Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Jingle bells! Browns still smarting from '05
Last Dec. 24, the Steelers cruised to a 41-0 victory in Cleveland Browns Stadium.
BEREA (AP) The Cleveland Browns had barely left the field Sunday in Atlanta with a rare road win when they began talking about next week's opponent.
That would be the loathsome Pittsburgh Steelers, who humiliated the Browns 41-0 at home last season on Christmas Eve an early lump of coal from the black-and-gold.
Braylon Edwards wants to return the gift.
"We're coming after their a----," the Browns' loquacious wide receiver said following the Browns' 17-13 win over the Falcons. "You don't beat somebody 41-0 at their own house. We're coming for the Steelers, that's point-blank, period."
On Sunday in the Georgia Dome, the Browns watched the other team's scrambling quarterback make poor decisions and cough up a game-ending fumble without being touched. The other team's wide receivers dropped passes, one a possible touchdown. The other team's offensive line didn't open many holes.
The other team the Falcons looked awful, tripping over themselves in a demoralizing loss.
The Browns loved every second of it. Usually, they're the ones making life easier for the opposition.
But for one of the few times in recent seasons, the Browns jumped to an early lead they scored in the first quarter for the first time in 12 games made enough big plays to sustain it and held on.
Afterward, Cleveland's players did something unique, too. Instead of analyzing what might have been, the Browns looked forward.
Edwards wasn't the only one to quickly turn his attention to the struggling defending Super Bowl champions, who appear vulnerable, and at 3-6 are tied with Cleveland for third place in the AFC North.
Linebacker Andra Davis said last season's holiday humbling has been a sore spot for months.
"That never left us," he said. "That's personal right there. We're definitely looking forward to that one."
Beginning with the Steelers, the Browns will play three straight games at home, a stretch coach Romeo Crennel would like to see them take advantage of. After Pittsburgh, the Browns will host Cincinnati and Kansas City. Three straight wins would put the Browns at 6-6 not bad for a team that started 1-5.
"We'll have our home crowd behind us pulling for us," he said. "Like I tell the players all the time, we have to make it a home-field advantage and we do that by making plays. We'll see what happens after that."
Cleveland's win over the Falcons provided a few firsts for the Browns, who have lost four games by eight points or less.
It was the club's first road win against an above-.500 team under Crennel, now 9-16 in two seasons. Also, it was the first time quarterback Charlie Frye had not thrown an interception in nine games.
"Hopefully, it's the first of many," Frye quipped.
One week after being criticized for locking onto his receivers and holding the ball too long, Frye was efficient and effective. He finished 16-of-22 for 165 yards with one touchdown, a 19-yard strike to Edwards in the second quarter that put the Browns ahead 14-0.
While watching film together last week, Frye and Edwards noticed the play's potential and as soon as they had a chance to run it, they made it work.
"It was there," Edwards said, "and Charlie just knew it."
Crennel said the most pleasing part of Frye's day was the zero next to the QB's interception total.
"That's been a point of emphasis all year, make the decisions and the fact that an incomplete pass is not necessarily a bad play," Crennel said. "Not having any interceptions is a big plus. That is a huge step for us."
So, too, was the defense's ability to slow Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick.
Spot shadowed by rookie linebacker Leon Williams most of the game, Vick was held in check by the Browns, who forced the NFL's best rushing quarterback to beat them with his arm. He couldn't.
Vick ran for 74 yards but completed only 16-of-40 passes for 197 yards and was picked off twice. With a chance to put Atlanta ahead late, Vick fumbled away the Falcons' best final chance with 2:18 remaining.
"You don't really stop him," Crennel said. "We tried to contain him and for the most part we did a good job at that."
As for containing Edwards, Crennel didn't seem to be worried about the Steelers getting any early bulletin-board material.
"We were embarrassed the last time we played them and we want to have a much better showing. He [Edwards] was part of that embarrassment and he understands it," Crennel said. "We all want to play a lot better and that's what we are going to try to do."