1. Describe that comeback win from a fan's perspective. Take us through the experience.
Despite the fact that a road team has never won a game in the NFL after being down by 25 points, I had blind faith that the Browns stood a slight chance to get back in the game. One of those reasons was due to the incredible second-half rally the Browns had against the Steelers in Week 1, and the other reason was that we were facing Charlie Whitehurst. Therefore, while I felt helpless at half-time of the Steelers game, at half-time of the Titans game, I said to myself, "if we did it once, why not again?"
Nonetheless, actually seeing the comeback itself brought on a lot of mixed emotions. Against the Steelers, the Browns came back quicker by scoring on pretty much every drive. Against the Titans, the Browns turned the ball over on downs twice on fourth down, muffed a punt and threw an interception that looked like it would be returned all the way to the 1-yard line. In each instance, it felt like the game was over...and then the Browns would get a bailout.
First, it was the muffed punt being negated due to a Titans gunner running out of bounds. Second, there was a blocked punt to give Cleveland an opportunity to win with a touchdown vs. tying with a touchdown or losing with a missed two-point conversion. Third, the interception return was waived off due to illegal contact and a Titans player was even ejected on the play.
As ugly as the game was at times, I'll cherish this game forever because I know I witnessed history and something that might never be achieved in this league again.
2. It seems like Cleveland's offensive line is emerging as the best in the AFC North. Did you expect it to be as good as it is?
I expected our offensive line to look like this last year, but things fell flat at the guard position. With Kyle Shanahan being brought aboard this year, I was intrigued by the switch to a zone-blocking scheme. I had no doubts that Pro Bowlers Joe Thomas and Alex Mack would be fine, but I had no idea if our right tackle, Mitchell Schwartz, or our guards would perform in the system.
The line was a wait-and-see approach and the results have been unbelievably positive. Rookie second-round pick Joel Bitonio is thriving at left guard and I think Pro Football Focus had a stat last week that our right guard, John Greco, hadn't even allowed a pressure. Schwartz has adapted to the scheme well too. The good thing is that this offensive line should be together at least through next season and possibly longer.
3. It's tough to figure which Browns team will show up. What drives this team when it's playing really well (second half vs. Pittsburgh, second half vs. Tennessee) and what's holding it back when it isn't performing well?
That's the million-dollar question and, even after all of the hours I spend reviewing the Browns on tape, I don't have a good explanation. The strategy isn't much different, except for the fact that the Browns pick up the pace offensively when they know time is running out. Even though there has been some offensive disparity, I think the bigger disparity has been on defense.
During my film-review sessions, the Browns have been in position to make plays, but we're making a lot of individual mistakes. On one play, it might be a cornerback trying to jump a route when he doesn't need to, and then he gets burned over the top. On another play, it might be a 3rd-and-10, and our defense tries to make a "buzzworthy" play by sprinting toward the player, rather than playing it safe and allowing a six yard gain, so they end up missing the tackle after the offensive player makes a move.
4. If Cleveland makes the playoffs this season, what will be the main reason? If they don't make it, what will have prevented them from doing so?
The main reason will be the return of WR Josh Gordon for that final stretch of games. I think his presence will help Cleveland's offense thrive early in games vs. late in games, and the Browns face a tougher schedule in the back-half of the season. The Browns might be able to win three upcoming games against the Jaguars, Buccaneers, and Raiders, but we'll need another offensive weapon for those later games, and Gordon provides that.
If the Browns don't make it, it could very well be because of a loss this week to the Steelers, because that would give Cleveland an 0-3 record in the division. Unless they can nab a wild-card spot, that division record is going to put the Browns a step behind the Bengals, Steelers, and Ravens the rest of the way, unless Cleveland is able to magically beat the Bengals twice and also take out the Ravens on the road.
5. Browns are up by two with five minutes left in the game, their ball at their 20 yard line, which running back do you want to take the next five carries?
I have to stick with one running back? Okay, then it would easily be Ben Tate. Although the rookies appear to be great fits for this system too, I think Tate is quicker and he also has more experience in finding holes at the NFL level.
Bonus: Will the Browns turn the ball over more than eight times all year? Gimme odds.
I'd be stunned if the Browns finished the season with eight turnovers or less. Even though Cleveland is statistically on pace to finish the year with four turnovers, NFL defenses are too good, and sometimes, "things just happen," whether it be a fumble, a tipped pass or a Hail Mary at the end of the half that results in an interception, etc.