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Beach Barks

Regular Season Watch Location

Posted on August 29, 2013ADD COMMENTS

Watch all regular season games with us at Quaker Steak & Lube located at 10400 49th Street North Clearwater, FL 33762.  We highly recommend you arrive early as the Dawg Pound fills up fast!

If you are new to the area and would like to join our club, just come to The Lube during any regular season game and we will sign you up!  Membership dues are $15/single and $25/couple.   On game days, admission to the Dawg Pound is $1 for members and $3 for guests.  These funds are used to support several charities in our community.

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Beach Barks: Turning the Corner

Posted on December 9, 2010ADD COMMENTS

Welcome back to another edition of Beach Barks! It’s been a few weeks since I checked in, so let’s cover the last few games and look ahead to this week’s matchup.

McCoy limps off the field after the Browns lose to Jacksonville, 24-20John Kuntz – The Plain Dealer

Since the Browns thumped New Orleans and New England, they’ve faltered a bit: losing with 16 seconds left in overtime against New York, then failing to capitalize on 6 turnovers committed by the Jaguars the following week in another loss. While the loss to New York was heartbreaking, it was a strong effort from the Browns that showed they can sustain a high level of play for weeks at a time.

All good things must come to an end, though, and the following week at Jacksonville saw the Browns offense lay a giant egg. The defense produced 6 turnovers for them – 5 of them in a row – and yet the offense was unable to convert those turnovers to points. Perhaps even worse for Browns fans was the loss of Colt McCoy to the dreaded high ankle sprain – the third Browns QB this year to suffer the injury.

Jake Delhomme in MiamiJohn Kuntz – Plain Dealer

Enter Jake Delhomme. Although failing to dazzle in his first start since the season opener in Tampa, he managed to lead the offense to 24 points in a victory aided by two uncharacteristic missed FGs by Panthers’ veteran kicker John Kasay – one of which grazed the left upright on its way outside the posts as time expired. Make no mistake, this was an ugly win, but it’s a W nonetheless and looks much better than losing to a 1-9 team would have!

The Browns seem to have righted the ship a bit last week in Miami. Delhomme had his first turnover-free game for the Browns, and did so without the usual dominating ground performance by Peyton Hillis to back him up: Hillis was held to just 57 yards rushing. The Browns defense stepped up again, nabbing 3 interceptions off Miami QB Chad Henne. Mike Adams nabbed the last one with a minute left to snuff the Dolphins’ hopes of edging out the Browns before time expired. Instead, Adams returned the ball to the 2 yard line and Dawson kicked the game-winning FG on the final play of the game.

Ben Watson catches a TD in MiamiJohn H. Reid III – Cleveland Browns

Perhaps the biggest storyline of Delhomme’s return under center has been the emergence of the wide receivers. It could be argued that Delhomme makes some questionable throws and forces a few into bad spots, but he also targets his wideouts much more than Wallace or McCoy has done. In Carolina, Jake found Brian Robiskie for a season-high 7 receptions. Last week, Ben Watson was his favorite target – ten times, in fact – but Massaquoi got into the act with 4 key catches good for 81 yards. While this is still not top-tier passing by any means, it’s nice to see someone with a jersey number in the 80s getting the ball for a change – especially on days like last Sunday when the opponent actually had an answer for Peyton Hillis.

It really boils down to this: good teams find ways to win. Two weeks ago it was luck, last week the Browns made their own luck. This Sunday, they need to move past luck and show they can persevere against a string of unfavorable conditions. The Browns have some notable injuries, the weather is looking to be horrible, and they’re playing their second of three road games in a row.

The weather factor may turn out to be a positive, though. Having a solid ground-pounder like Hillis is crucial to winning late-season games in cold climates. Conditions will definitely favor the run game on Sunday. The Bills have surrendered over 200 yards rushing during their current skid, and ranks last in the league this season against the run. The Bills’ best weapon is QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is growing into a bona fide starting QB, but swirling winds and a ball-hawking Browns secondary could prove to be a recipe for disaster.

Looking at the series as a whole, the Browns have won the past 3 meetings and 10 of the last 15. The Bills are 2-10 this year and on a 2-game losing streak; the Browns have won both of their games during that same stretch.

Beach Barks: The Stretch Run

Posted on November 19, 2010ADD COMMENTS
Peyton Hillis follows the blocking of Lawrence VickersAssociated Press

Week 11 is fast approaching, and the Browns are finally through the toughest 4-game stretch of their 2010 season schedule. Through that 4 games, a lot has happened to this team. Helmed by rookie QB Colt McCoy, they’ve stared down the Steelers, Saints, Patriots, and Jets – all legitimate playoff (if not Super Bowl) contenders. Emerging 2-2 from this stretch is actually quite a feat for a team whose preseason status amongst NFL pundits was arguably one of the worst in the league.

