By JEFF PHELPS, Cleveland's Talking Heads, Weekdays 10am-2pm on 92.3 The FanBy Jeff Phelps | 92.3 The Fan

Thoughts as I watch the Browns play the Raiders in Oakland…

1st Quarter

Every time I think Brandon Weeden is making real improvement as an NFL quarterback, he does something that makes me think otherwise. For instance, an interception at the Oakland three yard line by Matt Giordano on the Browns first possession of the game. A chance to score. Bad throw to Ben Watson. I must go scratch my head.

2nd Quarter

And then, just when I’m thinking Weeden won’t be “The Man” for much longer than this season, he throws a beauty – like the perfect pass to Josh Gordon for a 44-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Beautiful. If Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner were watching – and I’m guessing they were – I’m sure Jimmy went nuts and Joe barely smiled. I like that dynamic.

And then….. back to another lousy pass, and an interception by Phillip Adams late in the half. Yikes. He plays like a rookie, then he doesn’t play like a rookie. And then it happens again. Despite the two interceptions, Browns have a 10-3 lead at halftime, because the defense has been outstanding, and the Raiders offense has been anything but.

All that said, I think Weeden has played well enough to be the quarterback of the Browns next year and beyond. CBS analyst and former Bengals and Jets QB was a guest on “Baskin and Phelps” on Friday. I asked him about Weeden, and he asked me in response what I thought of Houston’s Matt Schaub and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco. His point – if the rest of the offense functions well, you don’t have to have Joe Montana or John Elway at quarterback. You need a guy who can run the offense and make the plays that have to be made in order to win games. Boomer seemed to think Weeden can be that guy. I’m inclined to agree.

3rd Quarter

The more I see of Greg Little and Josh Gordon, the more I think the Browns have their two big guns at wide receiver. I like them. A lot. I’d still like to see the Browns add a veteran to the receiving group – a guy who has had real success in the league, not just a guy who’s been around a while. Put a guy like that with Little and Gordon, and the Browns – and Weeden – would be in great shape at receiver.

Phil Dawson just made his 29th straight field goal. I don’t need to say it. 13-3 Browns.
Hoping Browns fans realize the defense is playing very well. Again. And the Raiders quarterback isn’t named Batch.

Phil Dawson’s streak ends at 29 straight makes. Sloppy field. High snap. Tipped by a Raider. Miss from 28 yards. Dawson’s still the best kicker in the NFL. But the Browns sure could have used the three points.

Raiders just hit on a 64 yard touchdown pass – Carson Palmer to Rod Streater. CBS analyst Steve Tasker just said Buster Skrine has played a nice game – until this. Buster may have great physical attributes, but until he learns how to really play defensive back, he’ll never be able to capitalize on his natural ability. 13-10 Browns.

Stop me if you’ve seen this movie before. Browns play well in first half. Things start sliding in the 2nd half. Offense starts struggling. Time outs are used when it doesn’t look like they’re really needed. Weeden just had two straight passes knocked down by Raiders, and then he called the Browns 2nd time out of the half. And it’s not the 4th quarter yet. Yikes.

“Yikes” is one of my favorite words.

4th Quarter

Montario Hardesty gets a couple of carries early in the 4th quarter. He looks great. I’ve been a Hardesty fan since Day One. He’s healthy, he’s running hard, and he can be a real help to the Browns offense. I really like Trent Richardson, but I’d love to see Hardesty get a little bigger role.

Buster Skrine just ran into the Raiders punt returner while he was making a fair catch. Just thought I’d mention it. Please add “and really play special teams” to my earlier comments about Buster.

Buster just got fried again by Rod Streater. Streater is a rookie. Just saying.

Browns offense is putting together a long drive when that’s exactly what they need. Weeden looks confident. Line doing a nice job. As has been the case all day, the play calling is sharp. This is impressive, at least until the Browns are stopped on Weeden sneak on 3rd and short. With about 5:00 left, in a three points game, Pat Shurmur calls his final timeout. Well sure, why not. It’s not like those timeouts could come in handy a few minutes from now in what is currently a three point game. Nah. No problem.

So the Browns called time out so they could come up with another quarterback sneak. This one worked well. First down. Good thing, since they don’t have any time outs.

What a drive, maybe even a defining moment for the season. Maybe even for the coaching staff and the entire offense moving forward. They go 94 yards in 14 plays. Repeat – 94 yards in 14 plays. Outstanding. The touchdown came on a three yard run by Richardson on a nice play call — a little miss direction with Travis Benjamin opened things up nicely for Trent. Simply an outstanding drive, and an outstanding moment, for the team. Browns lead 20-10 approaching 3:00 to play. Raiders, like the Browns, are out of time outs.

Raiders get a late score with :01 left, but the Browns made them eat up the clock on the drive. 20-17 final. It’s the Browns first road win of the season. The defense was very good. Weeden threw for 364 yards. Josh Gordon caught six balls for 116 yards and a score. Hardesty averaged almost eight yards on five carries. And… the best moment I’ve seen from the Browns all season, with the 94 yard drive. Big time stuff, friends.

Browns are now 4-8. They’ve won two straight, and this was huge – on the road, with a monster drive when they had to have it. If I’m Haslam and Banner, I’m thinking the train is on the right track, and moving in the right direction. Next week, Kansas City. Another win, and the decisions on the head coach and general manager become even more interesting. And if the Browns finish the season on a hot streak…… well…. good luck Jimmy and Joe.

Make any call you want, but it better be the right one.


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