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Pressure Cooker: Browns “D” needs to play better in crunch time

Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns have a problem and it doesn’t have to do with either quarterback Deshaun Watson or head coach Kevin Stefanski. That problem is the team’s defensive unit. Now, I know most of you will gasp or stop reading this “garbage” take because you want to believe that the Browns defense is a juggernaut this season and all the issues and blame on the team should fall on their coach and their on-and-off-again injured quarterback.

Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

However, if you want to really break down where the blame for the team’s failures have come look no further than their defensive unit’s play in crunch time. 

When the games have been on the line this group has failed miserably. Let’s first take you back to the Week 6 games against the San Francisco 49ers. While this unit played well for a good chunk of the game they looked bad at the start and then right at the end. They allowed the 49ers to march down the field at the beginning of the game and take a quick 7-0 lead. 

Cleveland fought back and the defense settled in and only gave up 78 yards of total offense until the final drive by the 49ers. 

After the Browns worked to take the lead with 1:40 left in the game, the pressure on the defense got to be too much as the 49ers suddenly found their rhythm and marched down the field going 52 yards and setting themselves up for a 41-yard field goal attempt. Fortunately for the Browns, the 49ers missed the field goal in the closing seconds. 

Then we go to the Week 7 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts where it ended up being a track race and the Browns held on for a 39-38 win. Thanks to the Browns “Superman” in Myles Garrett, the team was able to keep the game close. Garrett forced two quarterback strip sacks and blocked a field goal attempt. 

Somehow, the Browns offense mounted a comeback late and took a 33-31 lead with about five minutes to play. With a chance then to stop the Colts on the next possession and win the game, they instead gave up two big plays by the Colts, including a 75-yard touchdown pass. 

Fortunately, Cleveland had one final offensive drive in them to win the game in the closing seconds. 

That brings us to last week’s battle against the Seattle Seahawks where the Browns lost 24-20. After the Browns defense gave up a quick 14 points to start the game, they finally got it together to give their offense a chance to get back in the game. Cleveland then took the lead and controlled the Seahawks for most of the second half.

Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images

Unfortunately, the Browns turned the ball over at the two-minute warning. The Seahawks still though had to go 57 yards if they wanted the lead. And that’s what they did as the Cleveland defense faltered again in crunch time. Seattle scored a touchdown on only five plays. Many Browns players again were out of position and whiffed on tackling.

While many Cleveland fans want to crown this defense as the best, they really haven’t been that good this season especially when the games were on the line. 

Instead, our focus has been on the poor play of the quarterbacks or the questionable play calling of their head coach.

You aren’t hearing much if any criticism of the defense or their defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. If this unit wants to help their team get to the postseason, then they need to step up when the games are on the line because if they don’t this team’s failures are more on them than most want to admit. 

John Suchan is a lifelong Cleveland sports fan. He grew to love the Kardiac Kids back in the day so his loyalty is strong like yours. John has written for several Cleveland sports websites including Dawg Pound Daily, King James Gospel and Cleveland Sports Talk. He currently produces the Fanatical Elfz Network, part of Fans First Sports Network that cover the Browns. John also hosts his own show the Johnny Cleveland Podcast. He looks forward to providing you quality coverage of the Browns with a bit of opinion mixed in.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. JD

    November 7, 2023 at 10:31 am

    Spot on. This has always been an issue once Williams left. His defense gave up more yards, but didn’t disappoint in crunch time. Stefanski has had the most talent, but owns most of the losses during his tenure, from unadvised play calling. I’d like to see them do more man/zone and less prevent zone when the game is on the line. Seems like there is aways a mental breakdown at the worst times. Maybe the Karma that has come with DW.

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