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Browns just pick, pick, pick

BEREA, Ohio – The Cleveland Browns have become very picky these days.

With five more interceptions in an 18-0 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, the Browns have nine picks in their last two games and now lead the NFL with 25 this season.

“We’re all a bunch of ballhawks,” said safety Earl Little. “We’ve got guys in this secondary who can make plays. We’re all good athletes, and we’re all just swarming to the ball.”

They’re also catching it.

The Browns, who earlier this season picked off seven passes in a win over Detroit, have eight more interceptions than the next closest team in the AFC. And with six games remaining, Cleveland has a good shot of breaking the team record of 32 set in 1968.

The NFL record, held by the 1961 San Diego Chargers, may be out of reach. But another five-interception game or two, and the Browns might get their hands on that mark, too.

“We have very good athletes in the secondary,” said first-year Cleveland coach Butch Davis. “They have really good hands. There are a lot of players in college and in this league who don’t have good hands.

“They can make the plays, and to have those interceptions, other things have to happen. We’re putting good pressure on the quarterback.”

They’re also good at taking pressure off Cleveland’s struggling offense, which managed just four field goals and a TD after getting inside Cincinnati’s 20-yard line six times.

“Our defense is playing at a playoff level right now,” said Browns quarterback Tim Couch. “We have to get our offense up to that standard if we want to get to the playoffs.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise in Cleveland’s first shutout since 1994 was that rookie cornerback Anthony Henry got blanked, too. Henry, tied for the AFC lead with seven interceptions, didn’t get another one on Sunday. But Henry’s teammates credited him with pushing them.

“We’re all trying to catch up to Henry,” said Daylon McCutcheon, who had two interceptions.

And Henry didn’t mind getting shut out.

“They threw to the other side, and it allowed my teammates to make some plays,” said Henry, named the AFC’s top defensive player last week after getting three interceptions against Baltimore. Ray Jackson, whose 52-yard interception return set up Cleveland’s lone TD, said he touched Henry’s right shoulder before the game for good luck.

“I was hoping what Anthony has going for him rubbed off on me,” Jackson said.

Little said the five interceptions on Sunday came easy. After studying film on the Bengals, the Browns knew what pass routes Cincinnati’s receivers were going to run.

“They didn’t change a thing from the first time we played them,” Little said. “So when they lined up in throwing situations, we knew just where they were going to go.”

Transaction

The Browns released fullback Mike Sellers yesterday “for a combination of reasons.”

Sellers, who signed a 3-year, $2.4 million contract with the team in February, was arrested last Monday with cornerback Lamar Chapman on drug charges. As part of his release, the Browns have agreed to help with any guidance or counseling related to his personal issues.

Sellers received a suspended jail sentence for DWI as a member of the Redskins in 2000.

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