Here are five quick-hit observations from the Browns’ upset win over the Steelers in Week 14.
1. The Steelers are done.
The defending champs are done, folks. A five-game losing streak, capped off by their ugliest loss of the season, has ensured that Pittsburgh won’t be playing in the postseason come January. One would have thought that the Steelers would be able to get up for a game against the one-win Browns when their backs were against the wall, but then again “one” would be wrong.
2. The Browns didn’t just win – they dominated.
For those that missed the broadcast because it was on the NFL Network, let me assure you that the Steelers didn’t beat themselves: They got their asses handed to them. It’s strange to say, but the better team won tonight. Cleveland came out more focused, more determined and flat out took a victory from the Steelers. The Browns’ defensive effort tonight was absolutely outstanding, as they suffocated Pittsburgh’s running game and sacked Ben Roethlisberger eight times. For as much heat as Eric Mangini has taken this season (and deservedly so), the Browns have played hard the past couple weeks and they deserved a win tonight.
3. Cleveland’s young secondary was excellent.
Something that will be lost in the stat sheet was how well the Browns’ secondary played. Cleveland’s defense might have racked up eight sacks, but most of those were because of the outstanding coverage. Big Ben simply didn’t have open receivers to throw to, which resulted in him double and triple clutching to avoid throwing into coverage. Pittsburgh’s offensive line didn’t play as badly as the sacks would indicate, or at least not from a pass protection standpoint. The Browns’ pass defense was just that good.
4. Joshua Cribbs is an underrated star.
I don’t usually make it a habit to boast about a receiver that had zero catches for zero yards in a game, but Cribbs was all the offense the Browns needed tonight. He had eight rushes out of the Wildcat formation for 87 yards and returned a punt 32 yards to set Cleveland up with its first score (a field goal in the first quarter that gave them a 3-0 lead). He also picked up a crucial first down late in the fourth quarter to shed time off the clock and helped take pressure off Brady Quinn, who did little to nothing in the passing game due to the poor weather. Hats off to Evan Moore too, who made a great one-handed grab early in the first quarter.
5. The NFL Network’s coverage is brutal.
I don’t know who at the NFL Network thought having Matt Millen be the color commentator for these broadcasts was a good idea, but they should be tarred and feathered in a public setting. At several points throughout the game, Millen couldn’t even finish his thoughts. He would get excited to tell the listeners something and then he’d almost stop in mid sentence. I don’t know how the network can continue this Thursday night broadcast idea if they don’t get better broadcasters. And I thought Bryant Gumbel was bad…
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