A Defensive Masterpiece
Cleveland came into Sunday’s tilt with Chicago needing to make a statement defensively. Through the first two games of the season, the Browns defenders looked as if they were still trying to solidify their roles. With nine new starters on that side of the ball, a period of adjustment was expected in the early weeks of the season. After a focused week of practice, Cleveland’s defense played arguably their best game since the franchise returned to northeast Ohio in a 26-6 thrashing of the Bears. Most notably, franchise cornerstone Myles Garrett set an organization record with 4.5 sacks on the afternoon.
Garrett was not the only Brown pressuring the quarterback as Jadeveon Clowney his first two sacks in over one full season as it was seemingly a race between the two Browns defensive ends to see who could get to Justin Fields first. Clowney and Garrett combined for a staggering eleven quarterback hits which destroyed the confidence of first-time starter Justin Fields. Chicago’s offensive line was struggling all afternoon, as Clowney and Garrett were not the only Cleveland defenders to have All-Pro-like performances.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah had easily his best game a pro versus Chicago. The rookie was playing like his hair was on fire as he not only had .5 sacks and an additional tackle for loss, but he also was credited with two pass breakups. This has been an area that Cleveland has struggled mightily in over the last few seasons, as their linebackers have looked slow and uneasy in pass coverage. The breakout of Owusu-Koramoah gives Cleveland the speed they have been searching for at the position for years. The former Notre Dame star registered a Pro Football Focus grade of 93.9 for his efforts on Sunday, an extremely impressive grade for any player let alone a rookie. Owusu-Koramaoh is one of the most important players on Cleveland’s defense due to his versatility and playmaking abilities.
Sunday’s contest also marked the return of Odell Beckham Jr to the orange and brown. The wideout led the team in both targets and receiving yards; a fantastic sign as Beckham continues to regain his stamina after missing almost a full calendar year. Despite not having a true snap limit, Beckham admitted after the game to be extremely exhausted. Look for Beckham to be even sharper in the coming weeks as he gets acclimated to game action.
Kareem Hunt also deserves recognition for his performance on Sunday as he was effective as both a runner and pass-catcher. While the Bears did a solid job for most of the afternoon containing Nick Chubb, his backfield mate had a field day. Hunt accumulated 155 total yards from scrimmage on just 16 combined touches. While Nick Chubb was held in check, he was able to put together a few impactful runs near the end of the game.
Up next for the Browns, a clash with Kevin Stefanski’s former team the Minnesota Vikings. This will be a stern test for a Cleveland defense that cannot afford to read the press clippings on their dominant performance versus Chicago.