1. Weeden's team won.
The skinny: No question the Browns defeated a bad team; the injury-plagued Raiders dropped to 3-9. But the NFL regular season affords just 16 opportunities for victories, so every 'W' should be cherished. The Browns are not in position to minimize victories, regardless: They improved to 4-8.
The Browns won on the road, snapping a 12-game losing streak away from home that dated to last season. They won on the West Coast, which can be dicey for a Midwest or East Coast team, no matter the opponent.
Maybe, just maybe, the Browns have begun to extricate themselves from the culture of losing that has vice-gripped the franchise for years. They have won two in a row and are 4-3 since Oct. 14. Weeden, as the quarterback, has a right to feel good about such progress.
2. Weeden overcame a rough start.
The skinny: On the first two plays of the Browns' opening possession, Weeden scrambled for 7 yards and connected with Josh Gordon for 14. But matters quickly went awry for him. On first-and-10 from the Oakland 33, Weeden was wild high, intended for tight end Benjamin Watson. On the next play, Weeden's heater intended for Watson sailed on him again, this time landing in the arms of safety Matt Giordano at the Oakland 3. Giordano returned the interception to the Oakland 27.
If doubt began to infiltrate Weeden's mind, it would have been understandable. Interceptions have been a problem for him, and he had not exactly set the world on fire in his previous four starts. The most recent, against the Steelers last week in Cleveland, ended with a concussion. Even though the concussion's effects were minimized as the Browns' preparation for the Raiders intensified, backup Colt McCoy no doubt was on higher alert than normal.
One of the encouraging signs with Weeden is that, when he has started poorly in games, he recovers -- the notable exception being his debut Sept. 9 against Philadelphia. After beginning 1-of-3 for 14 yards and one pick against Oakland, he was 24-of-33 for 350 yards, one TD and one interception.
3. Weeden engineered a five-star drive in a huge spot.
The skinny: It will not go in the books as a comeback, but it felt like one. For a fourth-quarter possession that lasted 6:04, the Browns drove 94 yards in 14 plays, capped by Trent Richardson's 3-yard run with 3:27 remaining. Phil Dawson's extra point gave the Browns a 20-10 lead, creating a cushion that enabled them to absorb an Oakland "prevent defense'' touchdown with one second left.
Weeden went 5-of-6 for 70 yards, the only miss having resulted from getting hit on release. He kept the drive alive twice -- once with his arm and once with his legs. On third-and-3 from the Cleveland 13, Weeden hung in as the Raiders rushed six and delivered a strike to Gordon in space for an 11-yard gain. On fourth-and-inches from the Oakland 45, Weeden burrowed into the line for 3 yards. (Officials had created the fourth-down situation by butchering the spot on Weeden's third-and-inches sneak.)
Weeden also contributed with his voice. On third-and-1 from the Oakland 10, Weeden's hard count drew the Raiders into a neutral-zone infraction. Two runs later, Richardson was in the end zone.
Browns coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Brad Childress deserve credit for their calls during the possession. Helped, of course, by having a lead, Shurmur and Childress used the pass to get out of trouble but did not downplay the run. Seven of the last nine plays were runs, including the two sneaks.
4. Weeden changed his cadence, with positive results.
The skinny: Weeden largely has been robotic at the line this season, repeating his calls the same way and rarely audibiling. His job is to run the play as sent in, and that's what he's going to do.
Weeden did not appear to audible against the Raiders, but he did burn them with three hard counts that triggered penalties. The most prominent occurred on the 94-yard drive. He did so without bobbing his head too much, which would have gotten him flagged.
5. Weeden shocked the Raiders with a quick-strike possession in the second quarter.
The skinny: On first-and-10 from the Cleveland 38, Weeden threw an 18-yard pass to Greg Little on the left side. On the next play, Weeden found Gordon along the left sideline for a 44-yard TD and 10-0 lead. And that was that: two plays, 62 yards, 49 seconds.
Gordon beat press coverage with a go-route and snatched the ball out of the air at the 7. Weeden did not turn his head toward Gordon until the last instant, ensuring safety help would not come soon enough.
6. Weeden and his receivers delivered big plays.
The skinny: Thirteen of the Browns' pass plays gained 10+ yards, including nine for 18+. For the most part, dink and dunk were on hiatus.
Early in the season, the Browns' young receiving corps was struggling with drops and, in part because of suspect route running, was not making enough plays for its quarterback. In recent weeks, the drops have been sparse and much less impactful and the routes more precise.
Against the Raiders, the closest the Browns came to a drop was when Richardson got his hands on a short pass that Weeden essentially threw out of bounds.
In the West Coast offense, one of the equations that has stood the test of time is: accurate quarterback + receivers running precise routes = yards after catch. Weeden and his crew produced 198 YAC. The best example of YAC's impact Sunday came on first-and-10 from the Cleveland 30 in the third quarter. Mohamed Massaquoi grabbed a Weeden fastball that traveled 15 yards in the air and turned it into a 54-yard gain. Massaquoi beat his man on a crossing route and was able to inflict major pain because he did not need to break stride.
7. Weeden threw the ball well.
The skinny: On a scale of 1 (lousy) to 3 (expected for NFL QB) to 5 (superb), Weeden averaged 3.22 on 31 graded throws. Five passes were not graded because of throwaways (two), rejections by the d-line (two) and hits at time of release (one).
Weeden's second interception, graded a 2, could have been ungraded. In the second quarter, he attempted to connect with Gordon on basically the same play that produced the first-quarter touchdown, except that it originated from the Oakland 37. Gordon beat press coverage, but Weeden was unable to step into the throw because guard Shawn Lauvao's man bull-rushed Lauvao's leg up against Weeden's leg. The pass ended up being short-armed, resulting in too much loft.
Given that Oakland owns one of the league's worst pass defenses, an average grade of 3.22 might not seem overly impressive. It reflects well on Weeden in this case, though, because it came while he faced a steady stream of rushers. Weeden had 38 dropbacks: 36 passes, one scramble, one sack. On 20 of the 38, the Raiders had five or more rushers at the time of the pass or scramble/sack. They sent four 16 times and three twice.
The Browns' offensive line has done a good job of protecting Weeden this season. Still, it owes him a debt of gratitude for having allowed only the one sack Sunday. Weeden was under pressure throughout but avoided sacks with decisiveness, a quick release and pocket awareness.
8. Weeden was physically tough.
The skinny: The Raiders kept knocking him down, and he kept getting up. Most importantly, he did not flinch when a throw needed to be made.
One of the game's most important plays went Cleveland's way because Weeden was willing to get hit. With the Browns leading, 13-10, in the final seconds of the third quarter, they faced third-and-10 from their 9. The Raiders batted down the previous two passes at the line, and the crowd at O.co Coliseum was going wild. Weeden, seeking to connect with Little, absorbed a nasty hit upon release that caused the ball to wobble. It had enough juice to get to Little, who made an excellent adjustment and catch on the ground. The Browns eventually punted from their 45 -- enormously different than punting from the end zone.