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Defense starts fast, finishes strong

Posted Oct 28, 2012

The defense for the Cleveland Browns allowed only 265 yards of total offense in their 7-6 victory over the San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns Stadium Sunday afternoon.

The Cleveland Browns finished Sunday’s 7-6 win over the San Diego Chargers just how they started it at Cleveland Browns Stadium, with a defensive stop.

The Chargers faced a fourth-and-10 from Cleveland’s 44-yard line and were driving to get within range of a potential go-ahead field goal in the final minutes of the game when quarterback Philip Rivers took the shotgun snap and threw toward wide receiver Malcom Floyd. Browns defensive back Buster Skrine reached into the passing lane and broke up the pass.

The Browns subsequently ran out the clock with two kneel downs from quarterback Brandon Weeden.

“Buster is a guy that I’ve always thought challenges,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “We were in man coverage and he did a good job. Those are defining plays when you get a team stopped fourth-and-10.”

Skrine made two solo tackles on defense and broke up the one pass in addition to his two special teams stops. At times, Skrine found himself defending Chargers All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates, who finished the game with two catches for 14 yards.

“I’m up for any matchup,” Skrine said. “Coach trusted that I could do it, so, I think I did pretty well. You just grow as a player, game-by-game. You can’t simulate a game in practice and I’m getting more experience, getting good reviews from my coaches and I feel like I’m doing a good job.”

The Chargers came to Cleveland averaging nearly 25 points per game, but the Browns limited them to just six points and kept them out of the end zone for the second time this season. Prior to Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons were the last team to keep the Chargers from scoring a touchdown. They limited the Chargers to three points in a 27-3 victory in San Diego.

“That’s big when it comes to a game like this,” said defensive end Jabaal Sheard. “One touchdown and they could’ve won the game, so, keeping them out of the end zone is big. We have to build off of it come next week.”

The Browns allowed quarterback Philip Rivers to pass for 154 yards on 18-of-34 throwing. Once the sack yardage was calculated, the Chargers’ 148 net yards passing was the lowest the Browns have allowed since Houston registered 119 on Nov. 6, 2011.

“Defensively, I thought we rose to the occasion,” middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “There were times where we didn’t get off (the field) on third down, but we would come to the sideline and talk about how the Chargers were attacking us. Everybody was in tune the entire ball game and I think it was one of those days where things started to fall in place for us on both sides of the ball.”

San Diego started the game with possession of the football, and moved from its 19-yard line to the Browns’ 30-yard line. However, they were stopped on fourth-and-one and turned the ball over on downs.

Running back Jackie Battle took the handoff from Rivers and ran behind right guard Louis Vasquez, but Browns safety T.J. Ward shot through a gap in the offensive line and made the tackle at the line of scrimmage.

“It was great,” Jackson said. “That’s one area we haven’t been good at all year, the short third-and-ones, fourth-and-ones. We haven’t been good all year. Finally, it felt good for the ball to roll into our court. I thought it was great momentum for us as a defense and the rest of the football team.”

After forcing the Chargers to go three-and-out on their second possession, the Browns generated a turnover when rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson stripped running back Ryan Mathews of the football and first-year defensive tackle Billy Winn recovered in front of the Cleveland sideline.

“I was running to the ball and he ended up having the ball in his left hand,” Johnson said. “I ended up tackling him and popping the ball out. Anytime you force a turnover, it’s a big thing. It’s momentum. It gets the offense going, the offense pumping, so it was good.

“Everybody just kept fighting. We came into the game believing we could win, so everybody just fought hard. We kept fighting the whole game. It was a slugfest, so, we wanted to come out alive, come out winning.”

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