CLEVELAND - Perhaps the Cleveland Browns will never be a pretty, well-oiled offensive machine.
But, as coach Butch Davis said after yesterday's 17-13 win over the Washington Redskins, "Pretty or not, it still goes in the left-hand column, and that's what NFL football is all about."
Indeed, the Browns got a must win. A 1-3 start would have been disastrous with road trips to Pittsburgh and Baltimore and a home date against high-flying Philadelphia included in Cleveland's next four games.
The Browns (2-2) also got an offensive boost from running back Lee Suggs, who made his first appearance of the season and produced 82 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries.
His three-yard scoring run erased a 13-10 Washington lead and came after key completions from Jeff Garcia to Quincy Morgan on a nifty come-back route along the sideline, and one of 23 yards from Garcia to a wide-open Andre Davis [one of his three catches for 93 yards] that put the Browns firmly in the red zone midway through the fourth quarter.
Cleveland didn't exactly overwhelm the Redskins (1-3) with offense - 280 yards was the net total - but the Browns did everything right on that 80-yard push to take their first lead of the day before 73,348 fans.
"We just kept grinding it out," said Garcia, who completed 14 of 21 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. "We kept willing our way onto the field and finally had some success towards the end of the game.
"Fortunately, we have a great defense that plays hard, keeps us in games and gives us a chance to win."
That defense kept the Browns within 10-3 at halftime despite just 97 yards of offense for the home team. Redskins receiver Laveranues Coles caught seven passes for 122 yards, but Clinton Portis was held to just 58 rushing yards and the Skins were a dismal 1-for-11 on third-down conversions.
The Cleveland defense also came up with a key play on the first snap of the second half when Portis was hit by left tackle Michael Myers and coughed up the ball. Linebacker Andra Davis recovered for Cleveland at the Washington 31-yard line.
Garcia hit tight end Steve Heiden on a drag play for 12 yards, completed a short pass to fullback Terrelle Smith, and then came back to his other tight end, Aaron Shea, who was wide open for a 15-yard touchdown play.
"We were running some nakeds [bootlegs] to catch them in blitzes," Shea said. "They bring so many guys that something has to be open and a lot of times it's the tight end who's left alone and who can make a big play."
Davis said the Redskins live by the blitz and the key to any game is whether you can make them die by the blitz.
"We knew any success we might have would be measured by how we did against that," the Browns coach said. "I thought Jeff Garcia showed a lot of poise under pressure and we were able to pop some runs against the blitz, too."
Most of the popping was done by Suggs, who missed much of last season with a shoulder injury before breaking loose for 186 yards and two touchdowns in the regular-season finale at Cincinnati. Equally big things were expected this year, but another shoulder injury kept him off the field until yesterday.
"It was really tough being out, especially watching the way our offense had been struggling," Suggs said. "You have to have a running game to win in the NFL. Maybe the difference today was that I had fresher legs than anybody else because I haven't been playing."
Suggs broke off a 25-yard run on his first carry of the game. That came after a couple plays on which he stayed home to block and picked off blitz rushers.
"It was good I had that contact on pass protection because I took a pretty good hit without even thinking about [the shoulder] and after that it was fine," he said.
Suggs scored what proved to be the game-winner on a three-yard burst with 6:51 left in the game.
"It was a counter play and I had two or three blockers pulling for me," he said. "I just put my shoulder pads down and went for the end zone.
"Today was really important. We were coming off two losses and we hadn't been playing well and we knew we had to get a win. We kept fighting and we finally put a touchdown drive together."
Suggs had runs of 14 and 13 yards, as well as the TD plunge, to go along with Garcia's two big completions during the key drive.
"We finally ran the ball some and that can make a big difference," said Browns guard Kelvin Garmon. "Suggs is a tough guy. He gave us a spark. And our offense sure needed one."
Contact Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.41.50436 -81.69046