Turkey Day in Cleveland

Thanksgiving is still a few days away, but the Cleveland Browns decided to be most hospitable to the Pittsburgh Steelers, handing them a 13-6 victory. Neither team played particularly well. It took all five Browns turnovers to make a winner out of the last place Steelers.

QB Tommy Maddox and the offense of the Pittsburgh Steelers did little to win the game. The Cleveland Browns defense seemed to have the game well in hand from the start, forcing the Steelers 3 and out, something Pittsburgh would do six more times in the game, on the very first series.

Maddox would finish the day going just 9 for 24 for an anemic 73 yards. He did have one touchdown pass to TE Mark Bruener, which gave the Steelers the lead for good midway through the second quarter.

In perhaps the most bizarre stat line for the 2003 season, RB Jerome Bettis gained more yards on the ground, 93, than Maddox did through the air.

2 for 14 on third down and 168 total yards added up to plenty for the Steelers because QB Kelly Holcomb and the Cleveland Browns undid every good play they made.

The Browns were in the red zone four times generating only 6 points. The Steelers were inside the Cleveland's 20 only twice, but came away with 10 points, the difference in the ballgame.

The multiple red zone stops fueled the confidence of the once reeling Steelers defense. FS Brent Alexander collected an interception and a fumble, leading the way for a unit that was more opportunistic than good.

Spirited play by the Browns defense kept this game in doubt until the very end when CB Chad Scott intercepted Holcomb with under two minutes left to play.

The Steelers defense made the best stand of a disappointing season on the opening drive of the second half. Holcomb and the Browns drove the ball 71 yards to a first and goal on the Steelers 6-yard line. On the first play RB James Jackson ran the ball to the one, but Kendrell Bell was there on the next two plays to deny Jackson the end zone. Butch Davis elected to go for it on 4th down, running WR Dennis Northcutt on a misdirection play that was initially handed off to WR Quincy Morgan. The play looked ill-fated until Northcutt spotted a big hole in the middle of the defense, which CB Chad Scott quickly closed. Scott stopped Northcutt just short of the goal line. Davis challenged the play and lost.

Of course, the Steelers offense could do nothing with the ball and had to punt after just three plays. However, Cleveland's sloppy play allowed Pittsburgh's confidence on defense to grow enough to expect something good to happen. The Browns translated excellent field position into a touchdown opportunity only to see Holcomb make an ill-advised throw under pressure that Alexander easily intercepted.

Jackson, who coughed the ball up twice on the day, fumbled on the next Browns possession which led to the only points of the second half, a 46-yard Jeff Reed field goal. All 13 of Pittsburgh's points came on Cleveland turnovers.

Once again, the Browns beat themselves and are technically in last place in the AFC North thanks to tiebreakers. The Steelers are 4-7, 3-1 in the division, two games behind the leading Baltimore Ravens. Next week, the resurrected Cincinnati Bengals come to Pittsburgh, providing another divisional opportunity for the not-quite-dead-yet Steelers.

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