OAKLAND, Calif. — Derek Anderson walks the halls of Browns headquarters in a plain white T-shirt and baggy basketball shorts. He had the game of his life 24 hours earlier and the highlights are being shown on ESPN in a loop, so a reporter is set to ask if he’s gotten a big head. Before the reporter can open his mouth, Anderson makes his own joke, one that would make any teenage boy snicker.
The question had been answered: The success hadn’t gone to Anderson’s head.
“I’m the same guy,” he said two days later, surrounded by cameras and microphones. “I’m still coming in, putting the work in.”
Anderson will start his fifth NFL game today vs. the Raiders. He’ll do it after recording 328 yards, five touchdowns and his first win last week vs. Cincinnati. That the outing earned him AFC Offensive Player of the Week was expected. That it shoved Brady Quinn to the periphery is noteworthy.
“The golden boy’s here,” receiver Braylon Edwards joked when Anderson walked into the locker room. “He showed that he’s capable and he’s ready for this level. The guys around him are willing to play for him, and the coaching staff believes in him.”
Of course, this is Cleveland, the NFL and 2007. So Anderson’s reign as Browns starting quarterback is day to day. The team’s hierarchy would like him to keep Quinn’s seat warm for at least a few more weeks, but first Anderson must prove the outburst vs. the Bengals can be replicated.
“We’ve got to come in week in, week out, move the ball and make plays,” he said. “We have to keep working. I feel that’s the key.”
Anderson appeared to be in a bad spot a week ago, part of which was his doing, part the team’s. He lost the training camp competition to Charlie Frye, then was given the starting job when Frye was traded after flopping in the opener. Quinn’s inevitable takeover was the backdrop to the entire drama.
Anderson responded with a career day.
“The comfort level has always kind of been there,” he said. “I just step in and go with it. I don’t get too bent out of shape about it.”
Anderson is a big man (6-foot-6, 230 pounds) with a huge arm (Rob Chudzinski was able to use the entire playbook, including seam routes absent in the Frye era) and a soft, deep voice (much of his interviews are inaudible a few feet away). It’s clear that becoming a star isn’t high on his list of priorities, but his teammates say he displayed the qualities necessary to lead them.
“He did a real good job leadership-wise, just taking control of the huddle,” guard Seth McKinney said. “And obviously the way he played. He executed well and made very few mistakes, and that’s what it takes in this league.”
For Anderson to keep the job, he must minimize the turnovers that followed him from Oregon State, where he threw 54 interceptions in three years as a starter. He threw seven more in three starts last year and had a fumble and an interception off the bench in the opener. He began the second half vs. the Bengals with an interception, but regained control.
“We approach it the same way we always approach it,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “We tell him he’s got a job to do, take what the defense gives you and not try to be a superstar or hero.”
Bad decision-making and bouts of inaccuracy are the primary reasons for the inconsistency that has dogged Anderson. After a good six quarters last year, he struggled. After a good minicamp, he had a terrible preseason and lost his grip on the starting job.
What will happen after his breakout game?
“I really don’t know why he’s been inconsistent,” Crennel said. “Hopefully we can get him to the point where he can be consistently good all the time.”
Crennel has the same goal for the team. The Browns haven’t won back-to-back games since his arrival in 2005. They haven’t won two in a row in the same season (they ended 2003 and started ’04 with wins) since Oct. 12, 2003, a stretch of 60 games. The drought could end today.
“Has it been four years? Damn,” Edwards said. “Yeah, it is hard to fathom. That was then, this is now.”
Jamal Lewis is new to the losing. In his two games with the Browns he’s seen seven points in a loss and 51 points in a win.
“We can go out and win, we can put up points, we can be an explosive offense,” he said. “We’re just trying to do it week after week. That’s our goal, so people will say this is not the same Cleveland Browns team we’ve seen over the past years.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHERE: McAfee Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.
WHEN: Today, 4:05 p.m.
RECORDS: Browns 1-1; Raiders 0-2
LAST WEEK: Browns beat Bengals 51-45; Raiders lost to Broncos 23-20 in overtime
SERIES: Raiders lead 9-7
SERIES AT OAKLAND/LOS ANGELES: Browns lead 6-5
LAST MEETING: Browns won 24-21 Oct. 1 in Oakland
COACHES: Romeo Crennel is 11-23 with Browns and overall; Lane Kiffin is 0-2 with Raiders and overall
TV/RADIO: Channel 19, with broadcasters Bill Macatee and Steve Beuerlein; WMMS 100.7-FM
NFL RANKINGS (OUT OF 32 TEAMS): Browns — offense 7th (9th rushing, 8th passing), defense 32nd (29th rushing, 30th passing); Raiders — offense 19th (7th rushing, 26th passing), defense 28th (26th rushing, 29th passing)
BROWNS UPDATE: QB Derek Anderson got his first win in his fourth start. He went 20-for-33 for 328 yards, five touchdowns and an interception, earning AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
• RB Jamal Lewis ran for 216 yards, the most by a Brown since 1963.
