The Cleveland Browns showed some offensive flash last week, and I was the happiest loser on the block. My friends (most of them San Francisco 49ers fans) were flummoxed; how could I possibly be encouraged by a loss?
Trent Richardson looked sharp, Brandon Weeden failed to throw a pick and, most importantly, it was a fun game to watch. Greg Little made a vital reception and Mohamed Massaquoi looked like a real-life NFL receiver. Things were working, and for this fan, the score was a secondary concern (no pun intended.)
But that's not the question for this week. The question is, how can we hold on to the good things and improve the not-so-good things to get our first win of the season?
Call me crazy, but I'm still holding out hope that our Brownies can go .500. Last week silenced some of the critics, and this week is a golden opportunity to silence a few more.
Here are the critical points where the game will be won or lost on Sunday.
Exploiting Weakness on the Bills' D
I drafted the Bills' defense for my first week of fantasy football. Big mistake.
We watched Mark Sanchez dismantle the Buffalo D as they basically cruised to a Week 1 victory. I've never quite jumped on the Mark Sanchez-hating bandwagon, but the guy's not exactly unstoppable. This shows us that the Buffalo defense, while young and full of talent, is mortal.
It certainly seems like Brad Childress has been paying attention and adapting since the Browns' Week 1 debacle. But in case he hasn't, here are a few kindly suggestions from the Dittoe School of Casual Observations and Homemade Chicken Wings.
- Sprinkle the ball around. Sanchez took advantage of several receivers to keep the Buffalo defense on its toes. The victory was as much to do with creative play-calling as execution.
- Come out swinging. Sanchez made some ballsy connections in the beginning and then let the run game take over later on. We should take a lesson from that kind of adaptability. Brandon Weeden is, I think, a gunslinger at heart. Let's unleash him early and hope for another blissfully interception-free performance.
Keeping the Pressure on Fitzpatrick
This is a guy who throws picks under pressure. The Cleveland defense, with D'Qwell Jackson leading the charge, has been doing a fine job keeping the heat on opposing quarterbacks. If we play our defensive cards right, this game could turn into a question of who is taking advantage of the other guy's missteps.
Converting Third Downs
I'm not a football coach; I'm a girl who yells at the TV and has memorized most of the officiating gestures to impress other people at the bar. But I swear, sometimes it seems like this team doesn't put a lot of emphasis on converting third downs.
And it shows in the stat line. According to NFL.com, the Browns were 9-of-28 on third-down conversions in the first two games. That puts us at 32.1 percent to Buffalo's 52.4 percent. That's a pretty big spread, and it could end up costing us dearly.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but it's a place to start. Trent Richardson, just keep doing what you're doing. You started to look like the No. 3 pick that we all knew/hoped you'd be.
Weeden, just don't freak out and throw four picks. We now know how pretty it looks when you keep your cool and do what you do best. And we like it.
I'm predicting the end of a dry spell on Sunday. Let's make it happen.