Defense has matured for Browns this season

25 turnovers is 7 more forced than all last season

11/26/2012
BY TOM REED
(CLEVELAND) PLAIN DEALER
Cleveland Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, left, and cornerback Joe Haden, right, break up a pass to Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace in the fourth quarter Sunday in Cleveland. The tipped ball was recovered by Browns defensive tackle Billy Winn. The Browns won 20-14.
Cleveland Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, left, and cornerback Joe Haden, right, break up a pass to Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace in the fourth quarter Sunday in Cleveland. The tipped ball was recovered by Browns defensive tackle Billy Winn. The Browns won 20-14.

CLEVELAND — Sheldon Brown had a football tucked away in his locker Sunday after the Browns' 20-14 win over the Steelers. So did Joe Haden. Same goes for Billy Winn.

The Browns might have cancelled their dubious 'white flag' promotion on Saturday, but the Steelers supplied all the giveaways necessary to satisfy Cleveland fans and players.

The visitors committed eight turnovers — five fumbles and three interceptions — in losing to the Browns for the first since 2009. It's the most takeaways by Cleveland in 23 years and the most by any NFL team since New Orleans matched the total in 2001 against St. Louis.

"Our defense was playing crazy, everybody was doing their thing," said Haden, who forced a fumble and intercepted a pass after missing last week's game with a oblique injury.

"We were so excited and happy to be out there, everybody was running around. Even if [the Steelers] got a drive on us, we were thinking if they don't score, ‘The next play we can get a pick’ or ‘the next play we can force a fumble.’ Because we were just hitting and they were coughing it up."

Pittsburgh was without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and forced to start third-stringer Charlie Batch. Meanwhile, four Steeler running backs lost fumbles and they finished with 49 yards rushing a week after getting beat, 13-10, by the Baltimore Ravens.

"Yeah, we came in there ready to play," said defensive tackle Phil Taylor, who recovered a fumble and recorded a sack. "I don't think they were ready to play this week. Baltimore kinda beat em up last week and they were down to their third-string quarterback and we just [had] to take advantage of what they [gave] us."

While the Steelers' ineptitude will be the national focus, anyone who's paying attention has seen a difference in the Browns defense this season. It has been producing big plays starting with harassing Philadelphia's Michael Vick into four interceptions on opening day.

The Browns already have surpassed their totals for interceptions and fumbles from a year ago. A season after generating just 18 turnovers, they have 25 with five games remaining. The sum includes 13 INTs and 12 fumbles. They also have 28 sacks, a season after registering 32.