An inspired defensive effort, highlighted by five sacks and a pair of interceptions kept the Seattle Seahawks out of the end zone Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
"You hold a team without a touchdown and more often than not, you win," said Browns coach Butch Davis.
Not on Sunday.
The Seahawks escaped with a 9-6 victory as the Browns suffered behind a series of special teams breakdowns and an offense that scored just three points on two trips inside the red zone.
"We made mistakes at critical times that absolutely kept us from being able to win the ballgame," said Davis. "We didn't capitalize on the opportunities to score down in the red zone, and more disappointing than probably anything was our (special teams). The effective field position was very poor. We made some bad decisions in some of the coverage units ... and Seattle (started) several drives at or near the 50-yard line."
The most costly breakdown came just before the two-minute warning when Charlie Rogers returned a kickoff 49 yards, setting the stage for Rian Lindell's 52-yard, game-winning field goal that broke a 6-6 tie with three seconds to play.
"That kickoff return was a big play that you can't let happen," said Aaron Shea, who was one of the players covering the kick. "If you let them return the ball all the way out to midfield, then they only have to go 15 yards to get a field goal. We had some people get out of their lanes and we lost leverage on the ball. You also have to give (Rogers) some credit. He cut back to the left sideline and made a big play."
The Seahawks started their final drive at their own 47. Eight plays later, including a costly pass-interference penalty on rookie Anthony Henry, Lindell booted the game winner.
Rogers' kick return wasn't the only key special teams blunder. Phil Dawson missed a 38-yard field goal early in the first quarter, spoiling great field position provided by strong safety Earl Little's interception at the Seahawks' 38.
Dawson said he misjudged the swirling winds in the east end zone in missing his kick wide right.
"(The wind) blew from the left to the right and hooked it," said Dawson. "I hit the ball where I thought I needed to, and the wind did something unexpected. It was hard to judge the wind on a day like today. It was constantly changing."
Dawson did manage to adjust to the wind on his next two kicks _ a 48-yard field goal that gave the Browns a 3-0 lead with 10:27 remaining in the second quarter, and a 22-yarder that tied the game at 6-6 with 2:14 left in the fourth.
Lindell won the battle of the field goals, however, with a second-quarter kick of 49 yards, a 23-yarder in the third and the 52-yard game-winner.
In surrendering just the three field goals, the Browns' defense picked up right where it where it left off from the preseason. In the four tuneup games, the Browns' first-team defense surrendered just one touchdown, and that came against the Redskins' two-minute drill.
"I thought the defense played extremely well," said Davis. "I thought they fought their guts out to create some turnovers. I thought they made a few big plays where they kept them out of the end zone, and certainly I don't think we would have given them that game-winning field goal had we not given them such good field position on the kickoff."
Ricky Watters was the only Seahawk to have a big day against the Browns' defense. Watters rushed for 97 yards on 16 carries, including a high-stepping 34-yard run to set up Lindell's 23-yard field goal.
Seahawk signal-caller Matt Hasselbeck threw for 178 yards, but was stung on interceptions by Little and cornerback Daylon McCutcheon.
Tim Couch and the Browns' offense failed to take advantage of a Seahawks' defense that was missing three of its top four cornerbacks to injury _ Shawn Springs (hamstring), Willie Williams (broken forearm) and Ike Charlton (knee).
"We were out of sync," said Couch, who completed 17-of-33 passes for 176 yards. "Maybe it was from first-game jitters. We have a lot of new guys that haven't jelled together yet. We're going to be a good offense."
If there was a bright spot for the Browns, it was in the running game. The Browns gained 90 yards on 25 attempts against a Seahawks team that revamped its interior defense by signing free-agents Levon Kirkland, Chad Eaton and John Randle in the offseason.
Jamel White showed some explosive running in relief of starter James Jackson. White carried 10 times for 52 yards, including runs of 4, 9, 9 and 14 yards to pick up first downs.
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