Defense needs to produce

November, 28, 2013
11/28/13
4:04
PM ET
The Browns talked big the past two weeks. They talked of playing in big games, how it was “Pittsburgh week” and how important the Steelers game would be.

But they didn’t walk the walk. They were embarrassed in Cincinnati, allowing the Bengals to get a team record for points in a quarter while having the ball three minutes, and then getting thrashed -- yes that’s the word -- by Pittsburgh.

Lost in the offensive issues against Pittsburgh (turnovers) and the blather about T.J. Ward’s comments is this reality: The defense has had its own issues since the first quarter in Cincinnati.

For the third time this season, defensive coordinator Ray Horton cut back on pressure against a top quarterback. If madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, well that’s what the Browns had, and received. Not pressuring Roethlisberger allowed him to stand back and take what he wanted -- much the same way Matt Stafford and Aaron Rodgers did. Combine that with the reality that Le’Veon Bell ran better than any Browns back all season, and the result was a thrashing.

Horton has great respect for Dick LeBeau, but it almost seemed that he tried to outthink LeBeau and lost the matchup.

It was the Steelers, after all, who came up with the game-turning blitz that sent Jason Campbell to the sidelines. Yes, Campbell was hit in the head and it should have been called but LeBeau had the blitz that brought William Gay free to blindside Campbell.

Pittsburgh had five sacks, the Browns none.

Pittsburgh forced three fumbles, and recovered all of them. The Browns forced none.

Troy Polamalu played like he was in his prime. The Browns prime-time player was beat for a touchdown.

The Steelers had an interception for a touchdown. The Browns had no interceptions.

Defenses that want to talk big and act like they’re a top defense need to back it up. The Browns didn’t.

Pittsburgh’s defense set up or scored 14 points. The Browns did score seven on Joe Haden’s interception in Cincinnati, but from that point it went south. Too, the Bengals held the Browns to field goals, while the Browns allowed Cincinnati and Pittsburgh to score touchdowns after turnovers.

The Browns still lead the league in yards allowed per play, but they rank 23rd in interception percentage, 26th in takeaways, 27th in third downs and 31st in red zone efficiency.

This weekend the Browns have the Jaguars, a team it might be disastrous to lose to.

In seven of their 11 games, the Jaguars have averaged eight points per game. They’ve got Chad Henne at quarterback, whose passer rating has never been higher in a season than 79.0.

The Browns defense did not stand up against better opponents.

Sunday would be a good time for it to stand up against a lesser one.

Pat McManamon

ESPN Cleveland Browns reporter

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