Archive for the Cleveland Category


Tale of Two Halves; Minnesota 34, Browns 20


Photo: Peggy Turbett/Cleveland.com

On Sunday afternoon, the Cleveland Browns played host to the Minnesota Vikings to open up the 2009 regular season. Eric Mangini’s first half as the Cleveland Browns’ head coach was promising, but in the end, the result was all too familiar for Browns fans.

Cleveland carried a 13-10 lead over the Vikings into the locker room at halftime, but the running game of the Vikings was much too fierce for the Browns in the second half. The Vikings scored 24 straight points and defeated the Browns 34-20. Cleveland now falls to 1-10 in season openers since returning in 1999.

Starting Points – After not playing in the preseason, Shaun Rogers started at NT. Also, rookie Alex Mack got the start at center over veteran Hank Fraley. With backup running back Jerome Harrison out due to injury, rookie RB James Davis also got a good amount of playing time.

The Good -When you give up 24 straight points in the second half, it’s hard to give praise to your defense, but that is just what I am going to do.

I thought the first half we saw glimpses of just how good this defense can be. The Browns defense forced the Vikings into four three-and-outs in their first six possessions.

Cleveland only gave up 45 yards rushing in the first half to one of the top rushing teams in the league, and Adrian Peterson was held to one yard rushing in the second quarter (granted that was a 1-yard TD.)

I also feel that it is tough to blame the defense for the 24 straight points scored by the Vikings in the second half.

When your offense can only stay on the field for six and a half minutes in a 27 minute span, your defense is going to get tired, and that’s just what happened to the Browns’ D.

I also liked the pressure the Browns’ pass rush got on Brett Favre. Cleveland had four sacks and six QB hits. Those stats are what we would see in a three game span under Romeo Cernnel.

The other thing I would like to focus on in the positive column is something very easy to see: Josh Cribbs. Cribbs broke off a 67-yard punt return TD in the second quarter that allowed the Browns to take a 13 to 10 lead.

With his seventh career return TD, Cribbs is now tied with Eric Metcalf for most in Browns history. The offense also showed Cribbs early in the wildcat formation. Cribbs converted a third down with a five-yard run via direct snap.

Read more Minnesota Vikings news on BleacherReport.com

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Cleveland Browns-Minnesota Vikings: Week One Preview

This is the first in what will be a sixteen part series previewing the Cleveland Browns foes for 2009.

 

Week One vs. Minnesota Vikings

 

The Cleveland Browns open the season at home against the Minnesota Vikings, who went 10-6 in 2008.

 

The Vikings possess the two things that every NFL team should strive for to be effective. That is the ability to run the football and stuffing opposing teams from carrying the rock.

 

Adrian Peterson is (not “might be”) the best running back in the game today. Last season, Peterson rushed for 1,769 yards at a 4.8 yards per carry clip.

 

Peterson can pound teams between the tackles or simply out run defenses to the edge.

 

He combines speed, power, and cutting ability, along with a ferocity that is rarely seen even in the most viscous of sports.

 

Peterson is one part Roadrunner, one part jack rabbit, and one part bull-in-a-china-shop.

 

His backup, Chester Taylor, is more than capable, chipping in 45 receptions while splitting third down opportunities with Peterson.

 

The main goal for this Browns coaching staff was to improve a porous run defense. The Peterson led Vikings will put the revamped defense to the test.

 

Minnesota’s defense is rugged as well, leading the entire NFL in run defense in 2008. They were No. 6 overall in total defense.

 

The middle of the Vikings defensive front is not deemed “The Williams’ Wall” for nothing. Defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams are as formidable a duo as there is in the league.

 

Add defensive end Jared Allen (14.5 sacks in 2008) and a solid corps of defensive backs (led by corner Antoine Winfield) and this is a defensive unit to be reckoned with.

 

Defensive end Ray Edwards and linebacker Chad Greenway are young and improving, so do not expect a drop-off from last year.

 

Keep in mind that despite last season’s success, the Vikings defense missed its number one playmaker at linebacker in E.J. Henderson. Henderson should be back to 100 percent after foot surgery.

 

The one area where the Vikings struggled last year was in the passing game.

 

The team does not possess the type of wide receivers who will scare defenses.

 

Bernard Berrian led the team with 45 catches for 964 yards (7 TDs) last season. While Berrian’s 20.1 yards per catch average is impressive, he simply does not get open often enough to be referred to as a number one receiver.

 

The Vikings have been waiting on wide receiver Sidney Rice to reach his potential. At 6’4”, he is a big target, but poor quarterback play and injuries have stunted his growth.

 

Third receiver Bobby Wade is a possession receiver at best.

 

Minnesota is hoping to incorporate first round pick Percy Harvin, a diminutive but explosive player, into the passing game. The guess is that they will shift him around in special packages in order to create mismatches.

 

The offensive line did yeoman’s work creating space for the run game, but failed miserably at protecting the passer. They surrendered 43 sacks in 2008, which was near the bottom of the league.

 

To make matters worse, the Vikings lost six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk to free agency. Some complained that Birk’s career is on the decline, and that there really isn’t a better option waiting in the wings.

 

Second year player John Sullivan will get the nod to replace Birk, while it is likely the starting right tackle will be rookie second-round pick Phil Loadholt.

 

That is a lot of youth for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

 

Despite some of the teams’ issues on the line, left guard Steve Hutchinson is one of the games best at the position.

 

 

The Vikings will be a playoff team. Whether they are ready to take the next step will depend upon whether they get improved quarterback play.

 

Sage Rosenfels was signed in the offseason to nab the starting quarterback role from Tavaris Jackson, who struggled again in 2008.

 

Rosenfels career numbers are mixed. He has shown flashes during limited playing experience in 8 seasons, but his 30 to 29 touchdown to interception ratio doesn’t inspire that much confidence.

 

 

The elephant in the room is certainly the Vikings’ flirtation with Brett Favre.

 

Favre purchased a condo in Minnesota, so it appears as though he will be the team’s starting quarterback.

 

His inability to commit thus far is becoming mind-numbingly boring.

 

The real truth is that at age 39, combined with his already shaky decision-making behind center, the addition of Favre does not necessarily put them over the top.

 

The Vikings will win their fair share of games with or without Favre. To win a Super Bowl, this team just needs a quarterback who can manage the game.

 

 

Prediction vs. the Browns

 

Let’s just say this isn’t exactly the team you want to start the season against if you’re the Cleveland Browns.

 

At least they do not have to face Peterson on the MetroDome AstroTurf, where he is lethal. But the Vikings running game and defense will just be too much to handle for a team in transition like the Browns.

 

The best Cleveland fans can hope for is that the team is excited for a fresh start, with a new coach, while playing in front of their home crowd.

 

That might be enough to keep it close, but it will not be enough to garner a win.

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