimmy, a Chagrin Falls native, and I looked on, Browns quarterback Derek Anderson tossed a 37-yard pass to to tight end Kellen Winslow II with the game on the line. Trailing 27-21, the Browns had been able to push only as far as the Cardinals' 37 on their last drive. We moved from our upper deck seats to the endzone into which the Browns were driving, hoping to see some magic.
We almost did. Perhaps, we should have.
Winslow made a sensational catch as Anderson threaded the ball between three Cardinal defenders in the front corner of the endzone. The tight end, whom I often dub "Soulja Boy" for his infamous collegiate post-game rant, went airborn, caught the pass, put one foot barely in-bounds, but before he could drag the other foot, his half-airborn body was shoved out of bounds.
Incomplete, say the refs.
Even though a rule exists in the NFL giving receivers a catch if they are "pushed out," the referees would not give the Browns the call, even after a suspenseful "review." Though many argue the call was unfair, I contend it was the "fairest" thing that happened all game.
As much as I wanted to see hometown team prevail in my new home town, the Browns didn't deserve to win.
Cleveland committed four turnovers, three of them leading to touchdowns. Leigh Bodden makes a big stop and then Ronaldinhos the ball to the sidelines, earning him a 15-yard penalty to sustain a Cardinals drive. Two 15-yard late hit penalties helped Arizona drive to the Browns' 2 and led to another score, making the game 27-21 and requiring a touchdown to send the game to overtime. To add insult to injury, the Cardinals were playing without Larry Fitzgerald for the entire game and Anquan Bolden for most of it. Without question, the Browns should have put forth a winning effort.
They knew that, though, and they played flat-footed and stupidly. The fact that they almost won only proves how much firepower this young team has. They think they're "good," but right now, they're just on their way to being good.
As disappointed as I was with the Browns stupidity, I also became even more enamored with their offensive firepower, having seen it in person. Anderson has the arm and skills to become a great quarterback, but he's still learning to use his head. The offensive line is full of stalwarts, and Braylon Edwards/Kellen Winslow is the best receiver/tight end playmaking combo Cleveland has had since the 80s. If the offense and special teams doesn't turn the ball over so much, the defense would have given up very few yards, as the Browns outgained the Cardinals nearly 2 to 1.
What does all of this analysis add up to? The Browns at 7-5 are good enough to go to the playoffs. They don't stink anymore. In fact, they are pretty fun to watch. (I had a blast at the game, though I am convinced University of Phoenix Stadium is cursed after what happened to the Buckeyes there last year). To get over the hump, they will have to use their heads. It's not rocket science for you or me to conclude that, but it seems like it is for the young Browns, who've yet to figure it out.