Browns' Horton says defense feeling pressure

By TOM WITHERS - AP Sports Writer
    2013-12-19 17:26

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - The numbers in crunch time are appalling.

Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton, a statistical nut, can't stomach them.

In Cleveland's last three losses, the Browns' defense has given up 47 points in the fourth quarter. They've allowed eight scores - six touchdowns - in the last nine possessions while losing to Jacksonville, New England and Chicago. Those games were all winnable, but the Browns, who have given up 128 points in the fourth, couldn't make the plays when they needed to.

When they had to be their strongest, the Browns broke down.

Under pressure, they buckled.

''It's very disappointing,'' Horton said Thursday as the Browns prepared for this week's game against the New York Jets. ''We talk to our players about it. You can not play well for three quarters and then come crunch time tighten up.''

Horton has spent his first season in Cleveland building a defense he can be proud of. And while the Browns rank eighth overall in total defense - after finishing 23rd last season - and there are strong signs of progress, the team's inability to close out games has Horton scratching his head. This week, he's pushed his players to finish what they've started.

''We're talking about accountability,'' he said. ''All of our games except for two are close or one-score games and we need somebody to step up and not take that backstep and say, `I'm going to wait for somebody else to do it.' To me, that's been the biggest disappointment as our big-time players play well, but we also need our role players to do their role.''

Horton's unit has been stretched thin by injuries, forcing him to make lineup changes and use some inexperienced players. However, Horton said the bottom line is that the Browns must protect leads and not let them melt away in the closing quarter.

''I don't want to use any kind of excuse or crutch to say we're young or this and that,'' he said. ''It's not acceptable at this point in the season. You have to do your job and you have to be accountable or at some point you move on and we have failed the last three weeks. We talk about being the backbone of the team. Well, you can't do that. You don't do that.''

Like Horton, Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson can't put his finger on the exact reason the Browns (4-10) aren't closing games. Jackson doesn't feel as if nerves are a factor, but he does think there are times when players are trying to do too much and those late mistakes are costly because there isn't time to correct them.

''It's what we talk about, just do your job, don't try to do anything more and everything else will work itself out,'' he said. ''It's just a matter of doing your job and not trying to press when there's a play.''

Horton could be in his final weeks with the Browns. He interviewed for head coaching vacancies last winter with Arizona and Cleveland, and he's likely to be considered again this offseason as several teams will be making changes at the top.

Horton was identified this week by an advisory panel appointed by the NFL as a top minority candidate. Asked about his future, Horton didn't want to look any further ahead than this Sunday.

Jackson would hate to see Horton anywhere but in Cleveland next season.

''The selfish part of me says I hope he's here,'' Jackson said. ''We've learned a ton from him with his experience. That's the name of this game. If he has an opportunity to go somewhere, I'll be the first guy to support him if that's the case. If not, I'm glad he's with us. If he has an opportunity to go elsewhere, he has every right to. But I want him here, I tell you that.''

NOTES: CB Joe Haden (hip pointer) did not practice a second day in a row, but he participated in a defensive walk-through following the workout. ... TE Jordan Cameron was out again as he recovers from a concussion sustained in Sunday's loss to the Bears. ... LT Joe Thomas (back) was listed as limited on the injury report. He did take part in more drills than on Wednesday. He has made 110 consecutive starts.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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