It had been a vicious cycle for the Browns this season as they seemingly lost more players with every loss. That's why it shouldn't be chalked up to coincidence that the Browns won their first game in cornerback Joe Haden's first game back.
After serving a four-game suspension, Haden brought new life to a defense that had watched four starters miss games due to injuries (defensive tackles Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin and linebackers Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong). He made seven tackles, broke up three passes and had an interception.
“I couldn’t ask for us to come out here and do any better," Haden told the Akron Beacon Journal. [Middle linebacker] D’Qwell [Jackson] came up to me and said I brought a spark to the team this whole week in practice, and that was the whole thing I was trying to do -- just let our boys know I’m back and we have a good team, we have a good secondary, we have a good defense.”
Haden did get beat by A.J. Green late in the fourth quarter, when the Bengals receiver scored a 57-yard touchdown. But Haden was a major reason why the Bengals converted 5 of 14 third downs (35.7 percent) and the Browns forced multiple turnovers.
In two games with Haden this season, the Browns have intercepted seven passes. In four games without him, they've picked off three passes.
“I thought Joe did a heck of a job, which isn’t easy,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “Even though he stayed in shape and tried to stay into it mentally, I went in thinking there might be some rough spots for him, but he battled and he did a real nice job.”
STAT THAT STICKS: 21 -- Fourth-quarter points scored by the Browns were their most since they totaled 21 against Baltimore on Oct. 6, 2002. The team’s four touchdowns were their most since scoring four against New England on Nov. 7, 2010.
OVERHEARD: "Last week I didn’t feel like I contributed or had a breakout game unless I contributed to the win. Now that I did help contribute, it feels a little better. A whole lot better.” Rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon on making three catches for 99 yards, which included a 71-yard touchdown.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Browns look to end another streak when playing at the Colts (2-3). Cleveland's last road win came at Indianapolis in September 2011.