By The Sports Xchange
Our Inside Slant:
For the first time in more than four years, the Browns are riding the momentum of a two-game winning streak as they head into their next game.
Such a modest win streak might be no big deal to teams such as the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints or the Browns’ road opponent on Sunday, the Houston Texans (8-3), but in Cleveland it is cause to celebrate.
Now 4-6-1 and with a longshot for an AFC wild-card playoff spot, the Brown won as many times in the first 11 games this year as in the three previous seasons combined.
The Browns beat the Atlanta Falcons, 28-16, on Nov. 11, had their bye on Nov. 18, then beat the Bengals, 35-20, in Cincinnati last Sunday. The victory snapped a 25-game road losing streak and ended a streak in which the Bengals beat the Browns seven straight times.
“I still think that we can be better,” interim head coach Gregg Williams said. “The thing that we have to do is continue to push to be better to be able to take a look at where we were good here and continue on in that vein, but also we have some corrections. We have to get all of this stuff processed and then move onto the Texans.”
The Texans should present a much tougher challenge for the Browns than the Bengals did.
The Browns handed the Bengals their fifth loss in six games. The Texans, leaders in the AFC South, lost their first three games. But they’ve now won eight straight since stumbling out of the gate.
Williams and his staff were able to “TV scout” the Texans on Monday night in their 34-17 whipping of the Tennessee Titans. They saw Texans running back Lamar Miller rush for 162 yards and a touchdown, and they saw the Texans swamp Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota for six sacks.
It is a steep mountain to climb with only five games remaining, but the Browns believe they have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs.
After meeting the Texans, they host the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 9, play in Denver Dec. 15, host the Bengals Dec. 23 and finish the regular season in Baltimore on Dec 30.
The Browns are taking a “one game at a time” approach to the rest of the season. That doesn’t seem to fit the playoff talk, but it does as far as third-year linebacker Joe Schobert is concerned. Schobert was on teams that were 1-31 his first two seasons, so for him this is uncharted territory.
“Being in the hunt in December is all you can really ask for when you start the season,” Schobert said. “Just to have meaningful games is big for the morale in the whole building, and as well as the fans and fan base that has been kind of starving for wins the last couple of years. To be able to put ourselves in position for that is just a sign of a step forward for this organization.”
The Browns haven’t been in the playoffs since 2002 when they lost a wildcard game to the Steelers, 36-33. They last won a playoff game in 1994 when Bill Belichick was head coach and they beat the Patriots, 20-13, in a wildcard game.
The Browns would play one more season in Cleveland before former owner Art Modell moved them to Baltimore. The team was renamed the Ravens.
This is the 10th meeting between the two teams. Texans lead, 6-3.
The Browns have played the Texans five times in Houston and won only once. It was a game Terry Robiskie will never forget. He took over as interim head coach when Butch Davis resigned with five games remaining in 2004. Robiskie was 0-4, but the Browns finally made him a winner by beating the Texans, 22-14, on Jan. 2, 2005.
--C JC Tretter (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. He has been battling a high ankle sprain since Oct. 14 and rests on Wednesdays, but he plays every Sunday.
-- OL Austin Corbett (foot) did not practice. He works as a backup guard and center.
-- OL Earl Watford practiced at center Wednesday. He would start if Tretter and Corbett are out Sunday.
-- TE David Njoku (knee) was limited in practice Wednesday.
(Browns interim head coach Gregg Williams’ first name was misspelled in previous posts on this site. We apologize for the error. -- Ed Meyer, editor)