HOUSTON — Cleveland's "Dog" defense had reason to howl following a 40-7 victory over the Houston Oilers Sunday in a showdown that was supposed to be a close battle for the AFC Central Division lead.
Instead it was a rout, courtesy of the Browns' defense. Cornerback Frank Minniefield, who barks to rev up the Browns, intercepted three passes to lead the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense.
The Browns held Houston's offense to 247 total yards and limited quarterback Warren Moon to one pass completion in the second half.
Cleveland's defense forced six turnovers and the Browns' offense turned four of them into points to emerge as the sole divisional leader.
They came into the dressing room following the game, barking in unison.
"I thought Moon put the ball up thinking he had the best athletes on the field," Minniefield said. "He put the ball up when his wide receivers were covered.
"He had respect for his receivers going and getting it. To me, that meant he had disrespect for our defense and we're the best defensive team in the game right now."
Said Moon: "I'm embarrassed. It was humiliating the way we lost. They've had a tough defensive team the last three or four years.
"They made it hard to get the ball to the receivers. It was a setback only because we lost so badly, but it's still just one loss."
Cleveland quarterback Bernie Kosar said: "This is as good as the offense has played this season and we still squandered away some opportunities in the second quarter. That's a great sign. We played good but we know we can still get better."
Cleveland leads the division lead with a 7-3 record and the Oilers are 6-4.
The Oilers' only score came with 5:19 left in the third quarter when Ernest Givins zig-zagged 83 yards with a pass from Moon.
Cleveland took advantage of three first-half Houston turnovers for a 26-0 halftime lead, highlighted by a 27-yard touchdown pass play, Kosar to Webster Slaughter, with four seconds left in the half.
The Browns also scored in the first half on runs of 1 yard by Earnest Byner and 5 yards by Kevin Mack and field goals of 21 and 32 by Jeff Jaeger.
Byner also scored on a 17-yard run and Kosar completed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Gerald McNeil in the third quarter.
Fumbled snaps cost the Browns an extra-point attempt and field goal tries of 37 and 30 yards by Jaeger in the first half.
Kosar, who has led the Browns to seven straight victories over the Oilers, completed 15 of 26 passes for 257 yards. Mack was the game's leading rusher with 114 yards in 26 carries.
Moon completed 5 of 23 passes for 193 yards, threw 3 interceptions and was sacked 3 times for 23 yards in losses.
Houston Coach Jerry Glanville said: "We just kept making mistakes but it's a temporary setback. We didn't have much go right, we didn't execute well. It wasn't a letdown it was just foolish things. Everyone must take a share of this loss, especially me."