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Browns think big after win

BEREA, Ohio – The Cleveland Browns didn’t holler, hug or exchange high-fives after beating the defending Super Bowl champions. Just a few handshakes and pats on the back were seen in a subdued locker room.

Outside, however, Cleveland’s party was starting to roll. Browns fans celebrated a victory six years in the making by dancing in rain puddles, doing anti-Art Modell chants and hugging policemen.

With a 24-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, the Browns did much more than purge a painful part of their past or show they can play with anyone.

They put Cleveland back on the NFL map.

“This was a huge step for us,” quarterback Tim Couch said. “It’s a great thing to finally have things turned around. Now we’ve just got to keep it going.”

The Browns (4-2) beat the reeling Ravens (3-3) at their own game Sunday.

Cleveland’s underrated defense outplayed and outhit Baltimore’s more touted unit. The Browns relentlessly swarmed to the ball and turned the game on a fumble when Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac was sacked and knocked out of the game in the third quarter.

On offense, the Browns did just enough. Despite losing guard Ross Verba with a concussion, Cleveland’s offensive line opened some holes and did a better job protecting Couch, who played with poise.

And when Cleveland decided to go after Baltimore’s throat, the Browns made the big plays – converting a fourth-and-2 at midfield and getting two TD passes from Couch in under two minutes. The impressive all-around effort shocked everyone but the Browns, who have grown tired of hearing how bad they’ve been for more than two years.

“Hey, we took it to a good football team,” defensive end Keith McKenzie said. “I don’t care if people want to give us respect now or not. We’re not listening. We’re going to play hard, and as long as we do that, I think we can beat anybody.”

That’s what first-year coach Butch Davis has been telling the Browns for months.

From the moment he was hired in January to replace Chris Palmer, Davis asked his players to forget about going 5-27 the past two seasons. He told them to think and act like winners, and he promised to someday get them a Super Bowl ring like the two he has.

They believe him.

“They’re willing to be coached and they’re willing to listen,” Davis said. “We haven’t had one guy come in and say, ‘Well, coach, this is the way we did it at Minnesota or this is the way we did in college. We haven’t encountered any of that.

“Their willingness to say whatever you guys (coaches) think will give us the best chance to win has given us the best chance to win.”

Before beating Baltimore, safety Percy Ellsworth said the Browns still needed a defining win to get respect. Now, they’ve got one.

“I think after this victory I can say we have a pretty good team,” Ellsworth said.

Davis handed out nearly a dozen games balls yesterday for the win over Baltimore and said he was proud of the Browns’ ability to bounce back after a disappointing 10-point loss to Cincinnati a week ago.

Davis was disgusted with the Browns’ performance against the Bengals, and made it clear to his players during practice last week that he wouldn’t tolerate another like it.

“Coach Davis was hot, he was mad most of the week,” Ellsworth said. “I’m sure his family didn’t have much fun with him, because he wasn’t fun for us at practice. He wanted an answer for Cincinnati. He wanted to show people we’re a legitimate, good team.”

The Ravens believe it, too.

“They’re a better team than we are right now,” tight end Shannon Sharpe said Sunday. “If the playoffs started today, we wouldn’t deserve to be there. The Browns would.”

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