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Published: Monday, 11/24/2003

Browns notebook: Penalty spoils Northcutt's return

Steve Anderson, a Cleveland Browns fan from Toledo, holds a ticket displaying his likeness. He wore the same face paint yesterday as when the photo was taken. Steve Anderson, a Cleveland Browns fan from Toledo, holds a ticket displaying his likeness. He wore the same face paint yesterday as when the photo was taken.

CLEVELAND - The Browns thought they had their first kick return for a touchdown of the season yesterday when Dennis Northcutt fielded Pittsburgh's second punt of the game and went 76 yards down the left sideline.

But there was laundry, a yellow flag, on the field and the play was nullified by a holding penalty called on Cleveland special teams player Roosevelt Williams during a 13-6 Pittsburgh victory.

“We have to take advantage of big plays like that,” Northcutt said.

“I took it to the house, but it didn't matter. I'm pointing no fingers, but we have to play smart. We can't afford having those called back.”

Coach Butch Davis said his team had “been trying to spring one all season and I thought that was the big play we needed to take early control.”

When asked if he saw the penalty, Davis said, “I had a great view of it.”

When asked if it was a good call, he sneered and said, “Next question.”

WASTED EFFORT: The Cleveland defense gave up just 168 net yards, nine pass completions and held the Steelers to 2-of-14 on third-down conversion attempts.

Pittsburgh's only touchdown came on a 17-yard drive after a turnover.

“We had an outstanding day on defense, but it doesn't matter because we didn't win,” said defensive back Earl Little. “We beat ourselves. I know deep down in my heart that we're a way better team than those guys.”

CENTER SLICES: Both teams lost their centers to injuries early in the game. Cleveland rookie Jeff Faine suffered a right ankle injury while Pittsburgh's Jeff Hartings sprained a knee ligament.

Davis did not feel the loss of Faine hampered the Browns' execution.

“I thought Melvin Fowler came in and did a very credible job,” Davis said.

NO BUS STOP: Jerome Bettis of the Steelers surpassed the 3,000 mark in career rushing attempts during yesterday's game and had his most productive outing of the season with 24 carries for 93 yards.

“I've been very blessed to play this long and take that many shots,” he said. “With 3,000 carries come 3,000 hits.”

BROWNS' BITS: Phil Dawson now holds the Browns' record for career field goal accuracy. He was two-of-two yesterday and has made 84 of 103 attempts (.815) during his career. ... QB Kelly Holcomb, who closed out last weekend's win over Arizona with 13 straight completions, hit on his first three yesterday to tie Bernie Kosar's team record for consecutive passes completed. ... James Jackson's five receptions for 49 yards both represented career highs. ... The Browns ran a season-high 75 offensive plays and Holcomb set a career high with 44 pass attempts. He completed 25 of them for 234 yards, but was intercepted twice.

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