It wasn't always pretty, but the Cleveland Browns picked up their first win of the 2012 season. You might actually use the hackneyed "total team effort" to describe the win, as the offense, defense, and special teams all came up with big plays to earn the AFC North win. The offense went to sleep for parts of the second and third quarter, but Brandon Weeden had another solid day in earning his first career win on his 29th birthday.
After falling into a 7-0 hole in the first quarter, Weeden and the offense responded with the second big-play strike to Josh Gordon in as many weeks. Gordon hauled in a pretty 71-yard touchdown pass that Weeden lobbed over the defense, hitting his fellow rookie in stride. Gordon pulled it in with one hand and then promptly took it to the house.
Weeden finished with 231 yards and two touchdowns, with his only interception of the day coming on a deflected ball at the line of scrimmage.
A number of young offensive players got in on the act, and after a brutal offensive struggle in the second and third quarters, Montario Hardesty finally broke through for the Browns second touchdown of the day. Hardesty went up and over the top from one yard out to give the Browns their first lead of the day at 20-14. It was part of a stretch where Cleveland outscored the Bengals 24-3, as Joe Haden and the defense forced turnovers and kept Cincinnati off the board. It was the first touchdown of Hardesty's career, and it put the CBS crowd in full roar.
Hardesty's touchdown would be the first of three fourth-quarter scores as the Browns took control to earn their first win. The icer came from the defensive side of the ball, however, as another unexpected contributor stepped up. Sheldon Brown, who's been much-maligned at times during his tenure in Cleveland, jumped in front of a slant for a huge interception of Andy Dalton. He housed the pick for a 17-point lead with less than eight minutes to play.
Dalton was picked three times on Sunday, but the Brown pick-six was the dagger. Haden's return also provided an instant boost in the secondary, as he made crucial third-down plays in the first half against the run and pass. A first half Haden interception in Cincinnati territory led to only three points, but his presence on the defensive side of the ball was likely the difference in the game.
A great day all around for the Brownies, with highlights in all three phases of the game -- Josh Cribbs also got in on the act with a 60-yard punt return that lead to three more.
They now head back out on the road to face the Colts in Week 7.