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Go Back to Cleveland, Cleveland!

It’s amazing what a big win and a week off will do for you. There are actually NFL pundits like Joe Theismann and Sterling Sharpe picking the Seahawks to win this weekend on the road in Cleveland.

Could it be that the Hawks can finally stand toe-to-toe with a team on the road in the eastern time zone and slug it out for a win in the early 10 a.m. game? Of course not.

But there is a way they can even their record to 3-3 no matter who plays quarterback and even if they don’t light up the scoreboard on offense or pitch a shutout on defense: cause turnovers and win the kicking game.

The good news is that the Hawks improved the all-important turnover ratio statistic by two in New Jersey two Sundays ago. The bad news is the Hawks are still -2 in turnover differential for the season, meaning they’ve given up two more turnovers than they’ve gotten.

Turnover ratio is by far the most telling statistic of all and the Hawks record directly reflects that:

vs. San Francisco -3 (Loss)
vs. Pittsburgh 0 (Loss)
vs. Arizona +1 (Win)
vs. Atlanta -2 (Loss)
vs. New York Giants +2 (Win)

Another area in desperate need of improvement is kickoff returns. Last year the Hawks special teams finished 10th in that category with a 24-yard average and three touchdowns.

This season’s kickoff return team is currently ranked 25th. I don’t think it would be an overreaction to call that disappointing as long as Leon Washington is returning kicks. Yes the rules have changed and there are more touchbacks due to the ball being moved up five yards, but all 32 teams are in the same boat.

Leon Washington could provide a huge boost for the Seahawks’ special teams against the Browns on Sunday. (AP)

But there’s no better time to fix that than against the Browns and their return man Joshua Cribbs, who is the NFL’s all-time leader in kickoff return touchdowns with eight. Leon is second with seven and he’s been known to score two in one game (San Diego last year). If Washington walks out of “The Dog Pound” the all-time leader, that alone should be good for a W.

Speaking of The Dawg Pound-

The last time I played in Cleveland, I was with the Broncos near the end of my career. By that time, I had learned to have a little fun with the fans in opposing cities. Most of them were pretty harmless and not bad people at all. Except for the fans in L.A.

I gotta be honest, a lot of the Raider fans in the L.A. Coliseum looked like they didn’t have much to live for. I left those people alone. But it seemed to me that in a place like Cleveland, they were mostly a lot of bluster.

We had to warm up in the end zone near the infamous “Dawg Pound.” While I was stretching, I scanned the crowd. There was the guy with the necklace made of Milk Bones; there was the guy with the doggie mask and orange hardhat and as always, an assortment of bare-chested men who NO ONE wants to see shirtless (you’ve seen it on TV…a collection of 25-40-year old men who live in their parents’ basements).

Anyway, one of them had a big painted sign that read “Hey Broncos…YOUR dog meat.” After we finished our warm-up and it was time to head to the sidelines, I wandered over towards this guy until I got his attention. He began pointing at me, pointing at his sign and barking. Once I was within earshot, I shouted, “Hey stupid! It’s You’re Dog Meat. Apostrophe R-E…not Y-O-U-R.” He turned his sign around for a look, froze in a moment of self-reflection, and then retaliated with a perfectly appropriate response. He flipped me off. I jogged towards the sidelines chuckling. Didn’t see the sign the rest of the day.

And it’s not just a lack of grammar that is endemic in Cleveland. As far as I’m concerned, Cleveland should not be recognized as the “Rock-n-Roll Capital of the World” until Rush is elected into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. What a travesty!

As Lex Drennan, lead singer for Visuvius (Will Arnett’s character in the movie “The Rocker”) would say: “Go Back to Cleveland, Cleveland!”