There is nothing for the Cleveland Browns in Oakland but a chance to prove their 51 points last week against Cincinnati weren’t a fluke, while the 45 points they allowed were.
Is it completely unfair that so much wonder is bundled in this Bay area?
The city of San Francisco? Breathtaking as seen while traveling at twilight from the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Pacific? Spectacular ocean vistas, north and south.
To make it fair, the Raiders play by the bay. Dumpy stadium. Frumpy city. Hideous fans. Ugly team.
Forget paradise. Think good place for the Browns to get to 2-1 today.
“It’s a business trip,” Head Coach Romeo Crennel said, “not a pleasure trip.”
The Browns checked into a San Francisco hotel and ate in San Francisco restaurants.
There is nothing for them in Oakland but a chance to prove their 51 points last week against Cincinnati weren’t a fluke, while the 45 points they allowed were.
They will take a bus across the bridge three hours before kickoff and take a shot at an 0-2 team that's breaking in 32-year-old Head Coach Lane Kiffin while trying to clean up a 2-14 mess.
Not that the Browns are swaggering like Lake Erie pirates into “The Black Hole.”
Cleveland hasn’t won two straight games since 2004.
“This would be very big for us,” General Manager Phil Savage said. “We’re on the cusp.”
Both teams will start quarterbacks who are setting up on earthquakes.
Josh McCown will start, and Daunte Culpepper might play for Oakland. No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell is taking cram sessions so he can play soon.
Cleveland’s Derek Anderson is through to the next round after throwing five touchdown passes against the Bengals, but rookie Brady Quinn is staying ready. Anderson is the reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
All of a sudden, the Browns have offensive options.
Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow each had career highs in receiving yards against the Bengals.
Coming off a two-touchdown game, 6-foot-5 wideout Joe Jurevicius gives Oakland’s talent-loaded secondary another problem.
Eight-year pro Jamal Lewis rushed for 216 yards against Cincinnati, second-best in his eight-year career.
“He looked like he was really young again,” Kiffin said.
Losing gets old.
The Browns have a worse record than their fans care to think about since reaching the 2002 playoffs. The Raiders have the worst record in the NFL since going to the Super Bowl in early 2003. It includes three losses to the Browns.
“It’s odd how much we’ve played them,” Browns defensive end Orpheus Roye said.
The Browns are thrilled to avoid Oakland’s fate, an 0-2 start. Of the 11 teams that opened at 0-2 in 2006, only the Chiefs made the playoffs.
Forget the playoffs. If the Browns get to 2-1, that might seem like the Super Bowl.
Jamal Lewis is open to staying in Cleveland after his one-year contract runs out, but both sides will let things play out for a while.
Lewis jumped from Baltimore to Cleveland partly because he trusts Savage.
They were together with the Ravens from 2000-04. Lewis looked faster than ever on a 66-yarder that highlighted his 216-yard game last Sunday.
“Jamal’s a warrior. He’s got the mentality we needed on that side of the ball,” Savage said.
He’d better have the durability, too. There’s a big drop-off in talent and experience from Lewis to Jason Wright and Jerome Harrison.
Change of plans
The Browns think they wrecked Cincinnati’s defense partly because the sprang so many surprises.
The Pittsburgh kickoff game deteriorated so quickly that plays they wanted to unveil were abandoned.
Badly needing a win after a 34-7 embarrassment, they let it all hang out in a 51-45 win over the Bengals. Now the Raiders have seen the playbook.
Coordinator Rob Chudzinski spent the week trying to cook something up that will surprise the Raiders.
“You always add a wrinkle or two,” he said.
Oakland Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan worked for Crennel in New England from 2001-03.
Return man Joshua Cribbs has spoiled the Browns with good field position. He might be erased by Sebastian Janikowski, who leads the league in kickoff touchbacks, and an equally strong punter, Shane Lechler.
If the ball is kicked a few yards into the end zone?
“He’s not supposed to come out,” Crennel said.
Crennel noted that Ellis Hobbs, whom the Browns would have drafted in Round 3 in 2005 had they not picked Charlie Frye, gave the Patriots a 108-yard return recently.
If Cribbs breaks the bring-it-out-rule and scores?
“I’ll give him a high five,” Crennel said.
The Raiders spent a Round 1 draft pick on Janikowski and are liberal in lining him up for long field goals. He is 10-of-24 from beyond 49 yards since 2005.
Owner Randy Lerner set the right tone for the Browns in the wake of their awful season opener, according to Hall of Famer Jim Brown.
“He related to every employee in the building as human beings,” Brown wrote in an in-house column. “He let them know he was behind them 100 percent.
“The night before the game at the team hotel in downtown Cleveland, I saw the whole Browns family together. It was a tremendous thing to witness.
"There were the big three (Randy, Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage) along with all the players and assistant coaches.”
- Savage has launched into his usual full-scale scouting mode. He visited USC on Thursday and UCLA on Friday and planned to attend two college games Saturday before taking the 75-minute flight to the Bay area for today’s game.
- The Bay area weather was rainy and 59 degrees when the Browns landed Saturday.
Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.