The key to the Browns win over the Bengals on Sunday was that there was no one key.
There were many players and factors that contributed to the 11-game losing streak coming to an end.
Start with the defense, which I got into pretty good last week.
After giving up 500 yards against the Giants (243 rushing), the defense allowed Cincinnati 76 yards rushing (on 20 carries) and forced four turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble). Andy Dalton threw for 381 yards and three TDs, but that was only good in fantasy leagues. The Browns defenders held him down when it was needed most — because while the Browns offense was going three-and-punt-or-kick-a-field-goal on seven consecutive possessions, the Bengals actually saw their lead shrink from seven to one point.
Seven possessions in a row without a first down and the Browns actually closed a gap to one.
Many individuals contributed.
Josth Cribbs had a 60-yard punt return.
Brandon Weeden threw to 10 different receivers and completed to eight.
Josh Cooper came out of mothballs and made two big first-down catches in the first half.
Josh Gordon looked more like an NFL receiver than in any game this year.
Montario Haresty relieved an injured Trent Richardson (ribs) and came up with good runs on important plays.
Sheldon Brown intercepted Dalton and returned it for a touchdown.
Joe Haden returned, broke up two passes and intercepted another (though A.J. Green had a pretty huge game with seven catches, 135 yards and two TDs).
And Emmanuel Stephens sacked Dalton at a key point in the game and forced a fumble.
So many contributed — including Jordan Cameron, Greg Little and Ben Watson. John Greco filled in for Jason Pinkston (ill) and the Browns ran for 110 yards.
There’s surely someone I’m forgetting.
It’s sounding a little over the top to be so effusive, but when a team loses 11 in a row the feelings about a win are positive. And this was not that poorly played a game, even with that poor offensive stretch.
A few years ago Eric Mangini got his first win as a Browns coach in one of the worst games in Browns history. Shurmur broke the losing streak in a far better way.
Imagine: 34 points.
Suddenly one-and-five could be two-and-five with a win in Indianapolis, and it’s a lot easier to talk about the Browns.
As a team they hung tough, fought through a bad stretch and scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to win.
Perhaps, perhaps, this is something that can mushroom.