Numbers never lie.
And no one knows that better than Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Horton is a fan of statistics, and knows that ultimately, the team’s successes and failures will be measured by the numbers.
“The essence of what we’re doing is wins and losses,” Horton said. “It’s cliché that, ‘Statistics are for losers,’ but not in our business. Really, numbers are all we deal with. Wins and losses, those are numbers. The players are paid by their statistics, their numbers on the field.
“They’re very pertinent and important in our game. They tell me what we’re doing well, what we’re not doing well, what other teams are doing well as I research the No. 1 team in football, what they’re doing well, what they’re not doing well. If you look at last year’s stats, the teams that were one through five in red zone and third down, those teams were nowhere near the top ten with the exception of one team. I spent a lot of time on film and numbers because they validate either what you’re doing or what you’re not doing.”
The Browns’ defense ranked 19th or lower in per-game averages for rushing yards (19th, 118.7, passing yards (25th, 245.2), total yards (23rd, 363.8) and points allowed (19th, 23.0) at the end of the 2012 season.
Since Horton’s arrival, the Browns rank 12th in rushing yards, sixth in passing yards, seventh in total yards and 15th in points allowed.
“I came in here and talked about building a perennial winner on defense, and I think we’ve got the blueprint, the footprint, the foundation to do that,” Horton said. “The numbers tell me that. The wins will come. There will be more sacks; there will be more turnovers, and we’ll get more wins.
“Other than one game, the Green Bay game, if you look when the clock’s at 15 minutes in the fourth quarter, we are either leading or we’re behind, at most, by three points. What we’ve been preaching and harping on is finish.”
One thing, however, that statistics cannot measure is the heart Horton’s defensive players show on the field.
In the first half at Kansas City, the Browns gave up 281 yards and 16 first downs. Following the 12-minute halftime, the defense allowed 50 yards and four first downs, and helped get the Browns to within three points of the Chiefs with seven minutes to play.
“I think the guys dug deep,” Horton said. “I’m an avid reader, and I read a lot of different things, and there was a few comments about halftime adjustments and what-have-you. The biggest adjustment was a mental adjustment with the players. I think they were embarrassed by what had happened because I know they were very excited about the Kansas City defense.
“There was a psychological challenge there. I think they were embarrassed, and there’s always a turning point somewhere in the season, good or bad. I hope that halftime was our turning point, that we understand we can be and are good. We’re very good, statistically, in a lot of things.”