The Browns looked like a team that learned its lessons well in Sunday's win at Indianapolis. They made far fewer mistakes than they did in the 10-point opening-week loss to Cincinnati, committing just three penalties and one turnover. Such fundamental soundness is definitely a good sign — a mark of a club with the potential to get better.
Another positive from the win: Several rookies made contributions that, added together, made a material difference in the victory.
Take, for instance, DT Phil Taylor's third-down stop of Colts RB Delone Carter early in the second quarter. The Colts, who had marched inside Cleveland's 10-yard line, elected to take a high-percentage field-goal attempt on fourth down, which they converted for a 6-0 lead. Cleveland surrendered points, yes, but it could have been worse if Taylor hadn't beaten a Ryan Diem block and met Carter head-on.
Later in the second quarter, OLG Jason Pinkston and FB Owen Marecic made nice blocks on RB Peyton Hillis' one-yard TD run. Pinkston got a good initial block on an Indianapolis lineman, while Marecic blocked Colts MLB Pat Angerer. The touchdown gave Cleveland a lead it would not relinquish.
In the fourth quarter, as Cleveland held a 24-12 lead, DLE Jabaal Sheard made a very good play, sacking QB Kerry Collins, forcing a fumble and recovering the fumble. The only thing "rookie" about the play was an ill-advised lateral, but the Browns kept the ball and tacked on a field goal.
Depending upon so many rookies isn't without risk — surely, the Browns' youth will lead to some mistakes this season — but it's also rewarding, as it was Sunday. Taylor's upside is especially exciting, and his early production has been eye-opening. And WR Greg Little, who caught four passes for 38 yards at Indianapolis, is another first-year player to watch.
The Browns' rookie class came through in a big way Sunday. Such a big contribution so early, and in victory, is something Cleveland should relish.