By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
Sunday, Oct. 14, Cleveland Browns Stadium: The longest losing streak in Browns history, matching a 37-year-old franchise record of 11 in a row, screeched to a halt today when the young pups came of age all at once and trounced the Cincinnati Bengals, 51-10.
In his first game back from a four-game NFL suspension, Joe Haden made two acrobatic interceptions in the end zone to deny A.J. Green of touchdowns. And linebacker Scott Fujita, playing with “Goodell” taped across his helmet in defiance of the vigilante commissioner, forced two Andy Dalton fumbles.
It was so much fun again. Outside Browns Stadium, horns blared for hours after the game.
Brandon Weeden delivered five touchdown passes to his Joshes – three to Gordon, who consistently sped past cornerback Leon Hall; one to Cribbs; and one to newly activated Cooper – and Trent Richardson posted his first career 150-yard rushing game as the Pat Shurmur spread offense left the Bengals’ defense exhausted and exasperated. How about 596 yards offense and 28 first downs?
In the shell-shocked Bengals locker room, linebacker Rey Maualuga said, “That’s the fastest offense I’ve seen since playing Oregon at USC.”
After the game, Shurmur apologized to the sold-out crowd for failing to score on every possession.
“I left a lot of points out there with some questionable calls,” the coach said.
Anatomy of a rout: Team sources said the big win was rooted in the decision of President Mike Holmgren to take an active role in the formation of the gameplan.
“Coach burned the midnight oil like the old days,” said one source. “He even rolled out the 8-millimeter projector he used in Green Bay. The key was when he detected a similarity to Dorsey Levens in Richardson. Then the coaches decided, ‘what the heck, why not try him on third downs?’”
Along with his 152 yards rushing, Richardson had 81 yards receiving on 5 catches – all coming on third downs. Asked if it were his finest hour, Richardson said, “Most definitely.”
Another motivation was to present beloved outgoing owner Randy Lerner with a win in his last game before handing the team over to Jimmy Haslam.
Lerner could not attend the game, as he was called to mediate a crisis with the Arts Commission in The Hamptons, N.Y.. But at the final team meeting on Saturday night, Holmgren read an emotional email penned to the team from Lerner that left no dry eyes.
“We’re sending this game ball to New York,” Shurmur announced in the locker room after the game, to a roar of approval from his players.
Moving forward: For the first time since he purchased the club for $1 billion, Haslam appeared in the locker room after the game and mingled with players.
He congratulated every player – taking extra time to chat with each player from a Southeastern Conference school – and spent a good deal of time meeting with agent Bob LaMonte, who has become a regular visitor to the Browns locker room in recent weeks.
Haslam will be formally approved as owner at NFL meetings Tuesday in Chicago. He reiterated that he would not disclose his immediate plans for the club until then. He would not comment on rumors of a contract extension for Shurmur.
Haslam promised “dramatic” changes in uniforms and stadium game-day experience but was mum about anything regarding football operations.
After demolishing the Bengals, it appeared there was no need to change a thing.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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