<
>

Browns keep their season alive

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CLEVELAND -- It took six weeks, but the real Cleveland Browns -- the team everyone expected heading into the 2008 season -- finally showed up Monday.

The Browns pounded the reigning Super Bowl champion Giants 35-14 in front of a sellout crowd of 73,102 and a national audience of millions on "Monday Night Football."

Cleveland had its highest point total of the season and played its most complete game against arguably the NFL's best team. The performance showed what the Browns potentially could be if they can remain consistent and stay healthy.

"It's the guys I've been telling you about," Browns quarterback Derek Anderson said of his team. "I never doubted it -- ever. It's the same guys that made plays last year all season."

Here are three things we learned about Cleveland in the victory:

1. Anderson should remain the starting quarterback
After three consecutive losses to start the season, Anderson was put on a short leash by Cleveland's coaching staff. The losses were not all on Anderson, but replacing the quarterback is usually the easiest thing for teams to do to shake things up.

But coming off a Pro Bowl year, the Browns' brass did not want to give up on their starting quarterback too soon. It turned out to be a great move as Anderson has found a way to win his last two starts. He had one of his best performances of his career on Monday, throwing for 310 yards, two touchdowns and holding a 121.3 passer rating against the Giants.

"It's good, because I've put the work in and it was kind of like beating my head against the wall every weekend," Anderson said. "You put in the long weeks of work and you don't see the results, but then to see it tonight was just huge."

Anderson's performance can be closely tied to the stellar play of receiver Braylon Edwards, who also had his best game of the season.

The Giants played a lot of man-to-man defense, which gave Edwards opportunities to make big plays. Catches of 70 and 49 yards, as well as an 11-yard touchdown reception, highlighted his five-catch, 154-yard night.

2. Cleveland's defense is getting better
The Browns spent all season in the top half of the NFL rankings in total defense. But the unit wasn't making many game-changing plays and some saw it as a fa├žade.

Against New York, Cleveland's defense did make game-changing plays, which included three interceptions of Giants quarterback Eli Manning. The biggest turnover was cornerback Eric Wright's 94-yard interception return that gave Cleveland a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter and sealed the game.

"We really just focused on playing sound and solid and not giving them anything cheap," Wright said. "We have the athletes where, if we play our responsibilities and do the things that we should do, we can compete against anybody."

The Giants were able to run the ball successfully (181 yards, 7.2-yard average). But Cleveland's offense continually put points on the board to negate the Browns' biggest weakness. With New York forced to pass, Cleveland pressured and rattled Manning.

"We played solid all four quarters," Browns DT Corey Williams said. "If we keep playing solid like that for four quarters on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, we'll put up a lot of points."

3. The Browns are still in it
The Baltimore Ravens (2-3) lost their third-consecutive game Sunday and the Steelers (4-1) were on a bye. The Browns gained some ground on both teams that were ahead of them in the AFC North.

Twelve of the 16 teams in the AFC have at least two victories. Cleveland is now among them.

There's a lot of football left. If anything, the Browns proved after Monday's win that anything and everything is possible in the NFL.

"Every time you can win a game, that helps your team's confidence," Browns head coach Romeo Crennel said. "I think the fact that we were able to beat an undefeated team, going forward we can tell them that 'You can play against any team.'"