By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CLEVELAND -- In one simple sentence, Jeff Garcia found the appropriate words for the Cleveland Browns' weekly plight in the NFL.
"Nothing comes easy," Cleveland's quarterback said.
It certainly didn't Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium, where the Browns toyed with fans' emotions before rallying for a 17-13 victory over the Washington Redskins.
"It wasn't as pretty as you would like," Browns coach Butch Davis admitted, "but it still goes in the left-hand column. That's what the NFL is about -- winning football games."
The Browns (2-2) snapped a two-game losing streak in unconvincing fashion, waiting until the second half to establish a rhythm to defeat coach Job Gibbs' Redskins (1-3).
"We need to go home, study films and find a way to work ourselves out of this," Gibbs said.
Leading the Browns' second-half resurgence was running back Lee Suggs, who had yet to play this season before his 22 carries for 82 yards Sunday.
Suggs, sidelined by a neck injury, scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 3-yard run with 6:51 remaining.
"It was a counter, and I had two to three players pulling for me," Suggs said. "They opened it up for me, and I got my shoulder pads down and dove into the end zone."
The Browns' win wasn't sealed until safety Earl Little recovered Redskins receiver Laveranues Coles' fumble with two minutes remaining and Garcia ran out the clock.
Only then could the Browns begin thinking about their upcoming trip to Pittsburgh for an AFC Central showdown against the rival Steelers on Sunday.
"We needed to validate that we were a better team than we played the last two weeks," said Davis, whose team suffered road losses to the Cowboys and Giants.
Turning the tide
The Browns recovered some momentum Sunday when linebacker Andra Davis recovered Clinton Portis' fumble at Washington's 32-yard line to begin the second half.
Garcia made the Redskins pay.
Using play-action and rolling out, Garcia found tight end Aaron Shea for a 15-yard touchdown pass at 12:30 of the third quarter. It was Shea's first touchdown since the 2000 season, and it tied the score at 10.
"Jeff managed the game extremely well," Butch Davis said. "He was under fire, and his poise under pressure was noticeable."
It wasn't more noticeable than on the Browns' game-winning drive, which covered 80 yards and ended in Suggs' run.
Garcia hooked up with four different receivers, including Quincy Morgan on a third down to keep the drive alive.
"We've struggled on third down -- that's no secret," said Garcia, who completed 14-of-21 passes for 195 yards and the touchdown. "So it was very important for us to convert that."
For Cleveland, the game ended much differently than it began. Boos cascaded onto the field at halftime as the Browns entered their tunnel to the locker room trailing 10-3.
The deficit left fans frustrated, mainly because the Browns looked lackluster and undisciplined on both sides of the ball.
"It's unfortunate that we haven't found that rhythm earlier in the game," Garcia said.
Suggs' return seemed to spark the Browns, as he ran for 25 yards on his first carry late in the first quarter.
But the highlights were few, as Mark Brunell, Portis and the Redskins controlled the first 30 minutes on a sunny afternoon.
The Browns' only points came on Phil Dawson's 30-yard first-quarter field goal that tied the score at 3.
That left plenty of room for improvement in the second half and continued the Browns' theme of the day, echoed by linebacker Andra Davis: "We'll take them any way we can get them," he said.