With the Browns back at .500 after a 6-3 win vs. Seattle on Sunday, whose stock is up — and whose stock is down? We explore.
The defense — A round of applause, guys. You were outstanding Sunday vs. Seattle. Dick Jauron and Co., take a bow. The Browns don't win if you don't shut down the Seahawks' offense. "Shut down" — we toss that around too loosely, but here's a case where it fits. The Seahawks gained all of 137 yards. Their lone drive into the red zone ended in a field goal. Their quarterback, Charlie Whitehurst, completed 12-of-30 passes for 97 yards. Ninety-seven yards! A job well done to say the least.
RB Montario Hardesty — Starting in place of Peyton Hillis (hamstring), Hardesty rushed 33 times for 95 yards and caught two passes for 27 yards. He didn't drop a pass, and he didn't fumble. "He played like a starting running back and he battled," Browns head coach Pat Shurmur said when asked if Hardesty had earned more work with his performance. "He wasn't perfect. I'm sure he's going to be sore tomorrow, but yes, I think for the time being he's earned the right to carry the football and we're going to welcome Peyton back when he's healthy and hopefully we can keep building on that."
QB Colt McCoy — He was intercepted once and sacked five times, but he outplayed Whitehurst, and he scrambled well, rushing for 31 yards on eight carries. A 12-yard gain helped keep Cleveland's key, clock-chewing, 6:49 drive alive in the fourth quarter. On the day, McCoy completed 20-of-35 passes for 178 yards with a passer rating of 59.0, but he led his team to the win, which was especially sweet, considering how tough it was for both offenses.
PK Phil Dawson — Dawson's field goals of 52 and 53 yards were Cleveland's only points. "What a great player, what a competitor and he makes his kicks," Shurmur said of Dawson, who also had two FG attempts blocked. "I'd venture to guess that the ones that were blocked would have been makes. I've got a very strong appreciation for what he is and he's a pro. That's why he's one of the best." Dawson reportedly suffered a bruised thigh Sunday, but he was able to kick with the injury, which is not regarded as serious.
Special teams — The Browns' special-teams woes almost cost them dearly on Sunday. In addition to the two blocked field goals, a punt-return TD for Seattle's Leon Washington was nullified by a very questionable penalty call. Cleveland's poor special-teams play the past two weeks, which includes a pair of touchdowns surrendered at Oakland, is alarming.
First-quarter offense — The Browns have three points in 90 minutes of first-quarter play this season.
Browns wide receivers — They combined for all of 55 yards vs. Seattle. We don't have to tell you that won't cut it.