Crennel not ready to hail improved Browns' arrival as contender just yet

BEREA, Ohio -- Usually, it's the coach who is on the receiving end of an ice-cold celebratory bath. On Monday, Romeo Crennel dumped a frosty bucket of reality on the Cleveland Browns.

Sunday's 27-20 comeback win over the injury-crippled and winless St. Louis Rams gave the Browns (4-3) several more reasons to feel good about themselves in an unexpected season of surprises. The victory was:

-- Cleveland's first on the road in 2007.

-- The second straight for the Browns, giving them two in a row in the same season for the first time since 2003, stopping a 64-game drought. They've already matched their win total from last season.

-- Further proof that Cleveland's high-powered, multifaceted offense can strike from anywhere on the field if quarterback Derek Anderson gets time.

-- Crennel's 14th in three seasons, pushing the Browns over .500 for the first time since he took over in 2005.

The Browns are rolling. Right, coach?

"All of those things are good things," Crennel said. "We know that we need to improve. We're not saying -- by any stretch of the imagination -- that we've arrived. We've got a lot of work to do."

True, but Crennel gave his players -- except for the rookies -- the day off on Monday anyway, rewarding them for a win that seemed in serious jeopardy when the Browns fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter to the undermanned Rams.

But showing poise and resiliency, Cleveland overcame 14 penalties, two major gaffes by wide receiver Braylon Edwards and got key defensive stops down the stretch to hold on and beat a team it was expected to beat.

That's saying something for the Browns, who have crumbled in the past when things weren't going their way.

Confidence is high. Caution, too.

Crennel fears he may have a handful of players who may have trouble squeezing their swelling heads inside their orange helmets this week.

"Some of them think they've arrived and they've done more than they need to do, that they've done enough," Crennel said. "But they haven't done enough. We haven't done enough and we have a long way to go.

"I'll have to let them know that we haven't arrived, even though they think they're pretty good. That's part of the business and part of the game."

Anderson's game, at this point, is as good as any NFL quarterback's not named Tom Brady.

Formerly Charlie Frye's backup, Anderson threw three more touchdown passes -- two to Edwards -- and finished 18-of-25 for 248 yards with no interceptions. Anderson has 17 touchdown passes, second in the league to Brady's 30.

Also, the 24-year-old seems to be getting better each week as first-year offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski pulls out new formations and wrinkles from the Browns' encyclopedia-thick playbook.

Crennel has been pleased with Anderson's consistency the past few weeks after alternating between "Good Derek" and "Bad Derek" from game to game.

"It is encouraging and he still has room to grow and develop," Crennel said. "He'll continue to work on that. If he does, maybe we can get better."

But when he was handing out game balls for Sunday's win, Crennel didn't toss one to either Anderson or Edwards, who have already combined for nine touchdowns and are quickly becoming one of the AFC's deadliest duos to defend.

Against the Rams, Edwards had eight catches for 117 yards. But the former No. 3 overall pick dropped a critical pass on 3rd-and-1 in the closing minutes that could have sealed Cleveland's win.

Edwards' bigger blunder was a 15-yard personal foul for ripping off his helmet in celebration following a catch at the end of the third quarter. It was signs of the old Braylon -- brash, self-centered -- not the new Braylon, who has been a model citizen this season.

Following the game, Edwards apologized to his teammates and promised "that'll never happen again."

Crennel was asked if the loss-of-helmet moment had cost Edwards his shot at a game ball.

"It might have been the 3rd-and-1 (drop)," Crennel quipped.

The Browns are entering a tricky three-game stretch that will determine their playoff potential. They'll host the Seattle Seahawks (4-3) this Sunday before traveling to Pittsburgh (5-2) and Baltimore (4-3).

Three weeks, three tough teams.

Crennel's experience has been that it's easier to motivate players for a game when a quality opponent is upcoming. And as far as the Browns' arrival time, Crennel said that's at least nine weeks off.

"At the end of the regular season, if we have a winning record and can make the playoffs, then you can say those guys have arrived -- they've made progress, " he said. "I think that's what it is. That's what we want."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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