Pittsburgh safety Lee Flowers understands the Steelers-Browns rivalry.
“I don't like those guys, man, and they don't like us, “ he said Sunday following Pittsburgh's 23-20 victory at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Flowers said he is tired of hearing Cleveland's players talk about how good they are and how close they are to being the Steelers' equals after four straight Pittsburgh wins in the series.
And he's right, because the harsh truth is that the teams do not match up in talent and ability.
Before we get into that, however, let's enjoy the always-entertaining Flowers.
``We won the first game and [the Browns] said we got lucky. I'm sure somebody in their locker room will make up an excuse for why we beat them today. Man, quit talking and win the game.
``They're supposed to get the week off now. Instead, they had to go home and say to their wives, `Baby, I gotta go to work tomorrow.' When you tell a team you know is better than you that it's just luck, then you deserve to get your [rear end] kicked and deserve to have to go to work on a bye week.
``I don't think what happened to them today was Tim Couch's fault, per se. He's a good quarterback. It was their offensive coordinator. I don't know what he thought he was doing. I mean, man, good teams can't run on us. They're not going to run the ball on us. For whatever reason, they kept coming out in two tights and two receivers and tried to run the ball.
``I guess they were hoping. Maybe when you think everything is luck all you do is hope.''
Thanks, Lee. You were great.
Statistics can be a bit misleading. The Browns attempted only 14 rushing plays Sunday and averaged 2.6 yards on those runs.
But eight of those rushes came on the Browns' 11 first-down plays prior to Pittsburgh taking a 23-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
So, yes, Flowers makes a good point about Cleveland's insistence on establishing the run, especially considering the Browns have mostly failed to do so for 31/2 years.
On Sunday, with a healthy offensive line and all backs available for duty, the Browns got 36 yards on the ground. With something of a makeshift offensive line and no Jerome Bettis and no Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, the Steelers got 136 yards.
The teams aren't close in that regard. Nor defensively. Nor in the ability to play a less-than-perfect game and still win.
Pittsburgh missed two field goals and twice turned the ball over on downs in Cleveland territory. At the very least, that's a potential 12 points they left on the field. The game should not have been close.
Yet, sure enough, as Flowers might have predicted, coming close was the message the Browns continued to send.
``It makes it tough when you can't run, especially against a team as good as Pittsburgh,'' Couch said. ``I wish I knew the problem. I think we have guys who can run and block. But we're close. The first game was overtime, now we lose again by three points. We're right there.''
Wrong, Tim, on two counts. You don't have the guys who can run and block, and you know it. And you're not right there, whether or not you know it.
The Browns talked all last week about getting the jump on a good team and not being put in the position of having to scramble from behind, as they had the previous Sunday against the Jets.
So they took a 14-3 lead in front of 73,000-plus raucous fans with the division lead and down-the-road playoff ramifications on the line and still couldn't protect their home turf.
In today's NFL, there is often a fine line between the haves and the have-nots. On any given Sunday, to coin a phrase, the Jets can go on the road and hammer the Chargers.
Over the long haul, though, the cream rises to the top because teams block, run and tackle.
That's where Cleveland is not yet good enough on a week in, week out basis.
Luck is not a factor. And close doesn't cut it.
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