Don’t look now, but the Cleveland Browns’ defense is surging.
After a disastrous start to the season, Myles Garrett and Co. have played well back-to-back weeks, including Monday night’s smothering effort in a 32-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
“We are starting to,” Garrett said when asked if the defense was turning the corner. “We put together two pretty good performances in a row. This one was big, showing up in the first half and keeping them under 17 points. That is what we look to do every game. This type of performance is something we need to stack on.”
Monday night, the Browns’ defensive front dominated Cincinnati, controlling the contest. Cleveland held Joe Burrow and the Bengals to 229 yards, with most of the explosive plays from Cincy coming late when the game was already in hand.
It’s the second straight week Joe Woods’ defense has played well against an AFC North opponent. In Week 7, they hemmed in Lamar Jackson for most of the contest, but the offense came up shy.
Garrett, looking fully healthy after a recent car accident, dominated play. His tipped pass on the opening Bengals drive led to an interception that set the tone for the Browns D. Garrett generated 1.5 sacks, four QB hits, six QB pressures, one pass defended and a litany of other plays disrupted by his presence.
“It did,” Garrett said when asked if he felt like he helped set a tone. “That first tipped pass leading to an interception and then that sack, it felt like everyone was like, ‘The bank is open. Everyone grab something.’ I was rushing to get to the passer to make a big play, but there were a lot of guys playing lights out. It was just beautiful to see.”
Monday night, Garrett reminded the world of the type of Defensive Player of The Year performance he is capable of any week. When he’s disrupting the backfield, it completely transforms the entire defense.
“Myles was very good,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. “He does what No. 95 does. He was playing dominant out there. He is very difficult for people to block one-on-one. He gets a ton of attention, and when that happens, others are getting one-on-ones.”
The Browns’ defensive front seven was dominant, sacking Burrow five times and generating four tackles for loss and a fumble.
The early-season issues for Cleveland came with breakdowns in the secondary. It began to clean those problems up in recent weeks, despite injuries that have left the group shuffled. It helps when the D-line dominates like they did Monday night.
“For sure. It makes our job a lot easier,” cornerback Greg Newsome II said of the pressure. “When our guys are getting home, it makes our job a lot easier. Just shout out to (defensive coordinator) Joe Woods for putting us in great schemes and running great stunts up front, and they were able to get home today.”
The victory ended the Browns’ four-game losing streak and kept a glimmer of hope that at 3-5, they can remain in the AFC postseason hunt. But the defense will have to keep proving it after a Week 9 bye. The Browns travel to face the speedy Miami Dolphins and the high-powered Buffalo Bills in back-to-back weeks.
We’ll see if the past two performances from Joe Woods’ D were a sign of a team living up to its potential or simply catching injured opponents at the right time.
Image & Story Credit: nfl.com