Jags' TE Marcedes Lewis catches a TD against the Colts on October 3Stephen Morton – AP

Given the Browns’ level of play since McCoy took over under center for the injured Seneca Wallace, they find themselves in an unfamiliar position: they can now be expected to win instead of constantly playing the underdog role and just hoping to be competitive. Over the next 4 games, the Browns face the Jaguars, Panthers, Dolphins, and Bills. Despite 2 of these teams still being in the playoff hunt, these four games represent the easiest chunk of games on the Browns’ schedule this season: they face no division leaders, and only one team among these opponents has a winning record. As of this writing, Jacksonville is 5-4. The Panthers, Dolphins, and Bills are 1-8, 5-5, and 1-8, respectively.

The Browns could conceivably go 4-0 before they wrap up the season against each of their AFC North rivals. While very few are talking playoffs around Cleveland after dropping to 3-6 with the loss to the Jets last week, it would put the Browns on quite a hot streak heading into the most important games of the season. Think about it: a 4-0 run would boost the Browns’ record to 7-6, marking the first time all season they’ve been above .500. Also, the confidence of a 4-game win streak would have the Browns up and ready like never before to face off against Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh.

Chansi Stuckey skirts the sideline during overtime against the Jets last SundayCleveland Browns

In fact, the Browns should already be feeling pretty good about themselves after stunning the defending Super Bowl champions, thumping the team with the best record in the NFL, and falling just 16 seconds short of a tie with another team pegged as one of the NFL’s best this season. There’s little reason if any to think the Browns *shouldn’t* win against their next four opponents, having already endured that test and fared so well.

The toughest challenge over the next four games should come this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Their record is the strangest combination of wins and losses imaginable: their losses have all been by 22 points or more, their wins have all been by 18 points or less – and all but one of those have been by 10 points or less. Simply put, one never knows which team will show up each week: the team that guts out the close win, or the team that gets blown out by three touchdowns or more. Still, it’s important to remember there’s a simple reason Jacksonville has a better record than the Browns: they’ve gotten the job done more often than the Browns have this season.

One part about the Jaguars that is no secret is their atrocious defense, particularly against the pass: 30th in the league, to be exact. The Jags’ secondary gives up a league-worst 8.82 yards per catch. As lackluster as the Browns’ receiving corps seems to be, particularly with Joshua Cribbs suffering four dislocated toes last week, this is a very favorable matchup for the Browns. Mohammed Massaquoi has shown flashes of talent; if ever there was a breakout game to be had, this one would be it.

Looking ahead, Carolina is in total disarray this year. John Fox is likely out as head coach after this year, and installing Jimmy Klausen at quarterback has failed to spark a cellar-dwelling team whose season is already lost. Miami is still in the playoff hunt, but a home shutout last night and playing in a division with the Patriots and Jets all but silences their postseason hopes. Then the Browns move on to Buffalo, a 1-8 team whose season is also lost in the AFC East basement and has allowed four 200-yard rushing games already this season.

The Browns have shown they can play with the league’s best. Now it’s time to show we can win the games we’re supposed to. If they can do that, we may just have a contender on our hands, folks.

Welcome back, sports fans! Thursday Night Football on NFL Network has begun, and that means the second half of the NFL season is fully underway. Given the loads of coverage this week’s Browns-Jets matchup is receiving, I figured I’d take the blinders off and poke my head to look around the league a bit. Let me channel my inner Pete Prisco here…

Most Tired Headline: Dallas Cowboys

After a dismal 1-7 start, Wade Phillips was fired as head coach of the Dallas CowboysAssociated Press

Don’t get me wrong, the last time I enjoyed watching a fall this much was when I saw Castro misstep off the podium in 2006. Still, this is a storyline that just won’t die, no matter how much it should. I understand they’re the biggest flop of 2010, but let’s look at the reality of the situation: they’re 1-7, 14.5-point underdogs against the Giants this week, have Jon Kitna at QB and just fired their head coach. Can we please declare a moratorium on this until they do something worth covering? Otherwise, if we’re into covering awful teams, we should point the front page of to the next two teams…

Most Unwatchable Game: Bills v. Lions

The Bills 0-8 start has everyone wondering when their first win will comeAssociated Press

There are times in the NFL when it’s just a shame that both teams can’t lose. These teams come in with a combined record of 2-14, both of those wins owned by Detroit. It’s not like Buffalo has been blown out in every game – far from it, lately – but close losses count just as much as blowouts. Detroit is another team that looks better than its record, but as with Buffalo, they keep finding ways to lose! Last week it was an inexplicable pass play call on 3rd down at the end of the game which stopped the clock, giving the Jets the time they needed to mount a comeback… what will it be this week? Bottom line: these teams deserve every loss they’ve received and it’s de-fault, not de-fense, that will allow one of these teams to escape with a win this week.