• WR Joe Jurevicius caught two touchdown passes.
• The offensive line didn’t allow a sack or get called for a holding penalty.
• The offense went from being ranked 27th to seventh with its 554-yard outburst, the third-highest total in franchise history.
• The defense has allowed 10 touchdowns, all passing.
• S Mike Adams could get his first start as a Brown if Brodney Pool (concussion) can’t play.
• P Scott Player will replace Dave Zastudil (back) and make his Browns debut.
• Special teams coordinator Ted Daisher held the same job with the Raiders last season.
RAIDERS UPDATE: QB Josh McCown, brother of former Browns QB Luke, will get the start despite a shaky performance last week. Kiffin said Daunte Culpepper could see action.
• Former Browns DT Gerard Warren had a sack for a safety last week.
• P Shane Lechler, the NFL’s all-time leader, is first in the league with a 49.0 average.
• K Sebastian Janikowski is 1-for-5 on field goals, including three misses from at least 50 yards. He leads the NFL with seven touchbacks on kickoffs.
• DE Derrick Burgess had 27 sacks in the last two seasons. He has a calf injury and could see former Ohio State Buckeye Jay Richardson take some of his playing time.
• DT Warren Sapp had 10 sacks in 2006 and entered 2007 with 941/2 in his career.
• Oakland had the NFL’s top-ranked pass defense last year, allowing 150.8 yards per game.
BROWNS INJURY REPORT: Out: Willie McGinest (back), S Gary Baxter (knees); P Dave Zastudil (back), G Isaac Sowells (personal); Questionable: S Brodney Pool (concussion), S Mike Adams (wrist/shoulder), CB Leigh Bodden (groin); Probable: LB Antwan Peek (foot)
RAIDERS INJURY REPORT: Out: LB Isaiah Ekejiuba (foot); Doubtful: LB Robert Thomas (hamstring), RB Oren O’Neal (hamstring); Questionable: DE Derrick Burgess (calf), C Jeremy Newberry (hamstring), CB Duane Starks (groin); Probable: RB LaMont Jordan (back), QB Josh McCown (foot)
THE PICK: The perfect time to win two in a row. Browns 24-13.
KEYS TO THE GAME
FIND A PASS RUSH
The secondary has received most of the blame for the 10 touchdown passes allowed by the Browns, but the pass rush deserves some of the responsibility. The Browns have just two sacks in two games, and quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer had time to wait for receivers to get open.
The Raiders line has been a liability for awhile and allowed 72 sacks last year. It’s given up seven this year, so this could be the week Kamerion Wimbley, Antwan Peek and the rest of the pass rush find their form.
Jamal Lewis is coming off his best game in years, a 216-yard performance that quieted critics throughout the league. He’s second in the NFL with 251 rushing yards and has a 6.6-yard average.
The Browns must continue to get Lewis significant carries — at least 22 — because he’s at his best when he wears down a defense. The performance last week will surely have the attention of the Raiders, but that may not matter. They rank 26th vs. the run.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Raiders RB LaMont Jordan vs. Browns LB Andra Davis
Jordan is one of the many backs whose eyes light up when he sees the Browns. He rushed for 132 yards vs. Cleveland in 2005 — a career high until his 159 a week ago — and had 128 on 20 carries in a loss to the Browns last year. Jordan is off to a great start in 2007 with 229 yards on 40 carries, a 5.7 average.
The Browns have been bad against the run for years, and the trend has continued this season. They rank 29th, allowing 171.5 yards per game. Davis has seen less playing time in the nickel package, so he must make his impact on first down against the run.
Browns WR Braylon Edwards vs. Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha
Edwards had a career day vs. the Bengals, catching eight passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. It’s too early to tell, but it might be the game that stands as his breakthrough.
Derek Anderson’s big arm allows Edwards to get downfield and use his size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) in one-on-one matchups. Asomugha (6-2, 210) is almost as big as Edwards and presents a challenge. He had eight interceptions and one touchdown last year, so the turnover-prone Anderson must be careful when looking for Edwards.
— Scott Petrak