The Cleveland Browns have won three consecutive games.
Let that sink in. Feels good, doesn’t it?
Of course the doubts and detractors creep in. The Browns three wins were over a Charlie Batch led Steelers team, a dysfunctional Raiders team and a skill deficient Chiefs team.
Here’s why that doesn’t matter.
First, and most importantly, at least the Browns seem to be able to handily defeat two of the worst teams in the NFL in the Raiders and Chiefs.
Second, a win counts just as much against the Steelers with Charlie Batch at quarterback than it would if Ben Roethlisberger was a behind center. Do all the wins the Steelers have against the Browns since 1999 count less because the Browns - most of the time - were lacking talent or a completely healthy roster?
Third, for a team as young as the Browns, any kind of win in the NFL is good for this team’s confidence moving forward.
Think back to the eight losses this season. For the most part, the Browns were competitive in those losses — save the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants games. A couple dumb mistakes cost them a victory against some teams that are either playoff bound or in the hunt. Against those teams in the playoff discussion — Baltimore Ravens (twice), the Cincinnati Bengals (twice), the New York Giants, the Indianapolis Colts, the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers — the Browns are 2-6.
Three games remain for the Browns against teams that are either playoff bound or in the hunt — Washington Redskins, Denver Broncos and the Steelers.
Loaded with confidence from the past three victories, can the Browns continue their march toward respectability? A lot is riding on the answer to that question, including the future of a head coach and a general manager.
First up: the Redskins and Robert Griffin III, who appears to be a game-time decision.
Led by Griffin, the Redskins have won four consecutive games to improve to 7-6 and the quarterback from Baylor is having an outstanding rookie season. He has completed 66.4 percent of his passes, has thrown 18 touchdowns to four interceptions and rushed for 748 yards and six touchdowns on 112 carries.
Yes, your mind will wander. What if the Browns pulled off the trade with Redskins and got Griffin III? If the Browns’ season continues to trend positive, I’ll take Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon, Mitchell Schwartz and a first round pick the next two seasons over one player, even if that player is as good as Griffin III. Good quality and quantity.
If Griffin does plays Sunday, the Browns defense will have their hands full trying to stop him. Even if he doesn’t and backup quarterback Kirk Cousins plays, the Browns will still need to limit running back Alfred Morris.
Morris is averaging 4.9 yards per carry this season in coach Mike Shannahan’s zone-blocking running attack he made so popular in Denver in the late 90s. The back makes one cut and runs upfield.
“The zone-run scheme is a difficult run scheme to contain,” Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said. “There’s a lot of cutting going on up front by the offensive linemen. That’s always hard on defenses. You’re moving away and trying to protect your legs and they are coming down on your legs. It’s difficult.”
The Browns have performed well against the run since the bye week, save Jamaal Charles’ 80-yard touchdown run on the game’s first play from scrimmage last Sunday.
Offensively, the Browns showed some creativity last Sunday with Josh Cribbs to the Wildcat, double reverses and even former college running back Greg Little got a carry.
“I don’t know that it’s all of a sudden we’re turning to page 4,000 in the playbook,” Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. “Those things have been in there and been practiced for most of training camp, at least the double reverse has.”
Regardless of who the Browns have beaten or how, they enter Sunday’s home finale on a winning streak. If the future of Browns football is truly bright, the team needs to send the home fans a message: When we see you back here in August, expect to see more of this.
And by “this,” we mean winning football.
Let that sink in. Feels good, doesn’t it?