CLEVELAND – Thanks to a 21-point blowout win, 31-10, over the hated arch-nemesis Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland sent a clear message that these are not the same old Browns.
Before kickoff, there was a frost advisory in the greater Cleveland area, after an unexpected and dominating win, one can think that proverbial hell froze over in witnessing the Browns icing an old rusty and run-down Steelers team.
After pulling off the biggest road comeback in NFL history last week against the Tennessee Titans, 29-28, the Browns—who almost rallied against the Steelers in week one—clearly wanted to establish themselves on both offense and defense, after getting shredded by Ben Roethlisberger, LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown.
Going into the game, Cleveland was 1-18 vs Big Ben and 0-2 in the AFC North. Clearly, the Browns wanted to make amends, and it showed.
After Sunday’s win, the Browns can now smile at the sight of vanquishing a long-time boogeyman in both Roethlisberger and the Steelers. Cleveland—for once—played a complete game in sacking Big Ben twice, intercepting him once and pressuring him all game after giving up an early 3-0 lead.
Cleveland would get its groove going in the second half in making some big plays in running the ball effectively and Brian Hoyer making timely throws. Not the most impressive stat line for the former St. Ignatius product, Hoyer completed only 8-of-17 passes for 217 yards, one touchdown and a QB rating of 113.
Just from watching the 2014 Cleveland Browns, one gets the sense that they have bought into rookie head coach Mike Pettine’s no-nonsense gritty mentality and Hoyer’s cool and calm leadership on the field.
After a 51-yard touchdown pass to Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron, the Browns—for once—keep their foot on the medal—and imposed their will on a clearly listless and uninspired Steelers team that though that simply suited up in their fabled black-and-gold that the once-hapless Browns would roll over.
The mentality is different in Cleveland because—unlike Browns teams in the past that would have played prevent and allowed a team to come back and break their hearts—the Browns stayed aggressive in running the ball effectively with Ben Tate and rookie Isaiah Crowell who both combined for three touchdowns, took time off the clock and pressure off of Hoyer in wearing down a gassed Steelers defense.
Did this writer mention that they did this AFTER losing their starting Pro Bowl center, Alex Mack to a leg injury?
What makes this win even more impressive is that Cleveland did this minus two starters on the defensive line in Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, lose reserve lineman Armonty Bryant and backup defensive back K’Waun Williams during the game, yet still managed to hold Bell to 82 yards on 18 carries.
While Brown would extend his streak of games of five catches and 50 yards to six in catching seven passes for 118 yards, a lot of his yards came with the game already decided, and Joe Haden would exact a bit of revenge in breaking up a would-be touchdown pass.
In writing another chapter in what can now be called “The American Hoyer Story”, Cleveland showed that they can play with and beat the big boys such a Pittsburgh and that Hoyer—if he continues his solid play—may add pen to paper and possibly extending his stay back home.
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