The goal in the NFL is to score more points than the opposition.
Using that standard, consider it mission accomplished for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday against Seattle.
The Browns rode their defense to a 6-3 win over the Seahawks, evening their record on the season at 3-3.
“You can’t start out talking about this game unless you talk about the performance of the defense,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “When you hold a team in the NFL to three points, that’s outstanding.”
“We’ll take this one,” Browns kicker Phil Dawson, who made field goals of 52 and 53 yards, said. “We’re probably not going to brag about it in 15 years, but we’ll take the win.”
The defense brought it on Sunday, limiting Seattle to 137 yards of offense, nine first downs, and letting the Seahawks convert only 2-of-12 on third down. The defense also recorded three sacks of Charlie Whitehurst, who threw for all of 97 yards and averaged 3.2 yards per attempt.
“If the offense scores 100 points, we want it to be 100 to zero,” safety T.J. Ward said in published reports. “Every time we go out there we’re looking for a shutout. Defensively, we want people to fear us and know it’s going to be tough against Cleveland. You’re not going to get no easy points. We’re one of a kind.”
On offense, certainly didn’t light up the scoreboard, but the offense did just enough, especially when it counted the most.
After the Seahawks’ fourth three-and-out forced them to punt, the Browns took over leading 6-3 with 9:54 left in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Colt McCoy led a 14-play, 65-yard drive that took 6:49 off the clock.
The drive ended, unfortunately, with a blocked Phil Dawson field goal – the second of the day as guard Jason Pinkston had no answer for how to block Seattle’s Red Bryant – but the offense finally managed to take over the game when it needed to.
The drive featured Montario Hardesty, who gained 30 of his game-high 95 yards. Coming into the game, the Seahawks had not allowed a single runner to gain more than 70 yards this season.
Running back Chris Ogbonnaya, signed earlier in the week, contributed a team-high five catches for 43 yards as he showed some nice hands coming out of the backfield – no drops!
The Browns totaled 298 yards of offense, converted 12-0f-24 third downs and held the ball for a ridiculous 42:56. They only thing they couldn’t do was put the ball in the end zone.
The offense was hampered, however, by not having starting running back Peyton Hillis, who was inactive because of his balky hamstring. The Browns also lost starting wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and starting tight end Ben Watson to head injuries, as well as starting right guard Shawn Lauvao with a leg injury.
With a team that is already struggling on offense, having four starters out doesn’t make it any easier.
In the end, they found a way to win, which is something new this year. How many times over the past few years have we seen the Browns do the opposite and find a way to lose? (Think Jacksonville and Buffalo last year, Detroit in 2009, just to name a few).
And six games into his tenure as head coach, Shurmur will wake up Monday morning with a .500 record, something that former coaches Eric Mangini and Romeo Crennel were never able to say.
As pretty as the defense was on the day, that’s how ugly the offense was. But the Browns got it done and, after not winning for almost a month, coming out of the game with a victory is a nice reward for a team that definitely needed it.
(Photo by The Associated Press)