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Denver defense will test Browns



Published: Sat, October 21, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Cleveland is just 2-17 against the Broncos since 1975.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Browns coach Romeo Crennel spent part of the week schooling his players on Cleveland's history of heartache and heartbreak against Denver.

He told them about John Elway and The Drive. He recalled Earnest Byner and The Fumble. Crennel detailed Cleveland's three straight AFC championship game losses to the Broncos in 1986, 1987 and 1989.

"The Browns were right at the doorstep of the Super Bowl," he said. "As a result of those games, a pretty good rivalry was built."

More like a pretty lopsided one.

Cleveland has lost six straight to Denver and is just 2-17 against the Broncos since 1975. On the flip side, Denver's .783 winning percentage (18-5) is the club's highest against any team it has played at least 10 times.

It may soon go up a point or two.

Boasting the NFL's stingiest defense, which has surrendered just one touchdown this season, the Broncos (4-1) are solid favorites to continue their dominance against the scuffling Browns (1-4), who are coming off a bye week and whose lone victory came against the inept Oakland Raiders.

Getting No. 2 today will be a tough chore for a Cleveland team plagued by turnovers and injuries this season.

Familiar faces

Unlucky and snakebitten since their expansion rebirth, the Browns will stare across the line of scrimmage at a partial reflection of themselves this week. Denver's entire defensive line -- Gerard Warren, Ebenezer Ekuban, Michael Myers and Kenard Lang -- all played for Cleveland as recently as 2004.

They're now called the Browncos.

Three of them were traded last year by Crennel, who spent most of his first season with the Browns gutting Cleveland's roster. Lang signed as a free agent with Denver last summer following a failed experiment as an outside linebacker, and oft-injured Courtney Brown -- now hurt again for Denver -- left for the Rocky Mountains after the Browns voided his contract.

Each one of the starting foursome feels he was unfairly blamed for at least part of the Browns' inability to win.

But the easygoing Lang said he has no bitterness toward Crennel, Cleveland or its rabid fans.

"Y'all get terminated from your jobs, you'll go find another one, right?" Lang said to Cleveland writers during a teleconference this week. "The Lord sent me here to Denver, so I'm happy here. Shoot, Cleveland was nothing but flowers to me.

"One thing I do know about Cleveland, their fans are die-hard. When you're coming back to that Dawg Pound in another jersey, you are the enemy."

And to the Cleveland public, Warren is enemy No. 1.

The third overall pick in the 2001 draft, Warren never lived up to expectations with the Browns. He embodied the franchise's struggles under then-coach Butch Davis, who passed over running back LaDainian Tomlinson and tackle Richard Seymour to select Warren and then coddled his pet player.




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