On Sunday the Cleveland Browns beat the Oakland Raiders 23-13.
Because the Browns' running game looked lethargic on 25 carries for 39 yards and the score remained close for large portion of the game, some analysts and Tweeters are trying to downplay the importance of a win that improved the Browns to 4-3.
That's not the feeling inside the walls of Berea, as players eagerly gathered on Monday to watch film and discuss their performance. This is the NFL. The Browns are heading into November with a record above .500. They buried the Raiders late in the game. Not every week can be roses and candy like the 31-10 spanking of Pittsburgh.
"You're going to have games like that," said coach Mike Pettine of his teams' win against the Raiders. "I think when you look back at your wins there are going to be some ugly ones. That one certainly wasn't the prettiest, but I'll sit up here and talk about ugly wins for a lot of Mondays."
"It was frustrating at times for sure," said Brian Hoyer, who was effective on 19-of-28 pass attempts for 275 yards and one touchdown. "I think if anything, it shows that there's more than one way to win a game, and we're more than capable of doing it whichever way it plays out."
Hoyer's performance remains a hot topic not only in Cleveland, but on the national talk shows. A week after taking criticism for his completion percentage, Hoyer raised it to 67.8 against Oakland and launched four strikes of 20 yards or more. Remember, the Raiders had the league's 12th ranked pass defense coming into the game.
The game-changing throw from Hoyer came on the last play of the third quarter. On an off-schedule play, Hoyer scrambled to his right, bought time and saw Andrew Hawkins streaking towards the Cleveland sideline. The 32-yard connection to the Raiders 21 happened immediately after the Donte Whitner forced fumble, carrying the momentum straight towards the end zone.
Despite the fact that Hoyer admittedly missed some throws, when Cleveland needed him to come through the most, the quarterback prevailed.
"As long as our quarterback is playing good enough for us to win, I don't know how much we'd get into what that looks like," Pettine said. "We're not looking for style points. We're looking for wins. That's what we're ultimately judged on here."
From the minute the NFL schedule was released in April, October was stamped as a benchmark for the Browns. Games against the Titans, Steelers, Jaguars and Raiders – no matter how improved the quadrant of teams were – was labeled as a soft spot in the 16-game docket. By Halloween we would find out whether Cleveland was for real, or whether they were headed for another season of meaningless, cold winter games down the stretch.
With Hoyer's help, all signs are pointing towards November being the most gripping month of Browns football since 2007, when Cleveland finished 10-6. A 3-1 record in the month of October, no matter who the opponents, has captured the attention of other NFL coaches and players. It also marks the first time since 1994 that the Browns have recorded three wins in October.
"We're not just a team that people underestimate anymore," Hoyer said. "We're 4-3. People are going to play hard. You can't just go out there and think that we're going to creep up from behind some people."