It was like that first drink of water after being lost in the desert and nearly giving up all hope for survival. The Cleveland Browns win over the Tennessee Titans last Sunday quenched Cleveland fans as starved for victory as a father seeking quiet after driving a group of high school cheerleaders to an out-of-town camp.
The Cleveland Browns are for real! Their suspect 8 and 3 won/loss record validated by a first half explosion of points in Tennessee that left their host wondering what hit them. Cleveland came into that game with an impressive won/loss mark, but critics pointed out that they had beaten only one team with a winning record and had been outscored on the season by 21 points.
Clearly, the Titans were too good for them, a legitimate contender looking to guard their first place standing in the AFC South Division.
Then, like an unexpected storm that rips through a community, the visitors from Cleveland took on the Music City team and left it strumming a sour note. Baker Mayfield and his offense put up ten first quarter points while the Browns defense shutout the home team. In the second quarter, the Cleveland quarterback had the best 15 minutes of his three year career, scoring 28 points and taking to the halftime locker room a 38-7 lead over the stunned Titans.
You might have thought that it was uttered in the Browns halftime locker room to save some of that champagne for after the game, as the second half saw Tennessee pull to within one score while ending the contest on the wrong side of a 41-35 decision. Being outscored 28 to 3 in the second half did nothing to dim the flame of success yelled from the rooftops in Cleveland.
The Browns, long suffering and going in one stretch with only a single win over two seasons just a few years ago, were now 9-3 on the season and anointed as legitimate after their road win at Nissan Stadium.
Political numbers watcher Steve Kornacki visited the NFL pregame show on Sunday night, and touted the Browns bulging odds to earn a place in the postseason field. How could they miss? In the same season the NFL has expanded the playoff field from a dozen teams to 14, the Browns have the third best record in the AFC.
Now, I know to Cleveland fans I’m going to show up at the frat party warning the roisterers that we have class in the morning and prompt a chorus of kill joy rants. But Cleveland fans, you have another game this week, and are still looking to earn a playoff spot while allowing more points on the season than you have scored.
For the record, only one team has ever won a Super Bowl while allowing more points than they scored in the regular season, that was the 2011 New York Giants.
And, did you notice how you played the second half after building that big lead?
I have a strong suspicion that the second half of their game in Tennessee is going to be a lot more reminiscent of how their effort is going to go this week when they host the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night.
One might think that the Browns would have revenge on their minds, looking to atone for a 38-6 loss suffered on opening day in Baltimore.
But, to get the Browns to focus this week, or convince them they have anything left to prove, is akin to telling a six-year-old that they shouldn’t eat all the ice cream in their bowl.
The kid is going to enjoy it all, just like the Browns are going to celebrate last week’s win while they should be preparing for this week’s game.
The Ravens don’t come to Cleveland buoyed by their recent dominance over the Browns or opening day romp victory, the Ravens have other things on their plate. A three game losing streak dropped their playoff hopes to odds Kornacki didn’t see them overcoming, and last week’s win over the Dallas Cowboys that snapped their losing run did little to satisfy their need for victories.
Hey, Cleveland, save some of that champagne for after this game, you are going to need it, or perhaps something stronger, to reduce the sting of this loss and a return to reality.
Qoxhi Picks: Baltimore Ravens (-2½) over Cleveland Browns