CLEVELAND — Cleveland became Sack City, USA, during the Browns' win against the Chicago Bears Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium in a game that showed us all exactly what the Browns defense is capable of—and it's the stuff of nightmares for quarterbacks if they can keep things up.
The offense started the game just a bit off, with some overthrows and back-to-back drives with fourth down sacks.
Eventually, the offense settled as Baker Mayfield played to his strengths of spreading the ball around while establishing a dominating run game, this time with Kareem Hunt in charge—but it was the defense that stepped up early and stayed consistent, and it gave the performance fans have been waiting not-so-patiently for.
Heavy on the blitz, defensive coordinator Joe Woods was able to showcase the speed and athleticism of his defensive line with Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney breaking through the Bears offensive line with ease while also sending in versatile Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah to put pressure on Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields.
In the first half alone, Garrett notched 2.5 sacks, Clowney got one and Owusu-Koramoah split a sack with Garrett.
Garrett said he was ready for a change in the team's defensive performance during Friday's practice session.
"It's tough watching my teammates not be able to make the play," he said. "When I see the offense key in on me with chips and stuff like that, I'm like, well, they're taking a player out of play to stop me. So we have one-on-one. And to see that they're not making the play, it's kind of frustrating because I want to see them go out there and make big plays. And we've got to get there. We've got to get there. I'm trying to take up two or three men, however many, to take out of the pass or the run, so we have to take advantage of that, and I know that they're not always going to do that for me. They're going to do that for other players as they step up and start making big plays. But right now, we all have to make plays."
Garrett's teammates answered the call.
The Browns finished with nine total sacks with help from Clowney's two sacks, Ronnie Harrison's one and a half each for Owusu-Koramoah, Malik Jackson and Takk McKinley. But Garrett was not to be outdone by his teammates, notching a team single-game sack record with his 4.5 take-downs of Fields.
Owusu-Koramoah, Greg Newsome II, Denzel Ward, Malcolm Smith, Greedy Williams and Harrison all showed off their pass defense skills throughout the game. The Browns' third-down efficiency was much improved, stopping all but one of the Bears' 12 third-down attempts. They held Chicago's rushers to just 3.5 yards per carry and contained Fields to just six completions for 68 yards of his 20 total attempts.
This was the complete package from the Browns defense.
Garrett said that his words on Friday weren't necessarily a message to his teammates because he also needed to step up and produce, and he said that everything clicking today was exactly what they needed.
"Man, it’s awesome. Everybody was getting off and making big plays like you’re in high school and everybody’s balling. You feel like you can make a play any time and you’re the star and everyone else feels that way on the field," Garrett said. "We were picking for each other and we were working games for each other and helping each other make plays and that’s how it’s supposed to be. We were in tandem and that’s what it looked like today.”
The defense is vibing, enjoying each other's successes and establishing friendships along the way, and they even have the banter going strong in Week 3.
"Man, JOK over here adding when he's not supposed to, taking half (a sack) away," Garrett joked. "Like I said, guys were hungry and wanted to make plays. He knows he can be a force rushing the passer. He was there with me, and he made plays in the pass game dropping out in coverage and pushing pressure on the quarterback. I think we all did, and that's how it's supposed to look, especially with the guys we have up front, the guys we brought in."
All in all, the defense shined on Sunday and showed what they can be capable of, exposing offensive lines and getting pressure on the opposing quarterback with a strong pass rush and a solid run defense.
It took three games, but we're starting to see the well-rounded team that looks capable of living up to the expectation of making a deep playoff run.
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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