Another week is in the books for our Cleveland Browns, and they move to a strong 2-1 record as well as a tie for 1st in the division. The subjects of my previous articles all performed rather well; QB Baker Mayfield cooked up a respectable 19/31 with 246 yards and a score. The running back duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 239 yards and a score as well. Hey, even Odell Beckham Jr. offered a very nice contribution, leading the team with 77 receiving yards on five catches. How about Austin Hooper’s spectacular catch in the endzone, by the way?
Above all of those, however, the true story of the game was the defense. Plain and simple, the 9 (!!!) sack game set the tone. The Bears gave the ball to the highly-touted rookie QB Justin Fields and Cleveland promptly responded with a “welcome to the NFL, rook” moment. Fields had no room or time to get effective passes off and as a result, Chicago’s offense remained stagnant for all four quarters. Leading the pass rush was Myles Garrett, who racked up half of the sacks today on his own! 4 and ½ sacks for the former #1 overall pick. Could that be considered a successful day at the office? I think so. Another vital contributor was the man on the other side, as Jadeveon Clowney added two sacks of his own.
It’s not just that the Browns’ D-Line was all over Justin Fields, but the Browns’ secondary was all over the Bears’ receivers. Fields only completed six passes for 68 yards on the day, with Allen Robinson leading the Bears’ corps with a measly 27 yards. The Bears did not have a single player with more than two catches. Other notable targets, such as that of Jimmy Graham and Marquise Goodwin, did not register a single catch on the day. There may not have been any interceptions, but the Denzel Ward-led secondary looks to be a key point of this Browns squad moving forward in the year.
It was clear that the Bears could not pass the ball on the Browns, so they attempted to run the ball. That didn’t work either. The Browns completely bottled up David Montgomery and stifled the Bears’ running attack. Montgomery managed only 34 yards on 10 carries. If you subtract his long run of 16 yards, that leaves him with a pitiful 18 yards on nine carries. Rookie LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was flying around the field and finished second on the team in tackles, only to Myles Garrett.
The Browns stifling defense had a ripple effect throughout the entire game. The Bears had a ridiculously low amount of plays as they were unable to get anything going the entire game. The Bears had 10 drives and were held to three-and-outs on five of them. They only ran 42 plays the entire game, with nine of them being a punt or a field goal. The Browns also held them to 47 total yards and almost outgained the Bears tenfold after putting up 418 yards of their own. The relentless defensive performance from Cleveland allowed them to hold the ball and choke the clock, registering nearly 2/3 of the game with the ball in their possession: 39 minutes and 34 seconds to be exact.
The Steelers look shaky, the Bengals are unproven and the Ravens are inconsistent. The Browns are finding their groove on offense. Their defense is stout and sturdy. They might be the most well-assembled team in the division from top to bottom. It’s still early on and they have their quirks, but 2021 might be the year that Cleveland finds itself back on top of the AFC North.