CLEVELAND: The Browns' defense played so well Sunday, coach Pat Shurmur was not going to take the chance of anything ruining its effort and costing his team a come-from-behind victory.
That explains why Shurmur ran out onto the field and called a timeout with 36 seconds left after the Miami Dolphins’ offense lined up near midfield in a different personnel group than what the Browns expected.
“I learned from Week 1,” said Shurmur, whose defense was caught napping late in the season-opening loss when the Cincinnati Bengals used a quick snap that led to their game-winning touchdown. “Did you see how quick I was? I didn’t want that to happen again; I might have jumped in [Lake Erie].”
With one problem averted by Shurmur’s quick thinking, the Browns defense was still put in a pressure cooker during the Dolphins’ final drive.
A celebration penalty on wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and tight end Benjamin Watson after the Browns’ touchdown was coupled with a personal foul on cornerback Dimitri Patterson for making a horse-collar tackle on the ensuing kickoff.
The 15-yard penalties allowed the Dolphins to start their final drive on the Browns’ 47-yard line, needing just a field goal to win the game.
“We were pumped,” rookie defensive lineman Phil Taylor said. “We kind of put our backs to the wall with the penalty on the kickoff. [But] I think it was a bad call and we got the job done. ... We were out playing our [butts] off.”
With Miami looking to convert on fourth down, the defense had one more big play left. Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne targeted receiver Brandon Marshall, but free safety Mike Adams intercepted the ball with 13 seconds to go to seal the Browns' win.
“I read his eyes,” Adams said. “He stared him down, looked away and then came back to him … and I got a great jump on it.”
Adams said he was merely responding to a challenge by defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson.
“Coach Henderson was saying, ‘We need a turnover. We need a pick. We’ve got to get it. They’re putting the ball up. We’ve got to take advantage of it,’ ” Adams said. “And we did when it counted.”
The Browns sacked Henne five times, their highest total since recording eight sacks against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 10, 2009.
Linemen Ahtyba Rubin and Jayme Mitchell led the way with 1› sacks apiece. Taylor had one. Linebackers Chris Gocong and D’Qwell Jackson each had a half sack. Rubin’s 1.5 sacks were a career high to go along with nine tackles. Mitchell also forced a fumble that was recovered by Jackson, who had 11 tackles and has led the team in that category in all three games this season.
Sunday’s sacks were just the icing on the cake for a defense that spent more time on the field than the offense did, yet still kept from wearing down as the game went on and saved their best effort for Miami’s final drive.
“We could not give an inch, so basically everybody just gutted up and did their job,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “The d-line was putting pressure [on Henne], sacking him and hitting him the whole game. And the [defensive backs], we just weren’t giving [Miami’s receivers] any room.”
While the defense allowed the Dolphins 369 yards, it proved stingy in the end zone. The Browns limited the Dolphins to just one touchdown while making them settle for field goals on three other scores.
“If we keep playing like we’re playing, people are gonna know about us,” said Taylor, who recorded his first career sack despite spraining the MCL in his left knee with 3:24 left in second quarter. He came back into the game four plays later and played during the second half. “People already know about us from watching film, but if we keep playing like we’re playing, we’re gonna be one of those dominant forces.”
Hillis out, Hardesty in
With ailing running back Peyton Hillis sent home before the game with strep throat, Montario Hardesty took over as the featured back for the first time since being drafted in the second round (59th overall) in 2010.
“This is a game I’ve been playing my whole life and I’ve been waiting for the opportunity,” Hardesty said.
He carried the ball 14 times for 67 yards (4.8 average), including a long run of 19. Hardesty also caught three passes for 19 yards, including a 10-yard, fourth-down pass from quarterback Colt McCoy that kept the game-winning drive alive.
“Just this time last year, I was with Dr. [James] Andrews getting [left ACL] surgery,” he said. “Now a full year removed, it’s just great being out there with the guys and playing the game I love.”
Battling the illness for half of the week, Hillis went home before the 1 p.m. game even began.
“We were going through the process of getting him ready to play and he felt like he couldn’t go,” Shurmur said. “It was typical of an illness like that, so I felt it was best to just send him home so he could get some rest.”
After the game, Shurmur praised Hardesty’s effort.
He “had some good runs and he played a really physical game, probably more than I expected he would play in Week 3,” Shurmur said.
The Browns inducted linebacker Vince Costello (1957-66) and center Tom DeLeone (1974-84) into the Legends Club at halftime.
“It means everything to me,” Costello said. “Next to the championship [in 1964], this is the second-best thing that’s happened to me.”
DeLeone, a Kent Roosevelt and Ohio State product now living in Park City, Utah, is battling brain cancer. The two-time Pro Bowler needed 50 tickets for friends and family who came to see him honored Sunday.
DeLeone was diagnosed in February and underwent surgery to remove a tumor the size of an avocado. He said he needed 33 radiation treatments and now takes oral chemotherapy five days a month. Every two months, he must undergo an MRI because “this kind of thing I have does grow back.”
But DeLeone is “extremely optimistic” about the future, riding his road bike 25 miles a day and getting his weight back up to 275 pounds. “Walking onto the field, the whole thing is bringing all those emotions back of the Kardiac Kids,” DeLeone said. “All we needed was one more catch.”
A shadowy figure
Haden was asked to spend the game shadowing Marshall, instead of just covering his side of the field as usual.
“That’s what you want, that’s what you strive for if you want to be an elite corner,” Haden said. “You want to be able to match up against a No. 1 receiver and be able to control him, hold him. You might not be able to stop every pass, because that’s why he’s an elite receiver. You have to be on top of your game every play because [Marshall] can go up top on you, get the ball and stiff-arm you. He’s a strong dude, so I really embraced the role.”
Dawson moves up
Kicker Phil Dawson used a third-quarter 30-yard field goal to pass Don Cockroft for second on the Browns' all-time points list. With 1,082 points, Dawson now trails only former kicker Lou Groza, who tops the list with 1,349 points.
In addition to the field goal, Dawson contributed two extra points for five points on the day.
“To have something like this happen after a win, it’s pretty neat,” Dawson, the longest-tenured Browns player, said as he clutched a game ball in hand after the game. “To have my family here, to do it at home, to have my boys and my wife up in the stands, that’s pretty cool.”
Perhaps it was a little bit of both coincidence and destiny that Dawson was able to meet with Cockroft just before halftime while he was on the field for the Legends induction.
“He’s always made a point to look me up, and that’s always meant a great deal to me,” Dawson said. “For him to do it today and acknowledge that his record was probably gonna be surpassed, he showed class and integrity and that just sums up who Don Cockroft is. But I really hope people take a moment and think about his contributions to his organization, because he set the bar very high and gave me something to shoot for all these years.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.