Most Surprising Player: Michael Vick

Michael Vick has developed into one of the best QBs in the NFL this

Before I get flamed for not mentioning players like Colt McCoy or Peyton Hillis, let me explain the rationale for my selection. For a player’s performance to be a true surprise, there has to be a previous body of work for comparison. In Atlanta, Vick was a mediocre passer whose main threat was his mobility. Two years and one prison sentence later, Vick has re-emerged with a new weapon in his arsenal: his arm. He’s still the running threat he always was, but now he can hurt you through the air as well. Don’t believe me? Look at the top-rated passers in the NFL right now. The top spot doesn’t belong to Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, or Peyton Manning – it belongs to Michael Vick.

Teams to Watch: Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns

Browns fans, here’s where you’ll want to start reading for this week. Almost.

First though, let’s talk AFC West. The Raiders seem to have finally found a winning formula, having done so 3 weeks in a row now. It’s always entertaining to see teams claw their way up from futility, and this team is no different. They lit up Denver for 59 points, squashed Seattle 33-3, and eked out a huge win in OT against the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs last week.

Not so fast, though! The Chargers are making their usual midseason run – which is to say, they’re starting to look like the team everyone expected them to be coming into the 2010 season. Why these guys can’t get it going right out of the gate is anyone’s guess, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that November and December are historically good months for the Bolts and this year could be more of the same. They’re on a 2-game win streak against a pair of tough opponents in the Titans and the Texans, and after a bye this week, they face all three division opponents over the next four weeks. If the Chargers are going to stake their claim as a legitimate threat for the AFC West title, now is the time.

Peyton Hillis celebrates during the Browns' 30-17 win over the SaintsAssociated Press

And last, but certainly not least – in the AFC North, that honor goes to the Cincinnati Bengals – is the Cleveland Browns! There’s a lot to like on this football team, and national media is coming around to the idea that the Browns are more than a fluke-win team this year. After flummoxing Drew Brees into four interceptions en route to a 30-17 victory over the Saints, the Browns came back strong after the bye week and thoroughly dominated Tom Brady and the Patriots in a 34-14 shocker that has many questioning just how good the Patriots really are (in the bad way) and just how good the Browns really are (in the good way!) Rookie QB Colt McCoy continues to develop and impress with his accuracy and leadership. RB Peyton Hillis is having a breakout year as well, rumbling for 184 yards and 2 TDs last week, earning him Offensive Player of the Week honors. The hardest stretch of the Browns’ schedule wraps up this week as they play host to the New York Jets – a team who is now tied with New England for first place in the AFC East. If the Browns can emerge from a run of games against the Steelers, Saints, Patriots, and Jets on a 3-game win streak, the murmurs of playoff talk in Cleveland may get a whole lot louder.

Game of the Week: Pittsburgh v. New England

Wow, there are a LOT of good games this week. Plenty of storylines, division rivalries, etc. The Sunday night matchup between the Steelers and Patriots has my eye though because it has playoff preview written all over it.

The Steelers come in on a short week after narrowly escaping a last-minute comeback by the Bengals on Monday Night Football. Pittsburgh has a history of winning games by playing just a little better than their opponents, but one has to wonder how well they’ll hold up when they have to give it their all for 60 minutes. With Baltimore’s loss to Atlanta last night, the Steelers are in sole possession of first place in the AFC North for the time being. With Cleveland gaining momentum and Baltimore faltering, Pittsburgh has a lot riding on this game.

The Patriots need this game just as badly as the Steelers, though. After losing to the Browns last week, the team fell into a first-place tie with the Jets in the AFC East. Historically, the Pats don’t lose back-to-back games: they’ve only done it twice in the past eight seasons. That doesn’t bode well for the Steelers. Neither does Brady’s 105.4 passer rating in games after losses; talk about bouncing back from adversity. The key to victory here will be dialing up the physicality, though. Cleveland beat up and pushed around New England and it threw the Pats’ game plan asunder. Pittsburgh plays as tough as any team in the league; the Patriots will need to match that intensity to put themselves in a position to win in primetime on Sunday.

And that’s it for this week’s edition of Beach Barks! Leave your comments below, and remember: ya gotta BELIEVE!!!

7 games are in the books, the Browns have had their bye, and they’ve begun gearing up for the second half of the season. With almost as many games played as are left, it’s time to see how the Browns have fared thus far and what to expect in the remaining 9 games. Let’s begin!

Colt McCoy hands off the Peyton Hillis during the Browns' 30-17 win over the Saints.Associated Press

In true Cleveland fashion I always like to start things on a high note, let’s take a look at some talking points:

  • It took until week 5 against the Atlanta Falcons before the Browns fell behind in a game before the 4th quarter. The combined record of the teams who had to rally from behind against us? 15-6.
  • With the victory against the Saints, the Browns have defeated the reigning Super Bowl champions 3 years in a row.
  • The Browns’ defense did not allow a rushing touchdown until week 6 – they were the last team in the NFL this season to do so.
  • The Browns have scored first in every game this season.

The first and last points tell the story of the so-called “new look” Browns this year. Last year the Browns were lucky to compete in any of their games preceding the 4-win streak to close out 2009. In 2010, the Browns are bursting out of the gate in every game and challenging teams to match their intensity. So far, in terms of fast starts, no one has been able to.

The next step for this team in turning the corner from also-ran to top contender is in closing out games. Our first three losses of the season came in the final fifteen minutes of play, and both victories this year became markedly close in the fourth quarter as well.

The fault for these late-game let-downs doesn’t necessarily lie in Mangini’s game plan, though. Rather, his football strategy is sound and quite typical of the Bill Belichick school of coaching, of which Eric Mangini is a product. New England has made a dynasty out of getting early leads and protecting them until the final second ticks off the clock. The strategy is tried and true, except for one little problem:

We don’t always have the talent to pull it off.

In protecting a lead, the onus is on the defense to keep the other team out of scoring range. Short gains are given in exchange for extra protection against the big play downfield; the idea being that taking time off the clock is more important than preventing small gains on each play.

Anquan Boldin scores 1 of his 3 TDs against Eric WrightNo Logo Needed

One of the keys to this strategy is having enough talent at cornerback to ensure receivers never get behind them and give up the big play. This year, however, Eric Wright has become the favorite whipping boy of opposing quarterbacks. Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin made this woefully apparent in week 3 when Wright was gashed by the duo for 3 TDs, resulting in one of Cleveland’s 3 come-from-behind fourth quarter losses. The following week, Carson Palmer and Terrell Owens did their best to exploit that weakness again. (Fortunately, this time the Browns were able to withstand the Bengals’ efforts to overtake them.) What we’ve seen this year is that Eric Wright, once regarded as the bright spot in an otherwise abysmal Browns secondary, has now been outclassed by offseason acquisitions like rookies T.J. Ward and Joe Haden. Given another offseason to acquire players through draft and free agency, I would be heartily surprised to see Wright retain his roster spot in 2011.

The other issue that has haunted the Browns’ defense so far this year has been the relatively nonexistent pass rush. Let’s look at the quarterbacks the Browns have faced thus far: Josh Freeman, Matt Cassell, Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, and Drew Brees. These are not quarterbacks to be taken lightly, and definitely not a corps one should leave any extra time to make a play! Consistently, though, the Browns leave passers with precious extra seconds to find an open receiver. Often times, they do – extending critical drives as a result.

As discouraging as the play by some of our incumbents has been, though, many players new to the Browns for 2010 have proven themselves to be incredibly valuable. Offensively, Seneca Wallace has shown his ability to lead the offense in Jake Delhomme’s absence. Following Wallace’s subsequent injury, rookie Colt McCoy has earned equally high marks from local and national media alike for his composure and leadership. Peyton Hillis has been a beast in the backfield, taking on the role of workhorse week in a week out. His rushing touchdowns in 5 straight weeks are the best streak by a Browns running back since Earnest Byner accomplished the feat back in 1986. And when Hillis isn’t dragging defenders past the first down marker, Ben Watson has become a favorite target for Browns quarterbacks.

Scott Fujita has shown this year exactly why he earned a Super Bowl ring last year.Associated Press

Defensively, the Browns have upgraded several key positions. The Browns secondary received a major shot in the arm with the drafting of safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Joe Haden. Ward’s play and hard-hitting style in particular have been difference makers several times already this year. In the linebacking corps, Scott Fujita has been one of the most important acquisitions this past offseason. Coming from the New Orleans Saints, his play has helped solidify a seemingly revolving door of personnel that resulted in 12 LBs and only 3 CBs remaining on the roster to start the season.

In all, I don’t believe the 2-5 record the Browns carried into their bye week represents the leaps and bounds this team has made over last year. Getting ahead of teams, maintaining our level of play despite injuries and a tremendous amount of roster turnover from last season, and the savvy transactions made by the new front office tandem of Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert give me the belief this team is headed in the right direction – and all of these moves will bear fruit sooner than many think.

