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Defense finds spark at Cleveland


This is how the Texans' defense wanted to play all season, with players flying to the ball, creating pressure in the pocket and causing turnovers.

There have been moments when the Texans have played that way, but the defense delivered for a full 60 minutes in the team's 16-6 road win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Houston had nine takeaways through 11 games, which ranked last in the NFL. After intercepting three passes and collecting two fumbles at Cleveland, the Texans won the turnover battle for the first time since their 35-6 win over Cincinnati on Oct. 26.

"We've been making mistakes and we have been lacking in our aggression because of those mistakes," coach Gary Kubiak said. "We needed to be aggressive and make plays. Today, we stayed aggressive defensively and went after the Browns.

"We have been full circle with that this year. We had a point in the season where we were making too many mistakes and needed to settle down. We are playing some of the younger guys and needed to be more aggressive. I think we did that."

The season-high five turnovers tied a franchise record for Houston.

"We needed those," defensive end Mario Williams said. "We had been in a drought and losing the turnover battle. It really helps the offense when we can give them a short field. The turnovers were huge for us."

Besides the takeaways, the Texans limited Cleveland to 95 net rushing yards, which is 12 yards below the Browns' season average and 37.5 yards lower than the Texans' average allowance this season.

Williams set the tone for the Browns' scoreless second half when he grabbed running back Jamal Lewis in the backfield and slammed him to the ground for a three-yard loss on Cleveland's second possession of the third quarter.

{QUOTE}It was an awe-inspiring display of agility, raw strength and nastiness from Williams, and it provided the perfect rallying cry for a defense that has let far too many opponents impose their will on them this season.

"It was beautiful," cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "You know, I haven't seen Jamal Lewis hit like that ever, even since he was at (the University of) Tennessee. Even playing high school football in Atlanta, Ga., I've never seen him hit that way. So that was wonderful. Most of the time, he's a bully. That time, he got bullied."

After the game, Kubiak gave his defense the game ball.

"It means a lot," Williams said. "We have had some mishaps and lost focus in the second half of many games. We came out and sealed the deal today. We stopped them from scoring."

A zone blitz accounted for the Texans' first interception when defensive end Anthony Weaver dropped into coverage and picked off quarterback Brady Quinn's pass intended for wide receiver Braylon Edwards.

On the Browns' next possession, cornerback Fred Bennett jumped a slant route in the red zone to intercept his first pass of the season on another of Quinn's attempts to Edwards.

Those two picks were preceded by a fumble recovery by linebacker DeMeco Ryans on the Browns' first possession.

"This is the Texans football that I'm used to," Robinson said. "Before I went down (with injuries last November), this is the kind of ball that we were playing, where the corners were up in the receiver's face and we were trying to beat them up as much as we could. This is the style of football that I think we're best at and we do a better job at, and we got the job done today."

A series after rookie linebacker Xavier Adibi recovered quarterback Derek Anderson's fumble, cornerback Jacques Reeves, who forced the fumble on Lewis in the first quarter, collected the final interception of the game. With 2:22 on the game clock, Reeves dove to collect a pass that deflected off running back Jason Wright.

This performance doesn't erase the eight games this year in which Houston has allowed 28 points or more, but the Texans know it's better late than never. And with the franchise's first-ever Monday Night Football game on deck on Dec. 1 against the rival Jacksonville Jaguars, the Texans know there still is a lot to play for.

Ryans welcomes the upcoming opportunity to leave a lasting impression on a national audience.

"We've got to go show them that we can play the type of defense that we played today, aggressive defense and make plays and get turnovers, (and) an offense that's going to move the ball up and down the field all day and special teams that can hit a big play," he said. "That's what you should expect when you see the Houston Texans."

And that's what the Texans showed on Sunday to earn their first road win of the season.

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