Browns Roll Steelers, 33-13

How's this for deja vu? A back-up quarterback leads the Browns to a big early lead against the Steelers. Unlike last January, though, on Sunday night the Browns put the Steelers away...

PITTSBURGH - This time there was no collapse.

In a start reminiscent of last year's AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field, the Cleveland Browns jumped out to a big lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday night.

Instead of crashing and burning the way they did in the playoffs, the Browns managed to hold on for a 33-13 victory that put them right back in the AFC North Division hunt.

As they've done time after time in the last two years, just when so many had written the Browns off for dead, they managed to pull off a stunning road win to make another season a little more interesting.

The Browns suddenly find themselves just a half-game behind the division-leading Baltimore Ravens, tied with the Steelers at 2-3.

And just as suddenly, there is another quarterback controversy brewing in Cleveland.

Tim Couch was near-perfect in leading the Browns' offense, completing 20-of-25 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran 9 yards for another score in the second quarter. The effort helped Butch Davis to his first victory over the Steelers after five consecutive losses to the Browns' arch-rival since taking over as head coach in 2001. It also has to have Davis re-thinking his gut feeling to replace Couch with Kelly Holcomb during the preseason.

"I would say (it was Couch's best game) at first blush," said Davis. "He made some really good decisions."

The Browns' offensive gameplan wasn't as aggressive downfield as it was when Holcomb picked apart the Steelers' secondary last season - a performance that earned the career backup a chance to compete for the Browns' starting quarterback job. But playing with what he was given, Couch was every bit as spectacular as Holcomb, who sat out his second straight game with a broken leg.

In the first half alone, Couch completed 16-of-17 passes for 169 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown pass to Andre Davis in the first quarter and a 9-yard scoring strike to Kevin Johnson in the second. His only incompletion was intentionally thrown out of the back of the end zone to avoid a sack. The Browns actually found big games from both of the team's No. 1 overall picks from 1999 and 2000. Less than a minute after Couch hit a wide-open Andre Davis for the first score on the Browns' opening possession, Courtney Brown helped add to the lead by sacking Tommy Maddox, forcing a fumble that he also recovered at the Steelers' 20-yard line with 8:12 remaining in the first quarter. Six plays later, Phil Dawson booted a 19-yard field goal for a 10-0 Browns lead.

Maddox, who was the hero of the Steelers' comeback win in the playoffs, didn't find the same type of luck in Sunday's rematch. He completed just 11-of-24 passes for 136 yards and was intercepted twice. The second pick was returned 75 yards for a touchdown by Daylon McCutcheon, putting the Browns ahead 30-10 just 5:30 into the third quarter.

Jerome Bettis scored the Steelers' only touchdown on a 1-yard plunge late in the second quarter, trimming the Browns' lead to 16-10.

The Browns answered quickly with a 9-play, 78-yard drive that ended with Couch scrambling for a 9-yard touchdown, then slamming what might have been his hardest throw of the day into the ground in celebration. Couch was greeted by a smiling Holcomb as he trotted back to the sideline. His score put the Browns ahead 23-10 with just six seconds remaining in the half. Browns running back William Green rebounded from a slow start to rush for his first 100-yard game of the season, totaling 115 yards on 33 carries.

NOTEBOOK: Courtney Brown's two first-quarter sacks were his 14th and 15th of his four-year NFL career. Eight of those 15 sacks have come against the Steelers. ... Kevin Johnson reached a milestone in the second quarter when he pulled in the 300th catch of his career. The grab, a 9-yard touchdown pass from Tim Couch, put the Browns ahead 16-3 ...With his second-quarter touchdown run, Jerome Bettis moved into a tie with Hall of Fame receiver Lynn Swann for seventh place on the Steelers' all-time scoring list at 318 points. ... The crowd of 64,595 that packed Heinz Field was the largest in the stadium's three-year history.

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