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Suggs leads Browns to win

The pain finally subsided in Lee Suggs’ neck long enough to take some hurt out of Cleveland’s bruised season.

Suggs, who sat out Cleveland’s first three games with a neck stinger, rushed for 82 yards and scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter, leading the Browns to a 17-13 win over the Washington Redskins yesterday.

From his first carry of the season, a 25-yard burst in the first quarter, the speedy Suggs gave the Browns (2-2) the spark their ground game had been missing.

“Man it’s good to have him back,” said tight end Aaron Shea, who had a 15-yard TD catch in the third quarter.

The Browns, who lost starters Kellen Winslow Jr. and Courtney Brown for the year with injuries, were in danger of digging a deep early-season hole and desperate for a win.

And although it certainly wasn’t a thing of beauty, they got one.

“We just had to have this, we needed a win,” said defensive end Kenard Lang. “It’s really big. Look at me, I’m smiling now. I’m just happy that we won.”

Jeff Garcia went 14-of-21 for 195 yards and a TD for the Browns, who didn’t secure the win until Washington’s Laveranues Coles fumbled with 2:08 left.

The Redskins (1-3) can pin their third straight loss on going just 1-for-11 on third downs, mental mistakes and a costly fumble by Clinton Portis on the first play after halftime that allowed Cleveland to quickly tie it.

“My fumble changed the momentum,” Portis said. “All of a sudden, we lost control of the game.”

Mark Brunell couldn’t get it back as Washington’s offense sputtered again behind its new quarterback. Brunell finished 17-of-38 for 192 yards, but was unable to get into any rhythm because Cleveland’s defense shut down Portis and the Washington coach’s headsets and sideline phones were malfunctioning.

“It made it tough to communicate,” Brunell said. “We had to go to hand signals. But the headsets didn’t cause the fumbles or the overthrown passes. We made mistakes.”

Clinging to their four-point lead, the Browns faked a field goal, but holder Derrick Frost was stopped short of a first down. Brunell then completed a 13-yard pass to Coles, who fumbled as he was being taken down and Browns safety Earl Little recovered.

“I fumbled the game away for us,” Coles said.

Garcia, who played poorly in Cleveland’s two previous losses, then only had to kneel down because the Redskins had used up their timeouts, which also was a problem in last week’s loss to Dallas.

Other than his 25-yarder the first time he touched it, Suggs wasn’t very flashy — just efficient.

“He did a great job, finding creases, using his fullback and creating positive runs,” Garcia said. “It’s nice to finally have our backfield at full strength.”

With the Browns down 13-10, Suggs ripped off a 14-yard run as Cleveland drove for the go-ahead score and Garcia completed a huge third-down pass to Quincy Morgan.

A few plays later, Garcia lofted a 26-yard pass to uncovered Andre’ Davis to the Washington 3. Suggs then pushed in to make it 17-13, the first rushing TD by a Cleveland back this season.

Suggs, who had his neck wrenched during practice last month, spent the past three Sundays watching and waiting for his chance to help. At last on the field, Suggs had to pick up a blitzing linebacker on his first play, a moment that tested his strength and convinced him he could take a hit.

“It was good to get that out of the way,” he said. “After that, I didn’t even think about it.”

Trailing 10-3, the Browns were booed as they left the field for halftime. Garcia, yet to lead the club to a first-half TD, went just 4-for-8 for 64 yards — 37 on one play — in the first 30 minutes.

But Cleveland got a break when Portis fumbled on the first play of the third quarter and Andra Davis recovered at the 31.

Garcia capitalized, using three short rollout passes, the last to Shea, who ran untouched until he got to the goal line, where he plowed through a pile.

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