What is Pettine Putting in the Water?



The Cleveland Browns are standing at 3-2 with a three touchdown victory over Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.  The most shocking part of that statement is the last part, “over Ben Roethlisberger” because as I am sure you all have seen on ESPN a million times Big Ben is 18-1 vs the Browns.  The reasons for his domination over the last 9 years can be attributed to the Browns lack of talent, the abundance of talent on the Steelers, or maybe the roughly 15 different quarterbacks the Browns have started in the time span.  But this year one quarterback for the Browns is making a major difference.

Brian Hoyer has been the luckiest find for the Cleveland Browns in a decade.  I mean they were bound to stumble upon a good one eventually, right?  But what can’t be overlooked is how the previous front office, Joe Banner and company, were able to hand pick a solid foundation of players, Hoyer included.  Although I doubt Banner was ever expecting Hoyer to be the starter or play at such a high level.  Nonetheless the Browns are playing great football with Hoyer and the offense is the most consistent factor.

The Browns came into the Sunday favored by 1 point against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which has only been the case 2 times in the last 26 match ups.  Usually when the Browns are favored and appear to be formidable they would typically fold and let us down again.  Not this time, not with this group.

Mike Pettine has been another hidden gem found by last year’s front office.  He appears to have initiated a culture change in the locker room and is making appropriate adjustments at half, as seen at Pittsburgh and at Tennessee.  He does not change his facial expressions on the sideline during the game and he doesn’t panic and neither does the team.  The defense isn’t quite living up to what most experts expected based on their talent level but they have certainly improved from last season and all in 5 games this season.  Yet, the biggest surprise for Cleveland has been the efficiency of the offense.


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Kyle Shanahan has performed as advertised, but is a bit cute at times with plays like the trick Manziel screen pass, but he has been the reason for this offensive success along with the consistency of Hoyer.  Shanahan has utilized a stable of running backs (Ben Tate, Isiah Crowell, and Terrance West).  The Browns are 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards and 17th in passing yards.  The most shocking stat from the Pittsburgh game is that Hoyer only completed 8 passes (8/17) and had a QBR of 93.6 out of a possible 100.0.  This is the highest QBR of his career but this wasn’t as surprising as eight completions.  Watching that game, it seemed as if he completed at least 15 passes but he averaged nearly 13 yards a completion for a total of 217 yards, that’s efficient.  The run game has been outstanding all year allowing for plenty of play action success but all this offensive prosperity stems from the offensive line’s play.  Profootballfocus.com has graded the Browns offensive line as the best thus far this season with all players graded in the green.  Unfortunately, Alex Mack broke his leg during the game and will likely be sidelined for the season.  This is a devastating hit to the offensive as the line will now be shuffled with Greco likely filling in at center.  Hopefully the line will be able to adapt like they did against Pittsburgh after the injury but his absence will absolutely be noticed.

The game itself was completely dominated by the Browns.  The Steelers were forced into 16 3rd down plays and only converted 6 times and went 0-2 on 4th down plays.  The Steelers attempted 42 passes as a result of falling behind in the 2nd quarter.  The Steelers began the game running it down the Browns throat but were stifled in the red zone in two straight trips resulting in only 3 points and a botched field goal attempt.  This was where the momentum was transferred to the Browns and they never gave it back.  Crowell and Tate ran all over Pittsburgh for a combined 155 yards on the ground resulting in 31 unanswered points besides a late garbage time touchdown by Lance Moore.

Cleveland solidified itself as a legitimate contender in the AFC North with this substantial win.  They now enter the easiest part of their schedule as their next 3 opponents have a combined 1 win….This gives Cleveland the opportunity to add to this 2 game winning streak and put them in position for, dare I say it, a playoff spot.

-Aaron Guilkey

Check out his blog:  guilkey.wordpress.com

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