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Browns Browns Archive Different, But Same
Written by Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich

Browns v. Giants 2008Really, it’s grasping at straws to even think about it, but we have to think about it.  The fifth game of the year for the Cleveland Browns is against the New York Giants, the defending World Champions.  Hey, the formula is there, and history can repeat itself, right?  A hapless Browns team can take this team behind the woodshed, and beat them like they stole something, just like last time.  It may not be a Monday Night game, but they’re getting CBS’s #1 announcing duo, so it’s pretty much the same.

The only problem with that logic is that it’s completely flawed; the Browns are playing this one in Jersey, and the Giants aren’t on a roll.  They were 4-0 with a few routs under their belt when they visited Cleveland Browns Stadium in 2008.  The Browns were in the midst of a disappointing start out of the gate, but because they were tagged with higher expectations; this time around, it’s only disappointing because they have not won some games they were in a situation to win.

In 2008, the Browns were coming off of a bye week, one which they entered with a victory.  There is somewhat of a similarity there, considering the Browns did have ten days to prepare for this one after their 26-16 loss in Baltimore last Thursday, but the obvious connection to the game four years ago is that the Giants are once again eight months removed from being crowned World Champions.

Browns defeat Saints in 2010There’s something to be said for the Browns reluctance to kiss rings, but there is likely more sizzle than substance to that whole thing.  Yes, Eric Mangini’s Browns did defeat the New Orleans Saints in 2010; months after the Saints defeated Peyton Manning’s Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.  In 2009, on a very cold Cleveland night, the Browns got the best of Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, and we should really talk about that one more often, but the buck stops with the 35-14 win over the Giants on October 13, 2008.

Actually, I feel like such a wet blanket for even mentioning this, but the Browns lost their first meeting with the team from Western PA 27-10.  That outstanding Thursday Night victory over their rivals only fits this equation because it is sandwiched between victories over other reigning Super Bowl Champions; a sweep in 2009 would have made the whole thing legitimate [INSERT SAD FACE].  However, if you go back to 2001, you’ll find a sweep of the Ravens, which is obviously a great thing until you’re reminded that Baltimore won the Super Bowl that January…but, they did indeed sweep them, just like they did in 2007. 

You don’t get any trophies for beating the Champs unless you beat them in the Championship, and accepting these types of upsets, as a fan, is unsettling.  The Cleveland Browns aren’t a Division I-AA (I know, FCS) school that should be thrilled for the privilege of being in the same zip code with the upper echelon of professional football.  The NFL game doesn’t hamstring small market teams; every team should strive to be in that top tier.  To enjoy the upsets, whether they’re over New England, New Orleans, the Giants, or even the Steelers is settling, and we’re better than that.

Shurmur and the Browns need to see this game, not as a signature win, but as the most important game of the season because it’s the next game of the season.  When Cleveland ’95: A Football Life aired on the NFL Network, the current Head Coach didn’t direct his players to watch the documentary, and it wasn’t his place to do so, though some did on their own accord.  Sure, it helped the younger players understand the fans they’re playing in front of better, but it was just a history lesson, and the history lesson is of far less importance than the current event.  What happened in 2008 is a great memory for us fans, but what’s ahead on Sunday shapes up to be anything but a carbon copy of that Monday Night game four years ago.

Eric Wright seals the deal in 2008I’d like to believe that the Browns aren’t in the middle of a descent, as they truly were before (1-3) and after (2-9) that joyous Monday night.  And, if we can forget that the visiting team is in a much different place for just a second, we can recognize that the defending Champs are in a different place than they were in the season after they took down the 18-0 Patriots.  What was more impressive than coming into Cleveland at 4-0 was the way they recovered from that loss, reeling off seven straight before dropping a home contest to Philadelphia that made the Giants 11-2 after 13 games.  They were a legitimately good team; I’m not so sure the same can be said for the 2012 chapter of that storied franchise.

Getting past the cliché of “you are what your record is”, the Giants do carry an aura of mediocrity that comes with being 2-2.  Their losses, a big Opening Night letdown against the Cowboys and to an Eagles team that still looks lost on offense, tell me a lot more than the wins they’ve notched against their NFC South opponents.  They still have Eli Manning, an underrated player that only gets better as he becomes more experienced, but Eli is still capable of being Eli Manning.  I guess that hasn’t changed since 2008.

If my glass half-full view of the Browns as a team on their way up holds any water whatsoever, they need to understand that they aren’t going to surprise the G-men this time around.  Both rosters have had a lot of turnover in the last four years, but I would expect that the holdovers from the Giants would benefit a lot more from a looming memory of that night than Joe Thomas, Joshua Cribbs, Ahytba Rubin, D’Qwell Jackson, and Phil Dawson.  Four years later, those are the only Browns that remain.

NFC ChampionshipBack then, the Giants didn’t have any reason to look ahead of the Browns; their next game was against a 2-4 San Francisco team.  The 49ers are next on the horizon for New York, but this time it’s a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship, and San Francisco is going to be hungry when the Champs return to the scene of the crime next Sunday.  A loss to the Browns on Sunday puts the Giants at risk of leaving the Bay Area with that same dreadful 2-4 record, so you can expect them to stay within themselves, even against an 0-4 Browns team.

Looking ahead, which the Browns definitely shouldn’t do, they have the Bengals coming to town a week from Sunday.  If wanting to win a game in the National Football League isn’t enough motivation, they should simply want to avoid returning home with an 0-5 record.  Right now, they are built on a foundation of sand, a win over the Giants, gives them that first rock on which to build.  The Romeo Crennel team of yesteryear didn’t seize that building block; all was forgotten after Braylon Edwards 7 minutes of the ESPN set in the post game, and those Browns played an uninspired game of football in a 14-11 loss to the Redskins the following week.

Because the Giants are struggling, the Super Bowl rings they wear probably shouldn’t do anything to scare the Browns, but they need to understand that the Giants are capable of putting 40 points on the board.  Because the Browns are the Browns, it’s always safe to assume that they’re also struggling, and that assumption happens to be valid at the moment, but because Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning remember 2008, the Giants won’t be looking at the Browns as an automatic victory this time around.  I’d say they were a little guilty of that the last time around.

Karate KidWhile this Sunday afternoon contest will drudge up some memories of a great night for the Browns and their fans a few years ago, and may have some mental influence on the approach, we need to know that this contest won’t be a carbon copy of what happened on October 13, 2008. But here I am, allowing myself to get optimistic for the Browns on Sunday, and I can’t deny it’s because of what went down the last time.  Maybe, just maybe, we’ll the next chapter in Browns v. Giants will yield that same result we got in ’08, a “W” for the good guys.  A two game winning streak against the Giants would probably even impress Mr. Miyagi.

"Look good together. Different but same."

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