CLEVELAND - In the aftermath of the trade that sent shock waves through the sports world, Browns veteran D'Qwell Jackson helped keep the team in check.
"I think he did a great job of bringing us closer and telling us to trust the organization and where they're going," tight end Jordan Cameron said about Jackson's response to the trade of running back Trent Richardson. "I think guys have bought into that."
Cameron called Jackson very important in the way he talks to the team. Tuning out negativity and focusing on themselves was key in the midst of potential turmoil.
"I know we started off a little slow but Chud and the coaches, they stayed true to their word even with everything that happened two weeks ago. We still had our goals aligned and it's finally paying off," Jackson said after the Browns' 17-6 win over the Bengals Sunday.
With their second straight victory since trading away Richardson to the Colts, something is clicking, whether it's the return of wide receiver Josh Gordon, run-stuffing defense or new starting quarterback Brian Hoyer.
"Certainly he's been the spark that I had hoped for and has led us to winning two games," head coach Rob Chudzinski said about Hoyer, who threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns without turning the ball over.
Starting in front of the hometown crowd in Cleveland Sunday didn't faze the kid who grew up a Browns fan and starred at St. Ignatius High School.
"It's really cool to be in the hometown but when you get out there, there's so much running through your mind that really that's the last thought," Hoyer said.
A week ago in his first Browns start, Hoyer, a third-stringer on the depth chart before the injury to Brandon Weeden, led a fourth quarter comeback to stun the Vikings.
This week, the Browns never trailed, getting out to a 7-0 first quarter lead on a 12-play, 95-yard drive that culminated in a two-yard Hoyer touchdown pass to Cameron on a pretty fade.
A stout defense shut down the Bengals' offense, coming up with a big fourth down stop mid-second quarter and holding them to just two field goals for the game.
"Our defense has really stepped up at critical times. I thought they were great in the red zone," Chudzinski said. "First half field position was pretty lopsided and we were able to stop Cincinnati on a couple drives when they were in there close."
Four times the Browns started a drive inside of their own 10. Three culminated in scoring opportunities, two touchdowns and a missed field goal.
The final time the offense was pinned back they put together the drive that sealed the win. Starting at their own 9, Hoyer took the Browns down the field 91 yards, again on 12 plays, hitting paydirt on a pass to Chris Ogbonnaya.
"The last scoring drive he was really adamant about staying the same as last week, ‘guys, make a play, we got this,'" Cameron said about his quarterback's demeanor in the huddle.
Against the Vikings, Hoyer engineered the 11-play, 55-yard game-winning drive capped by a connection with Cameron with 51 seconds left.
"He's very confident and I think the team feeds off that," Cameron said.
It's a short week for the 2-2 Browns as they look to continue their momentum Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium against the Bills.
"We'll go a little bit lighter practice. More of a walk, jog through but it's gonna be like a normal Wednesday from that standpoint," Chudzinski said of what's next for Monday. "We gotta get right back on it. We can't stand on our laurels here for too long."
I've got a feeling…: Billy Cundiff missed two field goals (37, 49) in the first half but Chudzinski just had a hunch his kicker would hit a 51-yarder in the third quarter to extend the Browns' lead to 10-3. "I gave him a shot and he went and did it," Chudzinski said.
Cundiff, who was questionable throughout the week with a thigh injury, was not at 100 percent but felt good enough to kick, according to Chud.
Winner, winner: The city of Cleveland's professional sports teams have not lost a game since Sept. 18, the day the Browns traded Richardson. Yes, you're reading that right. The Indians have reeled off ten straight victories to earn a playoff berth and the Browns have notched two in a row. Eat your heart out, GQ .
Hand it to Hoyer?: Chudzinski won't just yet. "I'm still gonna go through the same process. We'll go in and evaluate the tape," Chudzinski said on his quarterback decision for Thursday's game. Despite playing it coy, it would be a surprise if Hoyer is not again Chud's choice.
"I'm a competitor. I want to be out on the field. The decision for who's playing - that's not up to me. I've just gotta do what I can do and put my best foot forward and let coach make that decision," Hoyer said.
Horton's hitters: D'Qwell Jackson calls defensive coordinator Ray Horton a "cerebral guy who understands football." Horton's defense is third in the league in yards per game allowed (291.5) after Sunday's games. "He just gives you the confidence you need really. Every day is very consistent.
He trusts and he asks us to trust him and we do," linebacker Paul Kruger said. The rush defense has been particularly stout, fourth best in the NFL thus far. "We've got a saying in our room, you've gotta earn the right to rush the passer and that's stopping the run," Jackson said.
Battle of the south: Joe Haden and AJ Green know each other well from their days as SEC opponents and now division rivals in the NFL. Haden kept the Bengals' star wide receiver contained Sunday. Andy Dalton targeted Green 15 times and he finished with seven receptions for 51 yards, similar to his 7-catch, 58-yard stat line in their week 2 matchup last year. Only difference in that one was Green finding the end zone. With Haden suspended for their October meeting last season, Green went off, pulling in 7 passes again but for 135 yards and two touchdowns.