Kansas City (8-0) Offers Browns Hope
By Steven King
The Cleveland Browns left Missouri late Sunday afternoon without the big prize they were after – a win over the still-unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs (8-0).
Supposedly sure-handed veteran wide receiver/returner Davone Bess saw to that. He dropped three passes, including one with just over two minutes left that kept the Browns from converting a fourth down and thus sealed their fate for good. He also fumbled a punt that the Chiefs recovered just when Cleveland was getting ready to take over near midfield with seven minutes left and trailing by just three points.
But following a 23-17 loss at Arrowhead Stadium in which they gave the Chiefs their toughest game to date, the Browns (3-5) came away with the next-best thing – three bits of significant hope.
Hope that their quarterback situation for these final eight games may actually be pretty good.
Hope that their defense may finally be playing like coordinator Ray Horton has been promising it would.
And, most important, hope that the rest of their season may not crash and burn after all.
Finally given the chance to start a game after twice being passed over this year, QB Jason Campbell proved everybody wrong and showed that he is much more than just a journeyman game manager by throwing for 293 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Again, if Bess had not pulled off the hat trick plus one, Campbell would quite possibly being hailed right now as one of the day’s big heroes in the NFL for directing the upset of the league’s last unbeaten team. His quick release, his ability to move in the pocket and look off defenders, his accuracy and touch on passes, and his cool demeanor that kept him from getting frustrated after a horrific start, were what had been lacking when Brandon Weeden was under center. Because of the importance of the quarterback position, these qualities made all aspects of the team better.
If Campbell can stay healthy for the rest of the year – and that’s a big if considering the way quarterbacks drop all over this league, especially in Cleveland – then the offense will do its part to contribute to victories.
With that, instead of finishing 4-12, as had been feared following consecutive losses to the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, there’s legitimate reason to believe now that the Browns can go 4-4 the rest of the way and end up 7-9. That would be their best record since 2007.
Because of the poor offensive play throughout much of the year, the defense was getting worn down and had started to struggle. But just as the defense perked up when Brian Hoyer won the three games he started at quarterback before suffering a season-ending knee injury, it fed off of Campbell’s strong performance and dominated the Chiefs in the second half as Cleveland clawed it way back into the contest.
Horton said last week that he was confident the defense would be playing better by Thanksgiving. As it appears now, he may have been too conservative in that estimation.
All along, the defense, on which they had spent so much money in free agency in the offseason, was supposed to be the Browns’ strong point. It was going to keep even more
But maybe now that the offense is untracked – or at least could be with this better quarterback play – the defense will get further energized and step it up even more.
The Browns have one more game – next Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium – before they get their bye week. It will be interesting to see if in that game they continue the momentum they gained at Kansas City, when they lost the battle but possibly won the war going forward.