Week two of the preseason against the Lions was almost a complete turnaround from the dismal loss to the Packers in week one. The offense actually scored touchdowns. The defense was flying around the football. Cribbs showed why he does deserve that contract reworked. Things really fell in place for the Browns this past weekend. They still have plenty to work on (come on, it WAS the Lions), but I really think that they are starting to buy into the Mangini system. To be honest, I though that Mangini had lost his team after the beatdown in Green Bay and after a poor couple of practices to start the week off. We're batting .500 right now, so it is hard to go all in and bet the farm on which team is going to show up. However, at least it was a lot of fun watching the Brown and Orange again.
I was watching the replay of the game on NFL Network Sunday morning, since I could not get the game on Saturday. I'm not going to lie, I was prepared to be ticked off at what I saw; but then Cribbs electrified the crowd from the first play of the game--openning kickoff, 94 yards to the house. Sure the holding penealty nullified the return, but it was the sign of life that really got the Browns (and me) believing in this team. Then we got the quick score and had to give the back to the number one overall pick of the draft, Matthew Stafford. I was a little nervous until he threw his first pass, right into the hands of DB Eric Wright. This was not the same team from a week ago. The defense had showed up to the game too. I had butterflies watching the first team offense and defense control the game and set the tone.
The action slowed down considerably when the reserves were brought in, but you could still see the improvements made from the previous week. The tackling was better. Guys were in better position to make plays on both sides of the ball. James Davis has shown flashes that he can come in and take some of the burden off of Jamal Lewis. The Browns need a back to compliment Lewis, especially if Jerome Harrison's injury becomes a nagging one. Furrey was a solid addition to the roster this off season. I do not know about him bringing back the Jurevicius first down hand motion, though. It seemed out of place, but I love the enthusiasm. Brady Quinn did not look as crisp in this game, but it is harder to tell in preseason, especially when on the second team offense. However, DA looked off last week with the reserves, so I really do not see a clear starter. Another positive that was evident against the Lions and not the Packers was the aggressiveness of the corners. Coye Francies made it a habit of disrupting routes and passes. Granted, the Lions receiving corps was depleted, but the Cleveland corners and safeties played at a high level, not allowing the poor play of the Detroit receivers to deter their abilities. Overall, the Browns played well, but there are always things to adjust and make better.
It is hard to criticize the defense for their strong play, or the offense for winning the yardage battle, but there is always room for improvement. The defense gave up one hundred yards rushing to the Lions, but they were without their big man in the middle, Shaun Rogers. The first team defense also only allowed 113 total yards of offense in the first half, which is also encouraging. That total reached 288 yards by the end of the game, which still is an improvement from last week. There were some plays that both sides of the ball would like back, but the Browns were playing hard as a team. There were a few times that linebackers found themselves in the wrong position in coverage. There were a few passes that were errant to receivers that were wide open. And there were a few blown coverages by the corners that could have led to big plays. These are all things that this team improved upon from last week, and it seems that they are becoming more confident in the new system.
So, it seems the Browns are on a much better path than they were last week. Despite a poor performance against the Packers and some mediocre practices at the beginning of the week, they seem to have come together. Now the question is for how long. If they continue to improve and learn their assignments, they should surprise some teams and fans that have written them off this season. I'm glad to see the turnaround from week one, but I am not entirely sold that they can bring that kind of performance to the field every time. The real tests will come in the next two match-ups in preseason, the Titans and the Bears. As for now, it is nice to revel in a Cleveland Browns win, even if it is just the preseason.