Is Cleveland for Real?

Brian Hoyer has the Browns and their fans riding high in 2014.

The Cleveland Browns have not won an NFL championship since the 1950’s. They remain one of a handful of teams to have never played in a Super Bowl. Despite this, their fan base remains strong and committed. Perhaps their long-held devotion is paying dividends because the Browns are now 3-2 on the season and yesterday took their long time nemesis the Pittsburgh Steelers to the woodshed in a 31-10 win.

The Browns were playing with two key defenders, Paul Kruger and Joe Haden, less than 100% and they were also playing without Phil Taylor who is a key cog in their 3-4 defense. During the game they also lost all-pro center Alex Mack for the season with a leg injury.

Mike Pettine has the Browns buying into his system in Cleveland.

Those things didn’t matter. Although they spotted the Steelers a 3-0 lead, they came roaring back behind quarterback Brian Hoyer to grab a 21-3 halftime lead. They would extend it to 31-3 before Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit receiver Lance Moore with a touchdown pass late in the game.

Hoyer’s play has put to bed any controversy that was there in training camp between he and first round draft pick Johnny Manziel. The Cleveland crow chanted “Bri-an Hoy-er” throughout the second half and made it clear their feelings on just who should be the starting quarterback for their beloved Browns. In two against the Steelers this season, the Browns have rushed for over 300 yards.

Their zone scheme led by Kyle Shanahan has given the Steelers and their defensive coordinator fits. The success of the running game led to success in the play-action passing game which the Steelers could not cover for their lives.

Also not to be ignored is the Cleveland defense which didn’t exactly slow the Steelers’ offense but did shut it down when it seemed most necessary. While I could easily make this a referendum on just how bad the Steelers are in the red zone, let’s give the Browns the credit they deserve. Time and time again they forced the Steelers into situations that ended up being far less than than what they were accustomed.

The Browns move forward with Jacksonville and Oakland in the near future on the schedule and have the opportunity to be 5-2 before we know it. They will need to address the void caused by the injury to Alex Mack and that will not be easy. He’s been one of the top centers in the game and his absence will be felt moving forward.

For today at least, Browns’ fans can bask in the glory of a victory over their most-hated rival while looking forward to even better days ahead behind a quarterback not named Manziel.

Other NFL Notes from Sunday… Joe Flacco threw for five touchdowns in a win over Tampa Bay. Four of those were in the first quarter… A rare tie presented itself yesterday as the Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers played to a 37-all tie in Cincinnati… Dallas pulled off the stunner of the day by beating Seattle at home 30-23… The Lions went into Minnesota and beat the Vikings 17-3 despite having no Calvin Johnson and no Reggie Bush in the lineup… Carson Palmer returned to the Cardinals’ lineup and led them to a 30-20 win over Washington. Kirk Cousins threw three interceptions on the day including the pick-six to Rashad Johnson which clinched the game for the Cardinals.