‘Kid brother’ comes of age

Posted Nov 3, 2013

Senior Editor Vic Carucci offers his thoughts on the Browns’ 24-18 victory over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Here are my final thoughts from the Browns’ 24-18 victory over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium:

>>For the longest the time, the Browns have been, as coach Rob Chudzinski described it last week, the “kid brother” of the AFC North. Not anymore. This win put the Browns on an equal footing with the team they hadn’t beaten in 11 previous games and more than five seasons. This win, plus the victory against Cincinnati in Week 4 and the Steelers’ continued struggles, solidified the Browns as a serious challenger for the division title. And it doesn’t matter that the Ravens have taken a dramatic fall since winning the Super Bowl in February. They’re still the Ravens. They still beat the Browns in Week 2 at Baltimore. They still have Joe Flacco has their quarterback and John Harbaugh as their coach, and standout defensive players such as Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil and Haloti Ngata. But the Browns outplayed them and out-coached them. That’s how the proverbial “kid brother” shows a “big brother” that he not only has stopped taking his grief but is more than capable of giving it back.

>>What an incredibly good feeling it is to be able to savor a victory like this for two weeks before the next time the Browns play. Players and coaches can genuinely enjoy their time off during next weekend’s bye. They can rest and recover secure in the knowledge that they’ll be in the postseason hunt when they return to prepare to face the Bengals again in Week 11. And with the extra time, the coaching staff not only can more thoroughly prepare for the Cincinnati game, it also has the ability to take stock of the team’s strengths and weaknesses and make the necessary adjustments for the balance of the season, when every game carries the weight of a playoff contest.

>>Davone Bess reminded all of us that he still was the consummate professional who showed tremendous reliability during each practice of training camp and the early part of the season. The veteran wide receiver went from having the worst game of his career last week at Kansas City to one of his best by catching two touchdown passes and making a crucial catch to convert a fourth down late in the game. At the beginning of the week, Bess told Jason Campbell that, despite his drops and muffed punt against the Chiefs, the quarterback could count on him against the Ravens. Campbell insisted that he had no doubt that Bess would make good on his promise. And through his performance – which included hanging onto a pass while getting drilled from behind at the goal line and putting an incredible fake-to-the-inside-before-cutting-outside move that caused cornerback Lardarius Webb to fall as the receiver scored his second touchdown – Bess provided a valuable lesson to his many younger teammates about bouncing back. He ignored the harsh criticism he received from fans and media and just did what he knows how to do: get open and catch passes.

>>The Browns’ defense didn’t play a perfect game, but it played well enough to frustrate Flacco and the Ravens’ offense for most of the game. The Browns succeeded in consistently taking away most of Flacco’s deep targets, forcing him to check down and contributing to his being sacked five times for minus-27 yards. That’s 11 sacks in the last two games for the Browns. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton made an impressive game calling a variety of blitzes that included cornerback Chris Owens, who registered a sack.

>>The Browns’ two best offensive playmakers, wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron, didn’t make all that many plays. Gordon was targeted seven times, but caught only three passes for 44 yards. Cameron was targeted five times, but had only one reception for four yards. So others made plays, such as Greg Little, who had a game- and career-high seven catches for 122 yards, the second 100-yard game of his career. And Bess had three meaningful grabs: two for scores and one to convert a fourth down late in the game. That’s exactly what the Browns need if they have any hope of winning their division – role players stepping up when they stars aren’t delivering.

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