Sunday, December 5, 2010

Waiting on a giant leap

Cleveland’s sports scene needed an infusion of good news after the pants-splitting pratfall the Cavaliers took this week. The Browns delivered that pick-me-up today with a 13-10 victory over the Dolphins; a game that fans hope is a trendsetter of sorts - one that pushes the Browns from mere competitiveness to the airy realm of some-day playoff contention.

The playoff dream will remain unrequited this year. Nonetheless, we can see a team that’s growing, albeit slowly, with an emerging foundation of playmakers on both sides of the ball. Unlike past seasons, the 2010 Browns are in every game, with a play or two often being the deciding factor in victory or defeat.

Viability is certainly a good and necessary phase for the franchise. Still, in the development of a team, not being terrible anymore is probably the easiest step to take. Becoming an established playoff contender is a much larger leap, and that means the Browns can’t continue to operate on the razor-thin margin of error that has led to too many defeats in close contests this season.

The Browns seemed to be in for another hard-luck loss as the 4th quarter unreeled today. It was great seeing the Delhomme-to-Watson combo finally put the Browns into the end zone, but when a stop was needed on the ensuing Dolphins’ drive, the defense let the combination of a dreadful Chad Henne and Miami’s funky wildcat formation vex them into giving up a tying touchdown. These Browns simply don’t know yet how to handle success, and they’ll need to breach that at least somewhat psychological gap to finally get parallel with the Steelers, Ravens and Patriots of the world.

Maybe today’s happy finish was a small stride in that direction. A decisive win next week against a not-as-bad-as-their-record Buffalo team would be yet another one. We all know how long and rocky this road has been stretching all the way back to 1999. With just a little more patience and a few more tweaks to the engine, Browns fans could be cruising along smoother pavement before they know it.