Horton: Defense needed to 'seal the deal'

December, 5, 2013
12/05/13
4:41
PM ET
Ray Horton brought another stat to support his team's defense, but he also didn't hide his disappointment or his feelings about the Cleveland Browns letting Chad Henne drive 80 yards for a game-winning touchdown for Jacksonville.

“Those are the kind of drives, if you will, that cement or help build that legacy, that ability to be mentioned as a good, top defense,” Horton said.

Horton lamented an offside on Paul Kruger that he said negated a potential sack and fumble -- an odd statement given the play continued after the offside and Henne threw an interception.

[+] EnlargeRay Horton
AP Photo/Mark DuncanRay Horton's defense is ranked 30th in the league in the red zone, allowing teams to score 64.7 percent of the time.
He also lamented a 25-yard pass to Ace Sanders that moved the Jaguars to midfield, and the touchdown to Cecil Shorts on a double move on Joe Haden.

It all happened after Josh Gordon's electrifying 95-yard touchdown catch that had given the Browns a 28-25 lead with 3:55 left.

“For us not to seal the deal was very disappointing,” Horton said. “I think everyone was highly, highly disappointed.”

A week earlier Horton had rattled off a slew of stats to bolster his claim that the Browns' defense was laying the foundation for winning.

He admitted a defense that doesn't stop that drive cannot be considered elite.

“That's how you make a name, a reputation in this league,” he said, “of big-time players making big-time plays in big-time games. I would hope most of our guys would hope to be in that situation.

“I know I did. I had wanted it to be kind of like when we had talked about the halftime of the Kansas City game being maybe an epiphany of how good we can be.”

The Chiefs loss seemed to be a turning point for the defense -- but Jacksonville's 32 points were the most given up by the Browns this season. And the league's 32nd-ranked offense scored those points. It was the fourth time in the last seven games the Browns had 31 or more points scored on them.

Critics would blame the offense for turnovers, as if the offense stays on the field after a turnover to play defense as well. Horton said that his mantra is for the defense to get off the field, that it doesn't matter how the opposing team gets the ball.

To Horton, turnovers should not be an excuse.

But he pointed out -- yes, this is the return of the HOSH (HOrton Stats Highlights) -- that if the Browns had given up just four fewer red zone touchdowns this season, they'd be ranked 12th. If it were five fewer, they'd be ninth.

As it stands, the Browns are 30th, allowing teams to score 64.7 percent of the time they are in the red zone.

“It's awful,” Horton said. “I'm used to being one or two the past two years. Is it awful? It's hideous to me. But how far away from average, which we don't want to be? We're four stops from average. We're five away from No. 9.”

Fifty percent is average, he said.

“I understand there's two areas that need to be fixed. I believe we fixed one of them, the third down,” he said.

Horton said the third-down percentage is fixed even though the Browns rank 28th in the league (41.6 percent). But at the bye, the Browns were 31st (46.4 percent). In the past four games -- three losses -- the defense has held opponents to 22-for-64 (34.3 percent) on third-down conversions.

Of course Jacksonville was 2-for-2 on third down on the game-winning drive, including on the game-winning touchdown.

Horton, though, refuses to think negatively. He focuses on improvement.

“That's why I wouldn't say the glass is half empty,” he said. “I think it's not gloom and doom. That's why I use the Sisyphus thing. It's not an uphill battle where the rock's going to come back and pound us on the head all the time. I don't see it that way.”

Which is his right, as a coach and as an American.

Thing is, Sisyphus had nothing on Browns fans.

Pat McManamon

ESPN Cleveland Browns reporter

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