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A CROWN FOR THE BROWNS
Douglas S. Looney
December 22, 1986
Cleveland's erratic defense shut down a high-powered Cincinnati attack to take the AFC Central title
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December 22, 1986

A Crown For The Browns

Cleveland's erratic defense shut down a high-powered Cincinnati attack to take the AFC Central title

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That play established how good Kosar & Co. can be. On the next play, Mack flew up the middle, fumbled straight up, oh, maybe six or seven stories, after which the ball somehow returned to earth and the protective custody of Fike. Two plays later, Mack made the TD. This established how lucky the Browns can be. Another illustration: In the third quarter, Cleveland running back Curtis Dickey started crashing toward the goal, fumbled, and the ball bounced crazily into the end zone—smack into the hands of Browns wide receiver Webster Slaughter.

The Bengals, meanwhile, were having a horrible afternoon. Take the punting game. A 33-yarder in the first quarter by beleaguered Jeff Hayes gave the Browns the ball near midfield. After Dickey picked up nine yards, Kosar threw a 47-yard TD pass to Slaughter. A 20-yard punt with 1:55 left in the first half set up a field goal by Mark Moseley—the Browns signed him to replace Bahr—from 39 yards, and an 18-yard punt in the third quarter led to Slaughter's fumble recovery for the TD. Hayes averaged just 27.3 yards on seven punts.

Anyway, Cincy never had a chance. Cleveland, with its newfound defense, smote the Bengals, primarily because of Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield, two of the orneriest, cockiest, brashest—and don't forget best—cornerbacks in the league. Schottenheimer says he wouldn't trade them for any pair in the NFL. Every time there's action these two guys are apt to be part of it. On Sunday Minnifield put a key hit on the Bengals' leading rusher, James Brooks. Dixon had an interception and broke up four passes.

There's more to such stellar defense, says Dixon, than dealing out physical abuse. And he has the evidence. At his condo is a filing cabinet filled with manila folders. They contain information on opposing receivers and backs and their playing habits. These folders get constant attention. So, too, do the videotapes of rival teams he brings with him on trips, with special emphasis on how the teams work when they are within 15 yards of the goal. As self-assured as he is studious, Dixon says, "We're good. We're just winning without style."

No matter how the 11-4 season has been achieved, it sure does look pretty with that big Brown ribbon around it.

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