Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 11/30/12
BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- For the past two weeks, Cleveland's defense has been a swarming mass that will stop at nothing to inflict pain and punishment on its opponent. The Browns have been ruthless, relentless. "They're like a bunch of fire ants," offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. With consecutive dominant performances against Dallas and Pittsburgh, Cleveland's defense is establishing itself as one of the NFL's up-and-coming units. Don't tell cornerback Joe Haden that, though. He believes the Browns deserve to be considered among the elite already. "I would say we're one of the top five defenses, for sure," Haden said Thursday as the Browns (3-8) continued to prepare for Sunday's game against the Raiders (3-8). "We have people who can play their position, are really good at it and everybody's established now and they understand what's going on. "We have playmakers that can make plays at every level, and when we're all healthy and everybody's doing their thing, we're up there with the best." They've certainly been at their best the past two Sundays. Last week, the Browns forced eight turnovers -- five fumbles, three interceptions -- in a 20-14 win over the Steelers. The eight takeaways were the most by any team since 2001 and most by a Cleveland team since 1989. Also, the Browns held Pittsburgh to 49 yards rushing, the fewest by a Cleveland opponent in nine years. One week earlier, the Browns sacked Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo seven times and allowed Dallas only 64 yards rushing. Before their bye, the Browns were allowing 132.2 yards on the ground per game. Since then, they're giving up a league-low 56. It's no coincidence that defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor have played in both games. Taylor missed Cleveland's first eight games after having surgery to repair a chest muscle the 335-pounder tore while lifting weights in May. The underrated Rubin sat out three games with a calf injury. But now that the beefy pair have been reunited, the Browns' defense has become a heavyweight. "It's like baseball," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "You need to be strong up the middle. When you have two big sturdy guys in there that can play the run on first and second down, and then get push when it's time to throw the football, that definitely helps your run game." Cleveland's defensive line has become the team's strength. The injuries to Taylor and Rubin allowed rookie tackles Billy Winn and John Hughes to get more playing time right away, and while there may have been some early growing pains, the two kids have quickly matured into dependable players. Also, the return of Taylor and Rubin has freed up ends Jabaal Sheard and Frostee Rucker to make more plays, and allowed defensive coordinator Dick Jauron to rotate Juqua Parker and Ishmaa'ily Kitchen into the lineup without worrying about any letdown. It's taken a while, but the Browns finally have the defense on the field they envisioned having to start the season. It's all come together. "We're just flying around playing as a solid group, a big-time unit and we've been trying to get a complete game out of us for a while," said Rucker, signed by Cleveland as a free agent in the offseason after six years with Cincinnati. "We've shown flashes here and there. Starting the year, we played some good ball. It got a little bit away from us, and now we're just right back to where we want to be. We're getting guys back and we just want to make something happen these last couple of games." They made something happen last week. The Browns seemed to be all over the field. They attacked Pittsburgh's running backs, causing four of them to fumble. It was rare when a Cleveland defender made a solo tackle. Usually, there were two or three orange helmets flying to the football, and more than one pair of hands ripping at the ball and trying to force a fumble. The Steelers got stripped bare. "They take the ball off people and people aren't readily wanting to have the ball taken off them," Childress said. "That's what I see. I see lots of guys in on the pile and it's like a feeding frenzy, which is the way you want your defense. You want all 11 guys to show up." Along with creating turnovers, the Browns let the Steelers convert just one of nine third downs, the lowest total by a Cleveland opponent since 2006. It's been two terrific weeks, but Haden, who was suspended four games and was injured for another, knows for the Browns defense to be regarded among the league's best, like Pittsburgh's or Baltimore's, they'll have to do it again, and again, and again. "We're just going to keep coming in every week and keep hopefully building on those performances and then you have no choice but to look at us like a dominating defense," he said. "That's what we're going for. You have to earn it." ------ NOTES: Browns KR Josh Cribbs did not practice with what is being called a "shoulderchest" injury. Cribbs declined to talk about his injury. ... Browns QB Brandon Weeden was not limited in practice for the second day in a row after returning from a concussion sustained Sunday. ... Browns CB Dimitri Patterson has practiced the past two days and hopes to play after missing six games with a severe ankle injury.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Cleveland Browns select Myles Garrett with No. 1 overall pick

Injury concerns could drop John Ross, Takkarist McKinley out of first round

Report: Bears considering trade back from No. 3

Matt Carpenter’s walk-off grand slam was pretty rare

Report: Rajon Rondo ruled out for Game 6 against Celtics

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

NBA announces eight new awards to be voted on by fans

Report: Chiefs entertaining trade up into top 10 for Patrick Mahomes

Report: 49ers receiving interest from six teams about No. 2 pick

Report: Browns will take Myles Garrett No. 1 overall

Report: Sherman wants to be traded to Patriots

Report: Carmelo Anthony trying to save marriage with wife La La

The 'NFL Draft Day is finally upon us' quiz

Most memorable 'NFL Draft weekend drama' stories

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern rivalries take center stage

Marshawn Lynch gives an already-spurned city hometown appeal

Box Score 4/27: Waiting for Goodell to call our name

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'Bonehead blunder that watered down the 1931 AL home run crown' quiz

Draft prospects we're most excited to see in the NFL

Stanley Cup Playoffs: The West is full of surprises

Box Score 4/26: NFL Draft eve

The 'QB or not QB? That is the question' quiz

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 'NFL Draft Day is finally upon us' quiz

Most memorable 'NFL Draft weekend drama' stories

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern rivalries take center stage

Marshawn Lynch gives an already-spurned city hometown appeal

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'Bonehead blunder that watered down the 1931 AL home run crown' quiz

Draft prospects we're most excited to see in the NFL

Stanley Cup Playoffs: The West is full of surprises

How the Astros are following the Cubs' blueprint to the top

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker