Stevie Brown and other Giants defensive backups shine in win over Browns
It was Saturday night in the Giants' team hotel when defensive coordinator Perry Fewell met with his players and put pictures of safeties Stevie Brown and Will Hill, linebackers Spencer Paysinger and Mark Herzlich and defensive lineman Markus Kuhn on the projection screen. All of them were backups thrust into starting or more prominent roles against Cleveland because of injuries.
"Coach Fewell said, 'There's going to be a whole bunch of new players stepping up,' " Brown said. "He put all our pictures up last night. You never want to disappoint him. You want to fill the void and not have a drop-off."
Disappointment was a distinct possibility when the Giants found themselves trailing the winless Browns by 14 points less than five minutes into the game Sunday. Brown admitted he took the bait and covered the wrong receiver on a 62-yard touchdown pass from Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden to wideout Josh Gordon.
"Nobody hung their head," Brown said. "There were still  minutes to go. I've watched the Giants enough to know it's never over until it's over around here."
With the Giants still trailing by seven late in the second quarter, Brown defined the term "stepping up." In a span of 1:23, the third-year player came up with two game-changing turnovers, an interception and a fumble recovery, that led to two touchdowns that sent the Giants on their way to a 41-27 victory at MetLife Stadium.
With the Browns at the Giants' 25-yard line, Brown was watching for a sprintout pass to a running back when he saw Weeden lob one over Gordon to the outside.
"I was flowing with the whole formation, and when I saw him throw it, I could see it was going to be overthrown," Brown said. "So, I was just trying to get to that point where I could catch it."
Brown caught it with room to run and sprinted 46 yards up the left sideline to the Cleveland 40. Two plays later, the Giants tied the game at 17 on a 4-yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw.
On the ensuing kickoff, Brown was closing in on returner Joshua Cribbs when he saw teammate Hill knock the ball free. It bounced right to him, and he returned it nine yards to the Browns' 29. Moments later, the Giants took a 24-17 lead on a 7-yard pass from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz.
"Will made a great play," Brown said of the forced fumble. "I saw Will rake it and the ball pop out. I said, 'I've got to get it.' . . . It's never easy to get a turnover. Back-to-back like that, it did feel good. I was a little tired, but it was good."
Beating the 0-5 Browns wasn't so much a must-win as a "must-not-lose" game with a trip to San Francisco coming up next week. "By no means were we looking ahead, but you definitely don't want to go out there at 2-3," Brown said. "So, we had a slow start but bounced back. It gives us momentum going into next week."