Despite loss, defense shines in Washington

For much of training camp, the Cleveland Browns' defense has outshined the offense, as evidenced by the fact that the only times the offense won the special orange jerseys came on special-teams challenges at the end of practice.

When the defense and offense went toe-to-toe, the defense won all of their battles, and they have been able to translate that production to preseason games at the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins over the last two weeks.

The Browns forced four turnovers in a 24-23 loss to the Redskins at FedEx Field Monday night, and veteran safety Jim Leonhard returned one of the three interceptions 19 yards for a touchdown.

"Anytime you get your hands on three turnovers, that's great," said Browns safety Tashaun Gipson, who collected one of those three interceptions. "We want to pride ourselves on making plays at the right time.

"That's great for momentum for us. On the back end, the linebackers and the defensive unit, we pride ourselves on turnover margin. If you get the ball and don't turn it over, you win football games."

The Browns caused the first turnover of the game when quarterback Robert Griffin III missed a handoff to running back Alfred Morris, and linebacker Craig Robertson recovered the loose ball at Washington's 48-yard line.

The fumble recovery came one play after Griffin tossed a 23-yard pass to wide receiver DeSean Jackson that moved Washington from its 28-yard line to Cleveland's 49.

On Washington's next possession, Griffin marched from his own 20-yard line to Cleveland's 27 before cornerback Joe Haden stepped in front of a pass intended for Jackson and returned it 37 yards to the Redskins' 46.

"It was good," Haden said of the interception. "I think I have a lot of improvements to make. I don't feel like I played to my ability, at all. I just want to get back to the film, get back to practice. It's coming along. It's preseason for a reason, so everybody's still working it out. It feels different. That game-time experience is a whole lot different than training camp."

Although the Browns did not get a turnover on Washington's third possession of the game, they did stand up Morris three straight times from inside the one-yard line.

"We made a play," Gipson said. "Every blade of grass counts on this defense. We're going to defend it to the last blade of grass, to every inch. That's a testament to the perseverance of our defense."

Gipson, who missed the preseason opener because of injury, registered the Browns' third takeaway of the game when he intercepted Washington backup quarterback Kirk Cousins, and then, returned it 43 yards to the Redskins' 15-yard line, a play in which led to the Cleveland's first score of the game, a 29-yard field goal from kicker Billy Cundiff.

"It's great," Gipson said of his return being on Monday Night Football. "I feel like it was meant to be. I just wanted to come and show everyone what I was made of.

"I feel good. Anytime you can get back out there and I can play with my guys, the guys you've been in training camp with, it's great. Anytime you can get your hands on the ball, that's a blessing. I just want to thank God for it and for continued success. Hopefully, we'll get more when they count."


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