Looking ahead to the 9 games remaining, there’s a good chance we reverse our record. We finally have a good quarterback controversy, with Wallace and McCoy both making strong cases for the starting job – to say nothing of the incumbent, Jake Delhomme. Unfortunately for him, Jake may have lost his starting job from the bench through no fault of his own. With strong leadership on the field, our offense has found its identity as a bruising rushing attack followed by opportunistic short passing as required. This is exactly the kind of offense that finds success in the AFC North as weather conditions deteriorate towards the end of the year. Couple that with a defense that is becoming more adept at forcing mistakes by confusing opponents with various looks and blitz packages, and you have a recipe for success.

For the first time in years, Browns fans, there’s plenty to get excited about. Let the next 9 weeks begin!

As any Browns fan watching last week’s game knows, helmet-to-helmet hits are exceedingly dangerous and can drastically alter the outcome of a game, a season, or even a career. Just ask Steve Young, Troy Aikman, or former Cleveland Brown Brodney Pool. The first two, both Super Bowl champion quarterbacks, saw their careers fall off dramatically after suffering consecutive concussions. Joshua Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi are now sidelined with concussions and the Browns have to determine when it is safe and prudent for them to return to action.

The NFL has come out this week and enacted harsh new standards of conduct on its players, levying higher fines and threatening suspension for what it deems “devastating hits”. Players have come out on both sides of this argument, both in support of and against these new regulations. Steelers LB James Harrison even went so far as publicly announcing his contemplation of retirement over the $75,000 levied against him. (This only lasted a day before he returned to practice.)

In my opinion, any defensive player who does not feel he can effectively play the game without helmet-to-helmet hits should retire. As sports medicine and nutrition has advanced, players have gotten bigger, faster, and stronger. The speeds and power with which these collisions take place are ever increasing. As strong as these athletes bodies have become, however, the organs contained therein have not benefited in the same manner. Studies indicate that concussions are on the rise, and have been for some time. 4-5% of all players suffer a concussion each season – that’s an average of 2-3 players per team. This is entirely too much risk for a simple sport.

As severe as the NFL’s stance on concussion-inducing head impacts may seem to some, it is grossly inept compared to other sports’ policies. When an NFL player takes a shot to the head and is dazed or knocked out, he can be tested and medically cleared to return to the game. By comparison, UFC rules state any competitor who is knocked out during a fight is medically suspended for 3 months to ensure a complete and successful recovery. Is anyone up for calling the UFC a bunch of sissies? That’s what I thought.

The new stance on helmet-to-helmet contact follows a long-standing precedent the NFL has established on altering its rules to protect players. From roughing the passer or kicker to “in the grasp”, through facemasking, all the way up to recent rules like the horse collar, the league has long stood for preserving its most important product: its players. After each rule alteration, debate opened up with players on both sides – traditionally with offense in support of the new rule and defense staunchly against it.

For as much grousing as some make when these rule changes are enacted, however, the game eventually adjusts and competition is preserved. It’s a hard case to make to say that games were more competitive before these safety rules came to pass. In this decade alone, 4 teams who had never before appeared in a Super Bowl have made the trip: Tampa Bay, Seattle, Arizona, and New Orleans. Parity is alive and well. Defense still reigns; teams with the higher-ranked defense have won 6 of the last 10 Super Bowls. So in spite of what defenders of the status quo may say, the steps taken by the league seem to be having no negative effect on the excitement and competition of the game.

It could be argued that quite the opposite has happened. We’ve seen some of the most impressive offensive displays during that same time. Though it raises the ire of defensemen, fans have enjoyed the spectacle. Offensive displays like those witnessed in the past decade might not have been possible if rules weren’t constantly being reviewed and skewed in the favor of the offense. Would the Saints have reached the Super Bowl without Drew Brees or Reggie Bush? Could Peyton Manning have secured his first ring with his first-string receivers sidelined? Unlikely. The top stars in the league are often on offense: Favre, Manning, Moss, Brady, Tomlinson, Sanchez, Ward, Austin, Peterson, etc. It’s in everyone’s best interest to keep these players healthy so they can continue to turn in jaw-dropping performances each week.

In all, any rule that serves to protect players’ health is in no way a bad thing. I love a good hit as much as any fan, but I never want to see a player risk his life for my amusement. Even if cracking down on helmet-to-helmet hits softens the game a bit, which history has shown won’t happen, I’ll sleep better at night knowing we’re placing a premium on these athletes’ well-being, not our blood-lust.

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