Couch, Browns' other top picks prove their worth

Updated: October 8, 2003, 8:33 PM ET

BEREA, Ohio -- For one game, at least, the Browns' first-round draft picks played up to their top billing.

"All of us had big games, and when we needed it the most," said quarterback Tim Couch, who led the Browns' 33-13 rout of Pittsburgh on Sunday. "I think that's a great sign for this team."

Since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, each of their top draft picks has been accused of not being worth their high selections.

That was true of no one more than Couch, whose ups and downs through four years reached a low point this season when he was benched in favor of career backup Kelly Holcomb.

Couch accepted coach Butch Davis' decision with grace and humility, but took being described as a "bust" personally.

"That really motivates you," he said Wednesday. "You hear that word 'bust,' you don't want to be labeled as a bust."

Couch, starting for the second week in place of the injured Holcomb, used Sunday's nationally televised game against the Steelers to send a message to his detractors.

He had the best performance of his five-year career, completing 80 percent of his passes, including 11 straight, as the Browns snapped a six-game losing streak against their AFC North rival.

Defensive end Courtney Brown, like Couch a No. 1 overall pick, had a breakout game after two injury-filled seasons.

He sacked quarterback Tommy Maddox twice, showing the speed that led former Browns coach Chris Palmer to pick him over Penn State teammate LaVar Arrington in the 2000 draft.

Brown also forced and recovered a Maddox fumble. The performance earned him AFC defensive player of the week honors.

Brown, who has been reluctant to speak with the media this season, wasn't available in the locker room Wednesday.

"He's playing solid, he's playing consistent, he's making plays," Davis said.

Defensive lineman Kenard Lang scolded reporters who came looking for Brown at his locker.

"Don't talk bad about the guy and then come talk to him when he's doing well," Lang said. "Treat him the same all the time."

Brown, nicknamed "The Quiet Storm," issued a written statement saying that he appreciated the player of the week honor, but was more pleased with the victory.

Defensive tackle Gerard Warren, who was taken third overall in 2001, said the Pittsburgh game may have been his finest alongside Brown.

"We haven't had many games together since we've been here," Warren said. "You could probably rank it up there."

Warren, who hasn't been the impact playmaker the Browns had hoped, said it has taken him time to adjust to the league.

"Some guys come in and do real well when they first get in," he said. "Other guys take one, two, maybe three years to come out of their shell and really be the player people thought they were going to be when they got drafted."

Although not as maligned as Couch, Brown and Warren, running back William Green, last year's first-round pick, hadn't run the ball well this season until busting out against Pittsburgh.

Green had his best game of the year Sunday. He carried the ball a career-high 33 times -- the most by a Cleveland back since 1961 -- and went over the 100-yard mark for the first time in five games.

This year's top pick, center Jeff Faine, anchored a revamped offensive line that finally made room for Green to run and gave Couch plenty of time to throw.

Warren said the performances weren't a fluke, but a sign of things to come.

"It's not a tease. It's us doing our job," Warren said. "That's what is expected of us and that's what we're going to do."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index