CLEVELAND — Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles ran for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage Sunday.
It was not a sign of things to come.
Shaking off a terrible start, the Browns’ defense rose to the occasion often in a 30-7 victory that made for an unsavory trip back to Cleveland for Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel and two of his offensive weapons, quarterback Brady Quinn and running back Peyton Hillis.
After the Charles run, which accounted for nearly half of Kansas City’s rushing total, the Browns’ defense yielded little, shutting out the Chiefs and limiting them to 230 yards in total offense — a paltry 130 net yards through the air.
“They just hit us,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said of Charles’ run. “That’s what we harped on all week, ‘You can’t give (Charles) too much space because he can take it from anywhere on the field.’ We did it and we bounced back from it. Guys didn’t lose their heads. We stayed the course.”
That course derailed the production of Quinn and Hillis. Quinn, who has assumed the starting role from Matt Cassell, was harassed all day (five sacks), which contributed to his 53.5 passer rating (10-for-21 with one interception). He connected with Dwayne Bowe for 70 yards on his first two attempts, then lost his top receiver to an injury shortly after.
“We let the score get away from us,” said Quinn, whose team trailed 10-7 at halftime before allowing 10 unanswered points minutes into the third quarter — three of them off his interception. “When you do that, you’re basically a one-mode offense and the defense can dictate things. Both corners (Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown) did a great job outside of trying to lock guys up. We have to take our hats off to them because they executed a good game.”
“We knew if we had decent coverage on the outside, he’ll go to his safety valve,” Jackson said of Quinn. “With my experience with Brady, as long as there’s a body near the receiver, if there’s close coverage, I don’t think he’s going to make that throw.
“We expected some things. We were able to force their hand to throw the ball, which they didn’t want to do a whole lot.”
Hillis, who had a tumultuous final season in Cleveland last year and a war of words with Browns tackle Joe Thomas leading up to the game, was a non-factor, rushing for
11 yards on five attempts and catching one pass for six yards.
“I was surprised,” Jackson said. “I know once Jamaal went down for a series I figured he’d get a lot more touches. I thought when the game was close they would feed Peyton a bit, just to slow the game down and methodically move the ball down the field. But they didn’t.”
Jackson said there was no trash-talking from Hillis. But Jackson, who led the team with seven tackles, had plenty to say to his fellow defenders after Charles’ big run.
“D’Qwell does a good job of calming everybody down. He’s our leader,” said defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard, who credited Jackson with refocusing his unit after the big run. “It was just going back out there and playing and just starting the game over.”
Cleveland’s defense has been a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season. With Haden, who has missed five games, the Browns have fielded a top-shelf defense, which they showed again Sunday with a stifling effort.
But it certainly didn’t start that way.
“Stuff like that happens, but after that we just rallied,” Haden said. “I just like the way our defense just kept going. As soon as they got that first play, we just basically shut them down the rest of the game.
“It was an amazing effort, like usual.”