CLEVELAND–The Browns had been waiting for Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden to have a signature game this season.
In the 23-13 win over the Raiders, Haden put an exclamation point at the end of his signature.
Not only did he lead the team in tackles with nine, he was a big part of the play of the game that turned the tide of the game.
With 35 seconds left in the third quarter and the Browns clinging to a 9-6 lead, the Raiders had moved from their own nine-yard line to the Browns 29.
The Raiders were in position to either tie or take the lead when Darren McFadden broke loose and Donte Whitner was standing between him and the end zone.
Whitner went down to make the tackle and jarred the ball loose into the hands of Haden, who raced down the sideline for 34 yards to the 47.
"I saw Donte and he came up made a great hit and the ball just popped into my hands and I just turned it into a punt return," Haden said.
Haden was asked if that turned the game around.
"I think so," he said. "We always talk about making plays and somebody has to make play and get the ball back in the offenses hands."
Haden said he had always dreamed for that kind of play to happen.
"It was perfect," he said. "I always thought, ‘Why can’t the ball just bounce into my hands’ and it did."
Tashaun Gipson also felt the play turned things around for the Browns.
"I think that was the turning point in the game," Gipson said. "Those are the types of plays that Donte makes. He lives for those and he came up huge for us today. I give credit to Joe for returning it. He set up the offense in great field position."
Mike Pettine agreed that the play changed the momentum.
"It was one play that turned the game," Pettine said. "It was 9-6 at that point and they were driving and were in the red zone and had just hit a big run."
Pettine said he knew it was a big play in the Browns favor when he heard the crowd roar.
"I lost sight of the ball," Pettine said. "The next thing I see is Joe running toward me and I heard the crowd and knew something good happened.
"If you had to hit the turning point, I think that one was pretty obvious."
Whitner, who arguably had his biggest play as a member of the Browns, downplayed how big his forced fumble was.
"It was big because they were starting to put a drive together," Whitner said. "It was a big play in the game, but there were a lot of big plays in the game."
Whitner finished with eight tackles and the forced fumble.
Beside the fumble return by Haden, not only stopped the Raiders drive, it set up the Browns first touchdown of the game as Brian Hoyer hit Andrew Hawkins for a four-yard score four plays later to give the Brown a 16-6 lead with 14:17 to play.
Haden said Hoyer had come over to him earlier and said ‘Just get me the ball back’.
Haden came up with a couple other big plays and finished with a tackle for loss and two passes broken up to go with the team tackles and fumble.
Haden shot up and dropped McFadden for a three-yard loss earlier on the drive and then with 7:51 to play, Kenbrell Thompkins appeared to break free down the sideline and Derek Carr threw deep for him.
At the last second, Haden was able to leap and get his hands on the ball to take away the big play.
"I had to try and get my hand on the ball," Haden said. "(Carr) was throwing (the ball) at me a lot, so I had to definitely mind my P’s and Q’s and I was ready."
Pettine said Haden’s plays were huge.
"Those were two big-time plays he made like back-to-back in that one drive," Pettine said. "The one he knocked away on the long ball I thought was special. To me, it’s a function of how he practices and how he prepares. He showed why that he has the reputation that he has tonight."
Haden relishes the opportunity to make a big play, when needed.
"I have confidence in my coaches and my teammates," he said. "It comes with being accountable and I feel like I’m one of the best corners in the league and I just have to do my job and knock balls down."
The Browns held the Raiders without a touchdown until Carr hit Andre Holmes with just seven seconds to play.
"Everybody is just doing their job and when everybody is doing their job we know how good our defense can be."
Monster Paul: LB Paul Kruger had a monster game with all three sacks on QB Derek
Carr. In addition, he had five tackles, two quarterback hurries, a pass broken up and a forced fumble.
Pettine agreed that Kruger had a big game.
"Yeah, he did," Pettine said. "I thought those guys took the challenge up front."
Kruger leads the Browns with five sacks. He had 4.5 in 2013.
Cameron Down: TE Jordan Cameron left the game with 7:15 left in the second quarter with a concussion and was ruled out for the remainder of the game. He will be in the NFL concussion protocol and it is unknown if he’ll be ready for next week’s game with Tampa Bay.
Cameron finished with three catches for 40 yards, including the 21-yard grab that he was injured on. DB Brandian Ross was flagged for unnecessary roughness, which resulted in a 26-yard field goal by K Billy Cundiff.
