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Defense Carries Cleveland Browns Through First Six Games

The story of the Cleveland Browns' emerging defense was summed up perfectly in their first drive against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 23:  Defensive back T.J. Ward #43 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates after an interception against the Seattle Seahawks at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 23: Defensive back T.J. Ward #43 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates after an interception against the Seattle Seahawks at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
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The story of the Cleveland Browns' emerging defense was summed up perfectly in their first drive against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

Although Seattle was driving down the field, the Browns didn't falter. A sack by linebacker Chris Gocong on the drive seemed to rattle the confidence of Seahawks quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. He'd completed his first three passes of the game. After the sack, he was six of 24. The sack by Gocong, who is replacing the injured Scott Fujita, was only a foreshadowing. The drive ended with safety T.J. Ward delivering a strip sack on Whitehurst that was recovered by linebacker D'Qwell Jackson.

That stopped the Seattle drive and was followed seven plays later by a 52-yard field goal by Phil Dawson. That's the been the feeling for much of the season for the Browns. In the team's three wins, the defense has only allowed two touchdowns, with one coming in the final minute against the Indianapolis Colts.

"Every time we go out there, we're looking for a shutout," Ward told the media this week. "Defensively, we want people to fear us, that's it's going to bough when you come to Cleveland. We're not like everyone else. We're one of a kind."

While the shutouts haven't come yet, the defense is greatly improved and the biggest reason why the team sits at 3-3. The Browns are currently fourth in the NFL in yards allowed per game (and, oddly, fourth the AFC North) and ninth in points allowed.

The reasons for the team's turnaround on defense are myriad, but chief among them is the play of the secondary. The Browns are second in the league in pass defense, due in large part to the performance of second-year players Ward and Joe Haden. Ward continues to be an intimidating factor in the secondary and Haden is rounding into one of the best cornerbacks in the league.

With their young secondary and veteran linebacker group in place, the Browns infused their defensive line with talent this year. The Browns used their first two picks on the defensive line, proven thin the team was in that area. When the picks happened, though, the expectation wasn't for defensive tackle Phil Taylor and defensive end Jabaal Sheard to make as immediate of an impact as they have.

"I was excited about the fact they were young and talented and eager to do good," head coach Pat Shurmur said earlier this week. "I guess I’m more excited about the fact that their helping contribute to winning performances on defense."

Their play has only enhanced tackle Ahtyba Rubin and Jackson, the defense's two best players coming into the season. As a whole, the Browns finally have talent on their defense from the front to back. If the offense can catch up, this may be a team to reckoned with the rest of the season.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.