In the four games the Cleveland Browns have won this season, they have recovered four fumbles and intercepted four passes, but over the last two games, they have forced just two turnovers in losses at Cincinnati and at home against Pittsburgh.
For defensive coordinator Ray Horton, the key to winning is simple.
“We didn’t get enough turnovers,” Horton said, flatly, after Friday’s practice. “We need to get more turnovers. If we can do our job and get more turnovers, we’ll help the offense with a short field and help the team. We need to get more turnovers.
“I think we had two versus Cincinnati and none versus Pittsburgh, so that was definitely one of our points of emphasis this week. Turnovers, they help the other team win games. The one statistic, year-in and year-out, that helps a team get to the playoffs is turnover ratio. That involves the offense, defense and special teams. You’re a part of it, and right now, I assume Kansas City is leading the league, they or New England, and they both will probably make the playoffs.”
Overall, this season, the Browns’ defense has intercepted eight passes and recovered four fumbles. And while Horton said the defense needs to create more turnovers, he acknowledged that “they come back to you.”
“My numbers are wins,” Horton said. “I don’t know how many teams have more wins than we do, and that’s the ultimate thing. Statistically, there are a couple teams that are in the bottom one-third, but they are going to be in the playoffs. I’d rather be worse and be in the playoffs than be good, whether it’s turnovers, yards, sacks.
“You want to win games, and sometimes, you win games differently. The Indianapolis Colts went to the playoffs giving up the most yards. I want wins and we’re not producing enough. I want more turnovers because that’s the number one way to get into the playoffs, but how do you do that? You pick the ball off.”
Improving upon their play is nothing new to the Browns under Horton’s direction.
This year’s Browns have seen marked improvement in rushing yards, passing yards and total yards allowed compared to a season ago. In 2012, the Browns ranked 19th or lower in those three categories, but this year, the team is sixth against the run, fifth against the pass and fourth in total yards.
They have also seen a vast improvement in third-down defense since the end of October.
“Since the second half of the Kansas City game, we are the number one team in third-down defense,” Horton said. “We’d probably be 14th in red-zone defense since that Kansas City game. Statistically, wins are the most important thing, and that’s what we’re trying to do. The foundation of winning is those numbers.”