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Browns' D generates two scores

Posted Dec 15, 2013

The Cleveland Browns scored a pair of defensive touchdowns in Sunday’s loss to the Chicago Bears.

The Cleveland Browns twice returned turnovers for touchdowns in Sunday’s 38-31 loss to the Chicago Bears at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Free safety Tashaun Gipson got the first defensive score of the day when he returned a Jay Cutler interception for a touchdown with 8:01 to play in the first quarter. Strong safety T.J. Ward got in on the scoring with a 51-yard fumble return with 3:40 to play in the third.

It was the first time the Browns scored on interception and fumble returns in the same game since their 51-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 10, 1989. Their four defensive scores this season are the most since they had five in 2001.

“Tashaun has been great for us,” Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “His range from the free safety position is unheard of. He’s able to play in the box, both of our safeties are. They both had a tremendous day today, and I’m happy they’re on our side.”

On second-and-12 from Chicago’s 17-yard line, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler dropped back in the shotgun formation and threw a pass deep down the left sideline for veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall, but the ball caromed off his hands and Gipson corralled his second interception of the game, a first in the NFL for the second-year defensive back out of the University of Wyoming.

After collecting his fourth interception of the season, which is tied with cornerback Joe Haden for the team lead, Gipson followed his wall of blockers into the end zone for his first NFL touchdown.

“It was a seam route to Brandon Marshall,” Gipson recalled. “I was leaning to the hash, and he actually threw it. My mindset at the beginning was to try and go make a big play, a big hit on him.

“As I’m beginning to run, I see the ball is a bit high. I could tell it’s probably going to be an incomplete pass, maybe it could be an overthrown pass and fall right into my hands. He tipped it and I knew I had to grab it. After that, I just followed my blocks, unlike the first time. They told me to follow my blocks. That’s what I did and it got me into the end zone.”

Earlier in the game, Gipson caught an interception of Cutler in the end zone and returned it 35 yards. The turnover sparked a seven-play, 56-yard drive that kicker Billy Cundiff capped off with a 35-yard field goal at the 7:26 mark of the first quarter.

“I think Gip had a great game,” Ward said. “He had two interceptions, one for a touchdown, made some tackles and I think he just had a really good game. I think it was one of his best games.”

Ward’s fumble return gave the Browns a 24-17 lead late in the third quarter.

On third-and-eight from Chicago’s 46-yard line, Bears tight end Martellus Bennett caught a short pass from Cutler before Browns defensive end Billy Winn punched the ball loose. Ward scooped up the ball, and surrounded by a host of Browns defenders, returned it for his second defensive touchdown of the season.

Earlier this year, Ward returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown to seal a 37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 3.

“I’m running to the ball, as usual, and Billy’s chasing from behind, so I let him make the tackle and the ball just popped out and was lying there,” Ward said. “I wasn’t sure if he was down or not, but it didn’t really matter. I just scooped it and got in the end zone. I looked back for any flags or the refs waving him down or something, but it counted. I was fortunate for that.

“I haven’t had a one touchdown season, so to get two in a season, I’m definitely blessed and fortunate for that.”

STOPPING THE RUN

The Browns allowed Bears running back Matt Forte to rush for 127 yards on 24 carries, a season high for a defense that has held Pro Bowl rushers, like Baltimore’s Ray Rice and Jamaal Charles of Kansas City, as well as a reigning NFL MVP in Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson under 100 this year.

“This is the most rushing yards we’ve given up all year,” Jackson said. “I thought they passed the ball well when they needed to, and we contained them early, but down the stretch, I look up at the scoreboard and they had over 180 yards. We hadn’t given up a 100-yard rusher all year, and that was disappointing. It all comes down to finishing, finishing drives, finishing quarters.”

HADEN UPDATE

Haden suffered a hip injury with 3:59 remaining in the third quarter of Sunday’s game and did not return.

Following the loss, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski gave an update on Haden’s condition.

“He has a hip pointer, so we’ll see tomorrow as far as the severity goes,” Chudzinski said. “Anytime you lose somebody like Joe, it hurts, but that’s football. Guys have to step up and step in and be able to make the plays. We’ll look at the tape and evaluate how well we were able to do that.”

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