The 2014 Cleveland Browns are playoff contenders in the middle of October.
Fans and analysts alike said the same about the 2013 edition of the Browns before quarterback Brian Hoyer suffered a torn ACL on a Thursday night during a game against the Buffalo Bills. Hoyer is healthy and playing well this fall, the Browns are at 3-2 with a division win in hand, and they just dominated the Pittsburgh Steelers to the tune of 31-10 in front of a home crowd that won’t have stopped partying until long after this piece is posted.
Believe, Cleveland. You could be in for a fun season.
Browns crush Steelers 31-10: The game changed…
on a fluke play.
Pittsburgh was far and away the better side in the opening 15 minutes of play. While Hoyer seemed to be lacking confidence after missing on his first three attempts, Ben Roethlisberger appeared ready to improve upon what had been an 18-1 record in games against the Browns.
The Steelers were leading 3-0 when they lined up for a 34-year old field goal attempt early into the second quarter. The snap was flawless, but the hold for the kick could not be completed. That turnover was followed by a five-play Cleveland touchdown drive that featured Hoyer connecting with tight end Jordan Cameron for a 42-yard reception. Isaiah Crowell found the end zone on a five-yard carry the next play, and it was, from there, game over.
Browns crush Steelers 31-10: Hoyer
Hoyer isn’t Peyton Manning. He isn’t breaking records with his play.
He is more Chad Pennington than he is a Hall-of-Fame QB, and that isn’t at all an insult.
Hoyer underthrows open wide receivers on plays that would, had a quarterback with a stronger arm been on the field, resulted in touchdowns. He likely won’t win a shootout against the best of the best in the business.
Hoyer is winning now, and he has silenced all talk about rookie Johnny Manziel getting a start so long as the to-be 29-year old (Hoyer’s birthday is tomorrow) hometown hero remains healthy.
While he completed only 8 of 17 pass attempts, Hoyer threw for 217 yards and a touchdown. He avoided turnovers, which has been one of his strongest traits during his Cleveland tenure. He is a leader on and off the field, and nobody can deny that the Browns starting quarterback for the now and for the near future wears No. 6 and not No. 2.
Browns crush Steelers 31-10: Costly win
As is a Cleveland professional sports tradition, nothing good can come without some bad. Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, who hadn’t missed a snap during his NFL career heading into this afternoon, was carted off the field after injuring his leg in the second quarter of Sunday’s affair. The Browns believe Mack suffered a broken leg.
Some will point out that John Greco and Paul McQuistan performed well during their fill-in duties. True as that may be, no team just replaces an All-Pro center via depth. Mack will be missed for however long he is sidelined.
Browns crush Steelers 31-10: Welcome back
What was one of the worst defenses in the NFL and a disappointment in the first month of the season showed up against Cleveland’s hated rivals. Karlos Dansby finished with a game-high 11 tackles and a sack. The Browns, as a unit, registered 5 quarterback hits and 2 sacks.
Cornerback Joe Haden had his best game of the season. Haden was beaten on several throws, but he did not surrender a meaningful touchdown. Haden also had a play-of-the-game moment when he batted down what otherwise would have been a touchdown pass to Antonio Brown.
Pittsburgh didn’t score a touchdown outside of garbage time, as Roethlisberger and his coaching staff had zero answers for a defense that took the field looking to prove multiple points.
Browns crush Steelers 31-10: Curious
Why Roethlisberger didn’t allow the speedy Brown to torch the Cleveland defense all day will remain a mystery. Brown caught 7 of 10 passes for 118 yards, and he could have had a career day had Big Ben truly utilized his best weapon.
No zone and no double-team coverages were stopping Brown, and yet Roethlisberger didn’t get him the ball when the Steelers were still in the contest. This game certainly could have gone differently had the Steelers scored even a single touchdown in the second and/or third quarter.
Browns crush Steelers 31-10: Looking ahead
At the Jacksonville Jaguars. Versus the Oakland Raiders in Cleveland. Versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Cleveland.
That’s what the Browns have on their schedule up through November 2.
Yes, Cleveland. Your Browns could get to 6-2 so long as they don’t get caught looking ahead at any point over the next three weeks.
Dare to dream, Cleveland fans. You’ve earned that right for at least a week.