Joe Haden: The NFL's hottest cornerback?


It's not easy to grab positives from a loss that dimmed the 7-5 Cleveland Browns' playoff chances.

Still, as the team arrived back in Berea after the 35 minute flight from Buffalo, several players rightfully approached teammate Joe Haden, slapping the cornerback's hand and patting him on the back.

No cornerback in the NFL is having a better four-game stretch than Haden, who has an interception in three consecutive games while limiting the production of some of the NFL's top wide receivers.





Cincinnati Bengals

A.J. Green



Houston Texans

Andre Johnson



Atlanta Falcons

Julio Jones



Buffalo Bills

Sammy Watkins



Against the Bills, Haden was a one-man-wrecking crew. On a last-second Buffalo 53-yard field goal attempt before the half, the cornerback raced around the edge, fully extended his body and blocked the kick that would've tied the game.

Then, on the third play of the third quarter, Haden picked off a Kyle Orton pass intended for Sammy Watkins. Haden played textbook, press-man coverage on the play, jamming Watkins for the first 5 yards before muscling in front of the rookie for the interception.

One week earlier, Haden limited Atlanta's Julio Jones to five catches for 68 yards. For some perspective, Jones had 12 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown Sunday against Arizona's Pro Bowl cornerback, Patrick Peterson.   

The 25-year-old Haden, now in his fifth NFL season, was asked if this November stretch was the best football of his career.

"Yes, I think so," he said. "I'm taking this game very seriously and I am trying to lead by example and show these boys that it's time. This doesn't happen all the time. I feel like it's time for everybody to put their best foot forward and try to make plays.

"During this time in November and December, like we said, it's time to make a [playoff] push. I think like we said at the beginning, good players make plays when you need them and that's what I'm trying to do."

More so than ever, Haden has become a leader inside the Browns' locker room. While he's not necessarily in the mold of teammate Donte Whitner – giving passionate speeches or barking orders all throughout practices – Haden's leadership is demonstrated on Sundays.

The cornerback has been the epitome of coach Mike Pettine's "Play Like a Brown" philosophy.  He's been relentless overcoming some early-season tribulations and he's been productive, raising the level of play for the entire secondary with his lockdown skill set. 

The 2014 season has, by far, been the most successful version of the Browns Haden's experienced. You won't find any quit in Haden or the Browns after a tough loss to the Bills.

"Everybody's out there giving it everything they got, blood, sweat and tears and we can't get the victory," Haden said. "It sucks, but we got to go home, back to Cleveland, and watch the tape and see what we could do better."

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