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Win says the focus is on the present

Posted Sep 22, 2013

Senior Editor Vic Carucci says the Browns made a clear statement that they are thoroughly focused on the present with their 31-27 victory at Minnesota.

MINNEAPOLIS -- If Hollywood wasn't already producing a Browns-themed movie, it might have seriously considered basing one on the events of Sunday's game against the Vikings.

The script couldn't have been any more dramatic or compelling.

The Browns went from one of the most tumultuous weeks in franchise history to winning as important a game as any they've played in a long time.

They won after days of often nasty backlash from fans over the decision to trade running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis.

They won with a quarterback who went from being No. 3 on the depth chart on his hometown team to making only the second start of his NFL career.

They won with a wide receiver who returned from a two-game suspension, during which he was not allowed to practice with the team, to become a huge difference-maker.

They won despite having four turnovers.

They won despite playing on the road, under the din of an extremely loud sellout crowd packing the HHH Metrodome for a home-opener.

Those were all of the reasons the Browns weren't supposed to leave this town with a victory. Instead, they won, 31-27.

They ... WON!

And they did it in ways that served as a referendum for staying true to what they are and what they believe in when so many others on the outside -- the ones who were part of an onslaught of venting via social media and e-mails and phone calls to sports-talk-radio shows (that is, when the hosts weren't doing the same) -- were convinced they didn't have a clue and were tanking the season.

In May, when the NFL holds its actual draft, the movie "Draft Day" will hit theaters, telling a fictitious story about the Browns owning the top pick and looking for their franchise quarterback. Most of what has been said about the team in the past few days was focused on what the real Browns will be doing in the real draft, because the first-round pick for Richardson provided additional ammunition for the likely pursuit of a franchise quarterback of the future.

But Sunday wasn't about the future. Sunday was about Sunday.

And the Browns' players and coaches treated it accordingly.

They played and coached with passion and urgency. They played and coached with aggressiveness and inspiration.

It might not have always been pretty, but that was to expected, given the circumstances and the discouragement of a 0-2 start.

But here's what it wasn't: an indication of a team that believed the people in charge had quit on them after only two games and were just interested in next year and beyond.

Brian Hoyer, the Cleveland native who was surprisingly selected over veteran Jason Campbell to be the starter in place of injured Brandon Weeden, certainly wasn't thinking about the future. He was thinking about seizing an incredible opportunity to make the case that after bouncing around the NFL as a little-used backup, he deserved to be a starter.

One game might not achieve that, but it sure is a heck of a start, especially given the wide-open nature of the Browns' quarterback position. Hoyer overcame three interceptions to throw for 321 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner to Jordan Cameron with 51 seconds left.

Josh Gordon, the wide receiver playing his first game after serving a two-game suspension, wasn't thinking about the future, either. He needed to make an immediate impact to help make amends for his off-field transgressions and prove to the Browns' decision-makers that he, in fact, should be a part of their future. And Gordon made such a statement with 10 catches for 146 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown, and a 22-yard run.

The coaches, who because of their ultra-insecure profession can never afford to think past one day, definitely didn't give the future even a passing thought. They approached the game with the sort of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking that no Browns team has demonstrated in recent memory.

Rob Chudzinski and his staff let it all hang out with multiple examples of trickery. They called a fake punt on fourth-and-1 that resulted in a 34-yard run by Josh Aubrey that kept alive a drive that ended with a field goal. They called a fake field-goal attempt that turned into a Spencer Lanning-to-Jordan Cameron touchdown pass. And they had Hoyer fake an inside handoff to running back Bobby Rainey before pitching to Gordon for a 22-yard gain that helped set up the first of Cameron's three touchdown grabs.

The Browns' defense? It, too, eschewed any future thoughts to focus solely on the present.

This group did a lot of bending, but along the way it held Adrian Peterson, the best running back in the game, to 88 yards and a mere 3.5 yards per carry, and sacked Christian Ponder six times. It also contributed to turning the crowd against Ponder, who was booed incessantly despite running for a pair of touchdowns.

The defense's best work, though, came at the very end by not allowing the Vikings, who had the ball with 51 seconds remaining, to score, ending the game with the exclamation point of an eight-yard sack by Desmond Bryant.

As the jubilant Browns ran off the field, an assistant coach shook my hand and said, "This could be the beginning of something special!"

Although that did qualify as a reference to the future, it wasn't about what the team has in store for May. It was about what they are building for this year and in the seasons to follow.

And if they can continue to give inspired efforts like the one they gave Sunday, the present just might prove to be a whole lot more interesting than a whole lot of skeptics assumed.

>>Caruccis Call is presented by Revol Wireless. Come Save With Us.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Fordon ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci or by e-mail at daily@clevelandbrowns.com or by calling 855-363-2459.

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