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Published: Monday, 10/4/2004

Notebook: Browns slam door on Skins' Portis

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Cleveland's Leigh Bodden, left, holds on to tackle Washington's James Thrash (83) on a kickoff return in the third quarter to keep the Redskins pinned down deep in their own territory. Cleveland's Leigh Bodden, left, holds on to tackle Washington's James Thrash (83) on a kickoff return in the third quarter to keep the Redskins pinned down deep in their own territory.
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CLEVELAND - The Washington Redskins traded one of pro football's top defensive talents, Champ Bailey, for one of its most talented running backs in Clinton Portis, who had paid dividends with 311 yards through three games.

Yesterday, however, the Cleveland defense slammed the door, holding the 5-11, 210-pound Portis to 58 yards on 20 carries.

"It was like their defense knew every play we were doing," Portis said.

"I don't know how they knew, but the defensive guys were out there yelling out our plays. I mean, they were literally calling our plays. They were hitting the gap before us and after us. It was like running into a brick wall."

One of the Browns who was especially animated every time Washington quarterback Mark Brunell checked off to a running play was linebacker Andra Davis, who had six tackles and a key recovery of a Portis fumble in Cleveland's 17-13 victory.

"It started on Wednesday with a great game plan we believed in," Davis said.

"We had three or four guys running at [Portis] on every possession. We were aware of him on every play. He's one of those guys that if you give him a little leeway he can take it to the house, so we had to swarm to the ball."

Despite that commitment to stopping the run, the Browns defense was burned only twice on long passes of 45 and 30 yards from Brunell to Laveranues Coles.

They came during scoring drives on which the Redskins produced 10 of their 13 points.

"For the most part, our defensive backs did a great job in coverage," Davis said.

"That allowed [the linebackers] to take some chances and be dedicated to stopping the run."

STILL WAITING: A close officiating call and two fumbles were costly for Cleveland as the Browns remained without a first-half touchdown through five games this season.

An apparent 85-yard punt return for a touchdown just minutes into the game was negated when a sideline official ruled that Dennis Northcutt, with two blockers in tow and only Washington punter Tom Tupa to beat, had stepped out of bounds at the Redskins 41-yard line.

That drive reached the 30 before Cleveland receiver Quincy Morgan fumbled on a hit by Washington's Fred Smoot.

Later, a drive reached the Redskins 9 before Suggs fumbled for a four-yard loss. Tight end Steve Heiden recovered, but a Jeff Garcia pass on third down fell incomplete and the Browns had to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Phil Dawson that tied the score at 3-3.

Cleveland has scored just 15 first-half points this season, all on Dawson field goals.

ON THE BENCH: James Jackson has played pretty well for the Browns when given the chance. He didn't get one yesterday, however, as Davis decided to list him on the inactive list.

With Lee Suggs back from a neck injury for the first time this year to team with starter William Green at running back, and with Dee Brown slated for expanded return duty on special teams, the Browns weren't going to dress four running backs and Jackson was the odd man out.

Other inactives for the Browns yesterday included defensive lineman Gerard Warren (pectoral muscle injury) and offensive tackle Ryan Tucker (quadriceps injury).

VERSATILE: Fullback Terrelle Smith caught two passes, one for 16 yards, and got one carry, but his job is to block. Suggs, who had 82 yards on the ground yesterday, calls Smith the best blocking fullback in the business.

"I don't have to think much about who to follow," Suggs said. "He's blocked for Ricky Williams and Deuce McAllister [while with New Orleans] and he knows what he's doing. I just have to trust him and get behind him."

Smith, who was signed as a free agent, spent his first four seasons with the Saints and blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher in either Williams or McAllister all four years.

TWIN LOSSES: The Browns and Redskins both opened play at 1-2 yesterday with losses against the same opponents - Dallas and the New York Giants.

BIG EDGE: The Redskins are one of the NFL's storied franchises, but you wouldn't know it from their series record against Cleveland.

Yesterday's win gave the Browns a 33-9-1 edge all-time against Washington.



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