OAKLAND: In his 11th NFL season, Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown isn’t as fast or quick as he used to be, but the Oakland Raiders learned the hard way that he can still perform at an elite level.
Brown, 33, broke up three passes and made one of the most important plays of the game when he intercepted quarterback Carson Palmer’s pass to wide receiver Juron Criner at the Browns’ 6-yard line with 9:38 left in the fourth quarter. The Browns used the momentum created by Brown’s takeaway to produce the decisive 14-play, 94-yard touchdown drive that enabled them to defeat the Raiders 20-17 on Sunday at O.co Coliseum.
“He’s an ageless wonder,” middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said of Brown. “He’s been doing it for years, never missed a snap. I hope I’m still moving and playing as well as he is [when I’m 33].”
Brown’s crucial interception was a byproduct of his triumphant intellectual chess match against Palmer on first-and-10 at the Browns’ 33.
“Through film study, I noticed they like to throw fades between the 40 and the 20,” said Brown, who had a season-high four passes defensed. “So they had just crossed into our field position. I lined up like I was going to press the wide receiver, and on the snap, I bailed and ran out with eyes on the quarterback. I saw Carson throwing the fade ball. At that point, I just became the receiver, and I caught the ball.”
Brown also finished with five tackles. In the second quarter, one of his hits stopped running back Jeremy Stewart a yard short of the first down marker on third-and-3 at the Raiders’ 35.
“He looked like he was playing in his prime today,” strong safety T.J. Ward said. “He had a lot of knockdowns and he finished it off with that pick when our back was against the wall.”
Rookie Brandon Weeden has been protected well for the majority of this season, but he absorbed 10 quarterback hits and took one sack Sunday.
“I probably got hit more today than I’ve gotten hit in my life ever playing the position,” Weeden said. “But you don’t play this game if you’re soft. You’ve got to be able to stand there and take them. I stared down the barrel a couple times and did take a couple shots to deliver throws.”
Weeden said his elbow was hit during his second interception — an underthrown pass intended for wide receiver Josh Gordon that cornerback Phillip Adams picked off with 1:10 left in the first half. During the Browns’ first possession of the game, free safety Matt Giordano intercepted Weeden’s overthrown pass to tight end Benjamin Watson.
Weeden, though, rebounded from the first pick by hitting Gordon in stride for a 44-yard touchdown pass with 10:25 left in the second quarter. He also led the Browns on their crucial touchdown march in the fourth quarter after taking a shot from defensive end Lamarr Houston on the second play of that drive. He appeared to be shaken up after absorbing the blow, but he said the only injury he suffered was a cut on his knee.
“He battled through,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He took some licks, which I think most quarterbacks do throughout the game. But I’ve got no problem with his toughness. I’ve never had any problem with his toughness.”
Weeden set a franchise record for rookies by passing for 364 yards against the Raiders. With his fourth win as a starter, Weeden tied Bernie Kosar (1985) as the winningest rookie quarterback in franchise history.
Gordon set career highs in receptions (six) and receiving yards (116). He also became the first Browns rookie to post five or more receiving touchdowns since Andre Davis had six in 2002.
“He caught the ball well,” Shurmur said. “We think it’s a smart thing to throw him the football, and we’ll continue to do that.”
Heading into the game, Gordon, a second-round pick in the supplemental draft, thought he could have a big day.
“I try to approach every game like that [no matter] who we’re playing against,” Gordon said. “We definitely did want to take advantage of it if we could. That was the game plan.”
The Browns were thankful rain stopped pouring in Oakland before kickoff. The weather was nasty earlier in the day.
“When I woke up this morning over on the other side of the Bay, I thought we were going to build an arc,” Shurmur said. “But it did clear up.”
Rookie running back Trent Richardson rushed for 72 yards on 20 carries. He ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 3:27 left. “We just kept punching,” Richardson said. “When you hit somebody in the face, they can only take it so much.” His seven rushing touchdowns this season are tied for the second-most by a Browns rookie. … Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress will testify today at bounty hearings in Washington, D.C., Jason La Canfora of CBS reported, citing sources. When Childress coached the Minnesota Vikings, he told the league he heard the New Orleans Saints might have placed a bounty on then-Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. … Cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle), free safety Usama Young (concussion), running back Brandon Jackson, special-teams ace Ray Ventrone (calf), defensive tackle Ronnie Cameron, guard Jarrod Shaw and wide receiver Josh Cooper were inactive for the Browns. Rookie Tashaun Gipson started in place of Young, who sat out after suffering a concussion last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Patterson missed his seventh consecutive game since suffering a high-ankle sprain and torn ligament Oct. 7 against the New York Giants. Ventrone has missed three games in a row after hurting his calf in practice Nov. 15. Cooper was a healthy scratch for the second week in a row. … Running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson (high-ankle sprains) and defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee/hamstring) were among those inactive for the Raiders.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj