PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Tim Couch played as he never has before in
the place the Cleveland Browns almost never win. Even worse for the
Pittsburgh Steelers, Tommy Maddox kept playing exactly the way he has been playing.
Couch threw for two touchdowns and ran for another before
halftime, and the Browns took advantage of three turnovers by
Maddox to end a six-game losing streak to their biggest rivals,
beating the Steelers 33-13 Sunday night.
Question on the Steelers: What happened to the Steelers?
They completely fell apart against the Browns. The biggest problem facing the Steelers is their lack of a good backup game plan. Currently, they have a good initial plan that sets up their receiving corps. But once teams are able to stop their receivers, they have no running game to bail them out. They've made themselves a one-dimensional run-and-shoot team.
Question on the Browns: Can the Browns fix their issues and win this division?
They can still win the division, but they need to establish a consistent running game. The Browns have three very good receivers, but in close games a running game will help free them up.
Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.
In essentially a must-win game, the Browns (2-3) shook off the
absence of injured quarterback Kelly Holcomb and two tough losses
in Pittsburgh a year ago to beat the Steelers (2-3) for only the
third time in 16 games.
Browns coach Butch Davis finally beat the Steelers for the first
time in six attempts as Cleveland -- coming off a 21-14 loss at home
to Cincinnati -- won in Pittsburgh for only the sixth time in 33
tries since 1970.
Davis could tell during practice that the Browns were ready, saying,
"We won tonight, but I'm not convinced the game wasn't won earlier
in the week, when the players decided to win."
Maddox led both of the Steelers' comeback wins against the
Browns last season, including a 36-33 playoff victory in which
Pittsburgh trailed 24-7 late in the third quarter. But his own
mistakes prevented him from mounting a rally this time, and so did
the Browns' excellent coverage against Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress. The AFC's top receiving duo had only three catches between them, and Maddox was lifted after going 11-of-24 for 136 yards.
Maddox became agitated when asked whether he still has confidence in
himself, saying, "Of course I do. You want me to go jump off a
cliff? Yeah, I've got confidence in myself and my teammates. It's
only five games into the season; it's not the gloom and doom
everybody says it is,"
History says they might be in trouble. The Steelers are 2-3 for
the fourth time in five seasons; they recovered to go to the
playoffs last season but didn't in 2000 or 1999.
The pivotal play might have come early in the third quarter, when
cornerback Daylon McCutcheon stepped in front of a Maddox pass
intended for Jerame Tuman and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown
and a 30-10 Browns' lead.
All of a sudden, Touchdown Tommy has become Turnover Tommy. Of
Maddox's eight interceptions, three have been returned for
touchdowns and a fourth was returned to the 1, leading to another
"I have to give it to our defensive coordinator (Dave Campo),"
McCutcheon said. "I don't know what he saw, but he just felt they
were going to run a play like that. The pass rush got in his face,
and he threw a bad ball -- but not a bad ball for me."
Cleveland's offense was the NFL's third worst statistically
going into the game and Pittsburgh's defense was the second best,
but it looked the other way around as Couch won his sixth
consecutive road start.
Couch, who was 20-of-25 for 208 yards, completed three passes of
18 yards or longer on the Browns' opening 81-yard drive, including
one to Quincy Morgan for 32 yards, before finding Andre Davis wide
open over the middle for a 6-yard touchdown.
Davis called it Couch's best game ever, saying, "He made some
really good decisions."
Maddox, whose two interceptions led to Tennessee touchdowns the
week before in a 30-13 loss, then was stripped of the ball by
Courtney Brown on Pittsburgh's third play, leading to Phil Dawson's
19-yard field goal and the 10-0 lead.
The last two weeks, Couch and the Titans' Steve McNair have
combined to go 35-of-41 for 377 yards, with five touchdowns and one
interception against the Steelers in Heinz Field.
"It was a poor display of football," said coach Bill Cowher,
who nevertheless said he doesn't expect to change quarterbacks.
"We're not playing very well right now."
Ward had catches of 30 and 25 yards that led to Jerome Bettis'
1-yard run, Pittsburgh's only touchdown, but the Browns answered
with a 78-yard drive just before halftime. With the Browns down to
one play before they would have tried a field goal, Couch scrambled
to his right, found an open lane and scored from the 9 with just 6
seconds left before halftime. Couch's touchdown run was only the
second of his career and his first since his rookie season in 1999.
Once the Browns got a big lead, they kept giving the ball to
William Green, who ran for 115 yards on 33 carries. He was held to
30 yards on 25 carries in the playoff game in January.
Maddox has thrown 19 interceptions in his last 13 starts.
... Steelers LT Marvel Smith (shoulder) was pulled on the first
series and didn't return. He sat out the Titans game with the same
injury. ... Couch was 16-of-17 in the first half. ... Holcomb
passed for 429 yards in the playoff game. ... The Steelers won all
three games against Cleveland by three points last season.