Williams, Hughes Hurt: In addition to Cameron’s injury, DL John Hughes and DB K’Waun Williams left the game with injuries. Williams injured his neck and did not return. Williams missed last week’s game with Jacksonville after suffering a concussion against the Steelers.
Hughes left with a leg injury and his status wasn’t updated.
Gipson’s Proclamation: Earlier in the week, DB Tashaun Gipson proclaimed he had the "best hands on the team" and he added his NFL leading 5th interception in the first quarter on a fake field goal attempt by the Raiders.
The Raiders lined up to attempt a 57- yard field goal but then holder QB Matt Schaub tried to throw downfield and Gipson made a one-handed tip to himself and he returned the interception 36 yards to the Raiders 48, which set up a 52-yard field goal by K Billy Cundiff.
"I knew something tricky was going to happen so I lined up deep in the post and I was ready to read him," Gipson said. "Anytime you have a holder that can throw the ball, you just have to be aware. Fortunately, for us, I was able to come down with the interception."
Gipson has five interceptions and has eight in his last 10 games, including two last week against the Jaguars. He finished with two tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass broken up.
AFC North: The Bengals defeated the Ravens and the Steelers beat the Colts to tighten things up in the AFC North. The Browns improved to 4-3 for the first time since the 2007 season. Cincinnati leads the division at 4-2-1, while Baltimore and Pittsburgh are tied at 5-3. The Browns are fourth at 4-3, but just one half game out of first place. The Browns will play Tampa Bay next Sunday at 1 pm at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Buccaneers are 1-6 after losing 19-13 to the Vikings Sunday.
Plus 3: The Browns created three turnovers while not turning the ball over. The Browns are plus six in that category on the season.
The Hawk: WR Andrew Hawkins had seven receptions for 88 yards, including a 32 yard reception. He also scored his first touchdown of the season on a four-yard pass from QB Brian Hoyer. Rookie WR Taylor Gabriel had two catches for 60 yards, including a long of 48 yards.
Running Woes: The Browns finished with just 39 yards on 25 carries for a paltry average of just 1.6 yards. RB Ben Tate had just 26 yards on 15 carries, but did have a six-yard touchdown run. RB Terrance West had seven carries for just 11 yards, while RB Isaiah Crowell had just one carry for one yard. As a team, the Browns had just 20 yards rushing with 11:12 to play.
West was the first running back in after Tate. West had been benched against the Jaguars and has been behind RB Isaiah Crowell the past two weeks.
Billy Ball: K Billy Cundiff converted all three of his field goals from 52-, 33- and 26-yards.
Brian’s Day: Without much of a running game, QB Brian Hoyer had an efficient day going 19-of-28 for 275 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He was sacked once. His rating was 111.5.
In the first half, Hoyer was 9-of-15 for 146 yards with a long of 48 yards and a 92.6
Gilbert: CB Justin Gilbert was covering WR James Jones when QB Derek Carr tried to throw to him on third down inside the 15. Gilbert broke up the pass and the Raiders settled for a field goal to make it 9-3 with 1:50 left in the first half. Gilbert finished with three tackles and two passes broken up.
Fua Plays: Recently signed DL Sione Fua played in a reserve role. He was not credited with a tackle.
McDonald Starts: OL Nick McDonald started at center and OL John Greco moved back to right guard. OL Paul McQuistan went back to a reserve role after starting at right guard against Jacksonville.
McDonald was activated to the 53-man roster from the Reserve/non-football injury list on Saturday and TE Gerell Robinson was waived.
Small Starts: FB Kiero Small started his first NFL game in place of FB Ray Agnew, who was waived last week. Small was signed from the practice squad.
King James: Cavaliers star LeBron James was shown on the big screen in a suite wearing a Browns ball cap. James took the hat and waved at the camera showing his cap.
James has long been a Cowboys fan, but QB Brian Hoyer said a couple weeks ago that he was hoping to win James over to being a Browns fan.
Captains: Captains for the Browns were OL Paul McQuistan, OL Joel Bitonio, DL Desmond Bryant and LB Tank Carder. McQuistan was just relegated to a reserve role this week after starting against the Jaguars.
Inactives: WR Rodney Smith, CB Pierre Desir, RB Glenn Winston, DB Robert Nelson, OL Vinston Painter, DL Billy Winn and DL Phil Taylor.
Inactive for the Raiders: QB Matt McGloin, WR Vincent Brown, CB Keith McGill, LB Bojay Filimoeatu, G Tony Bergstrom, T Matt McCants and TE David Ausberry.