Finally, with 7:29 to play in Sunday's fourth quarter, it happened. The Buffalo Bills converted a third down on the Cleveland Browns' defense.
It was one of just two on a day where the Browns' defense largely bottled up the Bills' Fred Jackson-led rushing attack, minimized star rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins' production and limited the home team to one offensive touchdown. On 62 plays, Buffalo gained just 287 yards, the second-fewest Cleveland's allowed all season.
Typically, it would have been enough for a victory, but that wasn't in the cards on a day that ended with the Bills on top, 26-10. Presented with an opportunity to point fingers at running back Terrance West's costly fumble or the offense's overall struggle to score against the Bills' nasty defense, Browns defensive players quickly declined. Instead, they maintained that even when they played as well as they did throughout November, there's potential to be even better in December.
"When you lose a game, it's a team loss," rookie linebacker Chris Kirksey said. "You don't ever pinpoint one play. I could've made more tackles. The defense could've made more stops. Terrance West is a great player. No one points blame on anything or anyone. It's a team loss. Everybody can do something better."
Through 13 weeks, no team in the NFL has been better at intercepting opposing quarterbacks than the Browns, who have 17 interceptions after picking off Kyle Orton twice Sunday.
Even without safety Tashaun Gipson, who leads the team with six interceptions but is out with a knee injury, the Browns secondary made key plays at pivotal moments.
Video: 's interception in the end zone
Veteran Jim Leonhard saved a potential touchdown in Sunday's second quarter when he read Orton's eyes from start to finish, stepped in front of a pass directed at Watkins in the end zone and recorded his first interception of the season. Haden, who limited Watkins to three catches for 11 yards, stepped in front of a slant early in the third quarter to record his third interception in as many games.
Seven different Browns have contributed to the league-leading interception total. The Browns have already exceeded their interception total from last season (14) and have a chance to finish with their highest total since 2008, when they were second in the NFL with 23.
All but three of the NFL's top 12 teams in interceptions boast a winning record.
Takeaways, in general, have been coming in steady doses throughout the season. Since the defense failed to force a turnover Week 5 against the Tennessee Titans, -- its only game without one -- Cleveland's had at least two in six of the past eight games.
The Browns' defense, as a whole, has held its own without veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby, who has missed the past two games with a knee injury. Craig Robertson, who's filled Dansby's spot in the middle of the Browns' defense, led the team with 11 tackles against the Bills and has 20 in the past two games.
The challenge for even more big hits and interceptions will be tricky, but certainly not over the Browns' heads, Sunday against Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Cleveland's goal will be simple: add to Luck's total of 11 interceptions and pad its lead on the rest of the league.