The Cleveland Browns have another new best buddy.
Last week it was Carolina Panthers kicker John Kasay, who missed a 42-yard field goal on the final play of the game to preserve a 24-23 win for the Browns. Sunday in Miami, Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne did the Browns a favor with a three-interception performance in 13-10 Cleveland win.
Kasay's miss and Henne's mistakes have given the Browns two straight wins and a 5-7 record heading into the final quarter of the season. The Browns easily could be 3-9 and talking about a coaching change at the end of the season.
What took place in Miami was far from a work of art, unless you like defensive football. Neither offense did much until a couple of drives in the second half that turned a 3-3 halftime deadlock into a 10-10 tie and a battle to see which team would flinch first.
The Dolphins did just that when a Henne pass was tipped into the hands of defensive back Mike Adams. Adams returned to the ball to the Dolphins' 2, setting up a game-winning field goal by Phil Dawson.
The kick ended a game that had you wondering at one time if either team would score. The best thing the Browns did was avoid committing a turnover, which made Henne's three interceptions stand out prominently.
Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme was lucky late in the game when an ill-advised throw was almost picked off for what would have been a touchdown, but, for the most part, he was careful with the football. He prudently took sacks instead of throwing into coverage, and he accepted the option of throwing the ball out of bounds several times.
Delhomme has a gunslinger's mentality, which is to say that he'd rather throw a pass across the middle into double coverage than go to the ground. He deserves credit for the avoiding a costly mistake.
Delhomme was hampered much of the game by a lack of imagination in play calling by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. We all know that Peyton Hillis is a talented running back, including the Dolphins' defense. Miami defenders were on Hillis on every carry, limiting him to 57 rushing yards.
Daboll woke up in the second half with creative play calling on two consecutive drives. The first moved the ball into Dawson field goal range, but a Dolphins' sack on third down forced a lengthy yard field-goal kick by Dawson that was off the mark.
The offense didn't waste an opportunity on its next possession. The Browns marched down the field with ease as Delhomme connected on big throws to tight end Ben Watson, who had 10 receptions for 100 yards, and Mohamed Massaquoi, who caught two passes for long gains on the drive.
Delhomme closed the deal with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Watson to give the Browns a 10-3 lead.
The Dolphins answered with a lengthy drive that culminated with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Henne to tight end Anthony Fasano. That's when the game turned into a battle of protecting the ball as well as possible.
All the blame can't be thrown on Henne's shoulders. Give credit to the Browns' defense, which did a good job against running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, while canvassing the secondary at times.
Can everyone stop now and credit general manager Tom Heckert for selecting cornerback Joe Haden in the first of the draft? Haden was lucky on an interception when Henne underthrew a wide open Brian Hartline, but there was nothing lucky about the way he played the rest of the game.
Haden was in place to break up several passes. Better yet, for the defense, was his standout play against the run. He wasn't reluctant to take on big backs with textbook style tackles around the ankles.
Haden's best play seemed insignificant in the end. On a play in which Henne faked a screen one way and threw a screen the other way to Williams, Haden stayed at home and made a sure tackle to limit the Dolphins to a short gain.
Screen passes have been a problem for the defense this season go back to the big play the Jaguars had on a pass to Maurice Jones-Drew two weeks earlier. Haden made sure the Dolphins didn't have the same success on Sunday.
The Browns had to feel good heading home last night, but they also have to feel lucky. They can only hope that they can add another player to the list of those to thank at Christmas time along with Kasay and Henne.