Browns notebook: Crennel can't deny significance of Bills game

Steve Doerschuk

Browns Head Coach Romeo Crennel dispensed with the just-another-game shuffle regarding Buffalo.

“Big game,” he said on the Monday after a 24-18 conquest of the Jets. “A huge game, as a matter of fact.”

Crennel, though, isn’t ready to engage in a discussion of a postseason drive just because his team is three games over .500 for the first time in the expansion era.

“Playoffs? Playoffs? I don’t know anything about playoffs,” he said.

The former three-time Super Bowl defensive coordinator qualified his little white lie: “We’re not the New England Patriots.”

If they were, the Browns would reach for the flyswatter and flatten Buffalo as New England did twice this year, 38-7 and 56-10. As it is, the Browns must worry about a Bills running game that trampled Miami on Sunday.

The Browns are last in the league in total defense, 28th against the run.

In the Meadowlands, with the Browns leading 17-6 and less than six minutes to go, Jets back Thomas Jones made runs of 11, 2, 13, 17 and 11 yards before getting stopped for no gain.

The sequence helped turn a walk-away into a thriller.

“We were playing the pass because we were ahead, thinking they have to pass,” Crennel said. “They were running against the sub defense. Not that you can excuse it, but that’s what was happening.”

The Browns’ status as a legitimate playoff team is tempered by ongoing defensive struggles.

“There have been stretches,” Crennel said, “where we played really good defense, made game-winning stops.

“There have been other times that they throw the ball over our head or run for 30 yards. We just haven’t been as consistent as we need to be.

“We work at it. We talk about it. We’ve adjusted techniques and things like that. But we haven’t gotten to where we need to be yet.”

The Browns went into Sunday’s game allowing a league-worst 389.9 yards a game. They let the 3-10 Jets rack up 387 yards, almost 100 yards more than New York’s 288.4 average coming in.

As coaches try to fix the defense, what areas do they focus on?

“All of the above,” Crennel said. “Sometimes it’s gap control, sometimes it’s run fits, sometimes it’s pursuit angles. You just keep harping on those things.”

Can’t catch a break

Crennel said the only notable injury to report from the Jets game was to outside linebacker Antwan Peek.

Poor Peek. After a promising preseason, he has battled nagging injuries since the real games began. Yet, the former Cincinnati Bearcat was in on a sack in three of the last five games, including Sunday’s, before exiting with an ankle problem.

The question becomes whether trying to get Peek into the next few games becomes counterproductive, or whether resting him until the playoffs makes more sense.

Big apples

Game balls for their work against the Jets were awarded to:

- Linebacker Leon Williams, an indication the team thought a key, late pass intereference call was bogus.

- Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, who had his fifth 2007 sack.

- Running back Jamal Lewis, who punctuated a 118-yard rushing day with a take-no-prisoners, 31-yard touchdown run.

- Joe Jurevicius, who recovered two onside kicks.

- Ryan Tucker, who is beginning to play right guard as well as he did in his right-tackle heyday.

- Mike Adams, a 49ers castoff who is helping as an extra defensive back and on special teams.

Tale of two drafts

Sometimes you lose: Oklahoma cornerback Antonio Perkins was a Round 4 pick in 2005 who never made a ripple before getting cut.

Sometimes you win: Memphis cornerback Brandon McDonald is a rookie Round 5 pick who is helping to float the boat while rookie Round 2 pick Eric Wright works his way back from a knee injury.

“You really don’t expect a fifth-rounder to come on and be able to make plays as quickly as he has,” Crennel said. “He has ability and confidence.

“He played corner and safety in college. A lot of that work was in a man coverage system. He’s used to covering man to man. His confidence shows up.”

Extra points

- Crennel didn’t mind Derek Anderson’s first-quarter interception as much as he minded a series of unfortunate events early in a loss at Arizona.

“We did not dig ourselves a hole this time, and we were ahead all game,” he said.

- Crennel said Braylon Edwards’ matching Gary Collins’ single-season franchise record of 13 touchdown catches “says a lot about his maturity.”

The Repository