Browns’ Horton says defense feeling pressure

The numbers in crunch time are appalling.

Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton, a statistical nut,

can’t stomach them.

In Cleveland’s last three losses, the Browns’ defense has given

up 47 points in the fourth quarter. They’ve allowed eight scores –

six touchdowns – in the last nine possessions while losing to

Jacksonville, New England and Chicago. Those games were all

winnable, but the Browns, who have given up 128 points in the

fourth, couldn’t make the plays when they needed to.

When they had to be their strongest, the Browns broke down.

Under pressure, they buckled.

”It’s very disappointing,” Horton said Thursday as the Browns

prepared for this week’s game against the New York Jets. ”We talk

to our players about it. You can not play well for three quarters

and then come crunch time tighten up.”

Horton has spent his first season in Cleveland building a

defense he can be proud of. And while the Browns rank eighth

overall in total defense – after finishing 23rd last season – and

there are strong signs of progress, the team’s inability to close

out games has Horton scratching his head. This week, he’s pushed

his players to finish what they’ve started.

”We’re talking about accountability,” he said. ”All of our

games except for two are close or one-score games and we need

somebody to step up and not take that backstep and say, `I’m going

to wait for somebody else to do it.’ To me, that’s been the biggest

disappointment as our big-time players play well, but we also need

our role players to do their role.”

Horton’s unit has been stretched thin by injuries, forcing him

to make lineup changes and use some inexperienced players. However,

Horton said the bottom line is that the Browns must protect leads

and not let them melt away in the closing quarter.

”I don’t want to use any kind of excuse or crutch to say we’re

young or this and that,” he said. ”It’s not acceptable at this

point in the season. You have to do your job and you have to be

accountable or at some point you move on and we have failed the

last three weeks. We talk about being the backbone of the team.

Well, you can’t do that. You don’t do that.”

Like Horton, Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson can’t put his

finger on the exact reason the Browns (4-10) aren’t closing games.

Jackson doesn’t feel as if nerves are a factor, but he does think

there are times when players are trying to do too much and those

late mistakes are costly because there isn’t time to correct

them.

”It’s what we talk about, just do your job, don’t try to do

anything more and everything else will work itself out,” he said.

”It’s just a matter of doing your job and not trying to press when

there’s a play.”

Horton could be in his final weeks with the Browns. He

interviewed for head coaching vacancies last winter with Arizona

and Cleveland, and he’s likely to be considered again this

offseason as several teams will be making changes at the top.

Horton was identified this week by an advisory panel appointed

by the NFL as a top minority candidate. Asked about his future,

Horton didn’t want to look any further ahead than this Sunday.

Jackson would hate to see Horton anywhere but in Cleveland next

season.

”The selfish part of me says I hope he’s here,” Jackson said.

”We’ve learned a ton from him with his experience. That’s the name

of this game. If he has an opportunity to go somewhere, I’ll be the

first guy to support him if that’s the case. If not, I’m glad he’s

with us. If he has an opportunity to go elsewhere, he has every

right to. But I want him here, I tell you that.”

NOTES: CB Joe Haden (hip pointer) did not practice a second day

in a row, but he participated in a defensive walk-through following

the workout. … TE Jordan Cameron was out again as he recovers

from a concussion sustained in Sunday’s loss to the Bears. … LT

Joe Thomas (back) was listed as limited on the injury report. He

did take part in more drills than on Wednesday. He has made 110

consecutive starts.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org