Derek Anderson played stunningly well in his fourth NFL start. He went 20-of-38 for 328 yards and five touchdowns in outdueling Carson Palmer. Former sixth-round picks simply don’t do this without years of grooming -- unless their name is Tom Brady. In Brady’s fourth NFL start -- in his second season -- he went 33-of-54 for 364 yards in a 29-26 win over San Diego. Brady won a Super Bowl that year and in two subsequent years.

Basking in the afterglow of a 51-45 win, Browns center Hank Fraley whipped out the report card.

“Pittsburgh, we brought our ‘F’ game,” Fraley said. “Cincinnati, we brought our ‘A’ game.”

And how about D.A.’s game?

Former high first-round picks Jamal Lewis, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr. gave the offense what it might hope from such talents (461 combined rushing-receiving yards).

The X-factor was former sixth-round pick Derek Anderson. In four extended playing shifts in 2006, he threw five touchdown passes.

In four quarters against Cincinnati, he threw five more.

This from a guy about whom General Manager Phil Savage came out of the preseason saying, “We were hoping to see a little more consistency.”

What happened in two weeks?

“There’s a thin line between being good and bad,” Head Coach Romeo Crennel said. “If you make a throw and the receiver dives for the ball and catches it, then it’s a good throw and a good play. If the receiver dives and drops it, then it’s not a good play.

“As the game goes on and a guy is able to gain confidence, he feels better about himself. He feels more comfortable.

“Derek was able to get into a comfort level, one, that he was going to be protected, and two, his guys were going to try and make plays for him.”

Even before Sunday’s big game, Anderson’s fastball never went unnoticed.

Tight end Steve Heiden said the whip-armed 6-foot-6 Oregonian throws the ball “as hard as anybody” he’s played catch with in nine seasons.

“It’s not just a duck ball,” Heiden said in the wake of Anderson’s breakout game against Cincinnati. “Derek’s ball has a nice tight spiral. It’s very catchable.”

Who in Heiden’s experience throws the football as powerfully as Anderson?

“Maybe a Ryan Leaf,” Heiden said of a former No. 2 overall pick who was his teammate in San Diego. “But he didn’t play so well.”

Anderson played stunningly well in his fourth NFL start. He went 20-of-38 for 328 yards and five touchdowns in outdueling Carson Palmer.

Former sixth-round picks simply don’t do this without years of grooming -- unless their name is Tom Brady.

In Brady’s fourth NFL start -- in his second season -- he went 33-of-54 for 364 yards in a 29-26 win over San Diego. Brady won a Super Bowl that year and in two subsequent years.

It’s a tad too early to link Brady and Anderson more than in passing.

Yet, there is a certain newfound glow.

“We knew the capabilities were there,” Crennel said. “It was just -- boom -- they came to the front yesterday.”

Reach Canton Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com.