Newspaper article International New York Times

Time to Start Believing for Browns Fans

Newspaper article International New York Times

Time to Start Believing for Browns Fans

Article excerpt

After a 31-10 rout of the despised Pittsburgh Steelers, even the most cautious Browns fan has to be confident that the franchise is headed for a winning season.

Bring up the possibility of a winning season, and Cleveland Browns fans will tell you that it's still only October.

Bring up making the playoffs, and fans will point out that the leaves are still turning and the wind coming off Lake Erie is far from the slicing razor it becomes in November. It's early yet.

But after Sunday's 31-10 rout of the despised Pittsburgh Steelers, even the most cautious Browns fan has to be confident that the franchise is headed for a winning season for the first time since 2007. And maybe, just maybe, a playoff berth -- the first since 2002 -- is on the radar.

After Sunday's game, Browns Coach Mike Pettine abandoned the traditional practice of playing down big wins.

"It's huge," he said. "I can't tell that lie. It's a division win, but for it to be Pittsburgh and the way we did it, it's special."

This has the early feel of a dream season.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer, the hometown hero, continues to impress. Fresh off leading the Browns to an improbable come-from-behind victory in Tennessee, Hoyer improved to 6-2 as the Browns starter and continued to play mistake-free football. Hoyer completed 8 of 17 passes with a touchdown and no interceptions.

Going into Sunday's game, Pittsburgh had won the last four meetings and had defeated Cleveland in 14 of the last 17 in Cleveland. A Pittsburgh victory on Sunday would have been 11th time since 2001 the Steelers had swept the regular-season series. A loss to a reeling Steelers team would have been a demoralizing setback for the Browns' new executive team, led by the first-year general manager Ray Farmer.

"This was important," Farmer said of the victory. "They've had our number for a considerable number of years. Now it's a part of us demonstrating not only do we belong on the field, but that our guys understand that we can compete and we can win any game. …

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