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