De­fense’s 3 straight forced turnovers lead way

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS INSIDER - By Mas­ter Tes­fat­sion

LAN­DOVER — The Wash­ing­ton de­fense hasn’t been pretty in 2016. There have been glar­ing third-down lapses, missed tack­les and blown as­sign­ments through four games.

But when it des­per­ately needed stops Sun­day, the de­fense pro­duced turnovers — in­clud­ing three con­sec­u­tive take­aways in the sec­ond half — to power a 31-20 win over the Cleve­land Browns at FedEx Field.

Wash­ing­ton (2-2) re­cov­ered two fum­bles and Josh Nor­man made an in­ter­cep­tion that led to all 14 sec­ond-half points.

It be­gan in the third quar­ter, when line­backer Will Comp­ton jarred the ball out of full­back Mal­colm John­son’s hands with Cleve­land driv­ing in­side the Red­skins 15. Cor­ner­back Quin­ton Dun­bar re­cov­ered and the Red­skins took the lead on the en­su­ing pos­ses­sion, com­plet­ing a 10-play, 91-yard drive on run­ning back Chris Thomp­son’s five-yard touch­down re­cep­tion.

“That saved the game,” de­fen­sive end Ricky Jean Fran­cois said of John­son’s fum­ble. “That saved the game. If it wasn’t [for that turnover], it would’ve been 27-17. We would’ve still been fight­ing, but Comp came through.”

The Red­skins held on to the lead for the re­main­ing 10:39 as Comp­ton re­cov­ered a fum­ble on the en­su­ing pos­ses­sion. Line­backer Ma­son Fos­ter and de­fen­sive end Ziggy Hood helped cause the turnover on a five-yard run by Cleve­land run­ning back Duke John­son. Wash­ing­ton en­tered the game with the most fum­bles forced (27) and re­cov­ered (18) since the start of the 2015 sea­son, when Joe Barry be­gan his ten­ure as de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor.

Nor­man’s in­ter­cep­tion com­pleted the run of turnovers by Cleve­land (0-4). He stepped in front of a pass in­tended for Ter­relle Pryor Sr. for his first pick since sign­ing with the Red­skins. The turnover gave the Red­skins a short field and they made the most of it, go­ing 39 yards for their fi­nal touch­down that sealed the game.

Nor­man trailed Pryor through­out, al­low­ing four catches for 42 yards and a touch­down, but he shut Pryor down in the sec­ond half with just one re­cep­tion for four yards. The in­ter­cep­tion was the de­fense’s eighth turnover of the sea­son.

“I was try­ing to fig­ure this man out,” Nor­man said of Pryor. “I was kind of, not get­ting frus­trated with my­self, but not re­ally like get­ting down ei­ther. I came out of half­time and got in a whole dif­fer­ent place.”

Matt Jones capped the penul­ti­mate drive by scor­ing from 1 yard out to se­cure the vic­tory. Jones had 22 car­ries for 117 yards for his sec­ond ca­reer 100-yard rush­ing game.

The teams were tied at half­time de­spite the Red­skins start­ing the open­ing quar­ter with prob­a­bly their best 15 min­utes of the sea­son. They jumped out a 14-0 lead with two red-zone touch­down passes from quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins to tight end Jor­dan Reed, who be­came the fastest tight end in NFLhis­tory to record 200 re­cep­tions. He ac­com­plished the feat in 38 games. Reed fin­ished with a game-high nine catches for 73 yards.

Cleve­land tied the game with two touch­downs in 85 sec­onds dur­ing the sec­ond quar­ter. Fol­low­ing run­ning back Isa­iah Cor­ner­back Josh Nor­man’s sec­ond-half in­ter­cep­tion led to Wash­ing­ton’s fi­nal touch­down and vic­tory Sun­day. Crow­ell’s two-yard touch­down, Cousins was in­ter­cepted by cor­ner­back Ja­mar Tay­lor on the first play of the en­su­ing pos­ses­sion. Browns quar­ter­back Cody Kessler con­nected with Pryor three plays later for a nine-yard touch­down pass.

MITCHELL LAY­TON/GETTY IMAGES

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