BEREA - Romeo Crennel has heard the snide comments. He made a career as a defensive coach, yet his Browns team has spent much of the year ranked at the bottom of the NFL in most defensive categories.
So the defense`s performance Sunday in a 27-17 win over Houston, its best overall showing in two months, brought a smile to Crennel`s face.
"It feels good to see that because I`m a â€˜defensive coach.`" he said Monday. "We did play decent only giving up 17 points and we stopped the run, which we`ve been trying to get done."
The defense finally put two solid halves together, but Crennel wasn`t satisfied.
"As a coach, you always want it a little bit better and if we don`t give up that last touchdown, then you do feel better about it," he said.
The Browns allowed a touchdown in the first quarter and one in the fourth after they had taken a 27-10 lead. The held the Texans to 77 yards rushing and 2-for-10 on third-down conversions.
"All year, they`ve been making plays at critical times during the course of the game," Crennel said of the defense. "That`s one thing about those guys, they keep fighting. They know they always have a chance and they never say die. As we continue to win and the games get larger, these plays show up a little bit more."
Crennel pointed to a pass breakup by linebacker Willie McGinest as an example of a player being on top of his game. He dropped in coverage, recognized the receiver`s route and almost made an interception.
"When you`re talking about making a play on defense, it`s recognition of formation," Crennel said. "It`s knowledge of the guy you`re going against. It`s knowledge of the play once the ball is snapped. It`s anticipation once the ball is snapped.
"Maybe it`s the read of the quarterback`s eyes. Maybe it`s the read of the offensive lineman, where he`s looking when he comes to the line. All those things go into that mental computer in the player`s head. Then he disseminates all that information and then he makes the judgment: I`m here, so I`m going to do this."
The Browns couldn`t have come out of the game much better on the injury front. Backup defensive end Simon Fraser banged his knee and third-down running back Jason Wright suffered a neck stinger, but both returned to the game and should be fine this week.
In addition, right tackle Kevin Shaffer and defensive lineman Shaun Smith were able to play all game despite being questionable with knee sprains. Crennel expects them to be fine for Sunday in Arizona.
"We feel decent about where the guys are from the injury standpoint," he said. "We need everybody as we go down the stretch. It`s going to be important for these guys to do everything they can to get back."
Cornerback Eric Wight (knee) and nose tackle Ethan Kelley (knee) didn`t play and Crennel said they`re progressing. Wright is expected to miss a few more weeks.
BRINGING THE HEAT
The Browns had seven sacks through eight games. They have 12 in the last three weeks, including two of Houston`s Matt Schaub. They hit him seven other times.
"I can`t put a finger on it, to say why that`s happening," Crennel said. "They have been working hard all year trying to get to the quarterback. When you watch Kamerion Wimbley rush, he rushes very hard and he comes very close a lot of times.
"These guys, I think, are concentrating more on it. There`s been more focus put on it and sometimes circumstances allow you to make a play."
Linebacker Antwan Peek, who had a sack Sunday, credited the secondary.
"A lot of it has to do with our corners playing better," he said Sunday. "Teams are not just getting the ball off easy."
EYES WIDE SHUT
Two of Braylon Edwards` four catches were slants. One converted a fourth-and-3, the other a third-and-2.
"Slants aren`t the prettiest routes in the book," Edwards said. "It comes with the territory. A lot of times you`re going to get hit regardless, so you might as well catch it."
On the fourth-and-3, which led to a touchdown, Edwards took a big hit.
"I closed my eyes," he said. "I opened them and he fell down and I still was up."
When Edwards scored on a 9-yard touchdown, he fired the ball toward the stands. Was he upset?
"It was just excitement," he said. "I`m not a dancer. I get real excited."
Crennel awarded game balls to running back Jamal Lewis (134 yards, touchdown), tight end Kellen Winslow (10 catches, 107 yards, touchdown) and rookie nickelback Brandon McDonald. He was honored for his play on defense (interception, four pass breakups) and special teams (two tackles).
* The players were off Monday.
* Lewis was fined $5,000 by the NFL last week for taunting the Ravens by spiking the ball on their sidelines. Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was fined $5,000 for punching Browns left tackle Joe Thomas in the face mask.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or email@example.com.