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Browns Playoff Report: Holmes heading into familiar territory

Cleveland Browns Playoff Report

(Sports Network) - When the Browns make their first playoff appearance in nearly a decade on Sunday, it will be against a very familiar foe in the Pittsburgh Steelers. The players, coaches and nearly everyone involved in the two organizations know each other very well.

One player that knows the ins and outs of both organizations is current Browns linebacker Earl Holmes. The team's leading tacker with 128 stops was a Steeler for the first six seasons of his career before migrating to Cleveland for the 2002 campaign. Holmes left for greener pastures in the offseason and now is looking forward to going back to the Steel City to get a postseason win.

"You know what that means to me," said Holmes. "Like I tell the other guys, it doesn’t matter who we are playing, we are happy to be here. Being here is one thing and winning is another. We just want to win regardless of who we are playing."

Holmes, the AFC's Defensive Player of the Week after posting 11 tackles against Atlanta, has already reportedly started talking trash with his former teammates.

"Earl is always going to talk," Steelers WR Hines Ward said. "He left messages on our phones talking trash. ... He just said little things like, `You all ain't going to beat us three times in the same season and stuff like that.' That's just how Earl is."

Holmes denies that he has done any phone trash talking. I spoke with Joey Porter and I spoke with Plaxico Burress. And there was no trash talking at all.

"I came to work today and everybody was looking at me like, ‘what did you say?’ And I kind of looked at them like, ‘what are you talking about?’"

Nonetheless, Holmes will be ready to go when the game kicks off on Sunday afternoon.

"It’s a playoff atmosphere. It’s a rivalry game, a big game. And I’m up for it. But believe me, I’ll do my talking on Sunday at 1 o’clock," said Holmes.


The Browns are riding high after getting into the postseason for the first time since returning to the NFL in 1999. It wasn't easy, though, as the Browns had to beat Atlanta last week and receive some help from the New York Jets to get it done.

Cleveland kept its postseason dreams alive with a miraculous goal-line stand at the end of its game versus the Falcons, helping it hold on to a 24-16 victory. The Browns lived on the edge during their entire stretch run, as each of their final nine games was decided by nine points or less.

"It's been a roller coaster of a season, and the ride hasn't stopped," said quarterback Kelly Holcomb, who will lead the Browns into their first playoff game since 1994 because starter Tim Couch suffered a broken fibula in the win over Atlanta.

Many Browns fans got what they wanted with Holcomb being forced into duty last week after Couch's season-ending injury. Holcomb had stepped in nicely for Couch earlier in the season en route to registering the highest QB rating in the league. However, he was getting the job done when the pressure was minimal. With the playoffs upon him, Holcomb will have to perform at high level in the midst of a storm of Steel City faithful.

In a pressure-packed environment last week, Holcomb struggled, completing just 7-of-14 passes for 68 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown. The veteran signal-caller's throws often seemed to be rushed and misguided in the narrow win over Atlanta. Nonetheless, Davis thinks that getting Holcomb more work in practice this week will make a big difference in his production on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

"Getting Kelly back into the flow of taking 80-to-85 percent of the snaps in practice this week will certainly help him be able to execute the game plan," Davis said. "He’s smart. He just needs to throw and get back into the rhythm and sync of it."

It’s been a while since I took a bunch of reps in practice," Holcomb admitted. "When you do that, you gain some confidence."

Holcomb's young and talented receiving corps, which flourished with him on the field earlier in the year, has nothing but confidence in the 29-year-old quarterback.

"Things happen for a reason," Browns WR Dennis Northcutt said. "Those two games early in the year when Kelly played so well helped him and helped everyone on this team know that he can get the job done. We have all the confidence in the world in Kelly. We’ve seen him do it before."

For the most part, the Browns' top receivers were held in check last week against the Falcons. Andre Davis caught two balls for 36 yards and Kevin Johnson added a pair of receptions for 32 yards and a score. Quincy Morgan chipped in with two catches for 32 yards in the win. The Browns' deep receiving corps should challenge the Pittsburgh secondary this week.

01/03 11:00:09 ET

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