While the Browns offense careened blind-folded through a twilight zone, the defense toiled with dignity for a while in Sunday night’s 16-10 loss at Baltimore.
“There were some very good things,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said. “The defense taking the ball away four times, but we get no points off it.”
Good defense was supposed to be a weekly sight, not a consolation prize to another loss.
Baker Mayfield said the offense’s inability to pull its weight was “very frustrating.”
“The story of our season so far is not being able to play complementary football,” Mayfield said. “The defense played great.”
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Clowney, Delpit, Greg Newsome II, JOK, JJ3, Anthony Walker.
The influx of talent to go with Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward wasn’t hype. It was a serious reason a team that went 11-5 should be better. Maybe by a lot.
Sunday was a chance to get the narrative back on the rails, against the slipperiest player in the game — Lamar Jackson. The defense handled it rather well.
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“The way those guys played it was relentless,” Stefanski said. “They were running to the ball all night. No. 8 (Jackson) made some plays, like he does.
“By and large the guys really executed the game plan well.”
Rookie Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah closed on Jackson during a subsequent scramble and planted him. Newsome made a sure tackle on a third-and-12.
Coordinator Joe Woods borrowed from the blitzing used by the Dolphins and Bears to bother Jackson.
The Browns allowed just 32 yards in the first quarter and trailed 3-0 with no help from special teams or the offense.
Owusu-Koramoah opened another series by tracking Jackson nicely on a run that went nowhere. Jadeveon Clowney made a tackle for loss. Jackson squirted free for a few decent gains, but two field goals and a 6-0 deficit were the extent of the damage.
The offense couldn’t get out of its own way. Jarvis Landry fumbled on a trick play. The defense kept saving the day. Denzel Ward offset the fumble with one of the Browns’ four interceptions.
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On Baltimore’s first play after a Cleveland field goal, Grant Delpit jumped a throw over the middle for an interception. Baker Mayfield soon lost a fumble. Ronnie Harrison answered with an interception moments later.
The turning point for the defense came on third down early in the third quarter. The defense hemmed in Jackson, using the swift Owusu-Koramoah nicely in that role, but a blown coverage downfield allowed a long completion to Mark Andrews.
In an odd scene moments later, Jackson again was contained, but another coverage was blown. Garrett watched Jackson uncork a touchdown pass to Andrews, then walked up to the quarterback and shook his hand. Clowney ripped off his helmet and slammed it.
Mayfield (No. 1 overall, Browns), Sam Darnold (No. 3, Jets), Josh Allen (No. 7, Bills) and Josh Rosen (No. 10, Cardinals) got drafted long before Ozzie Newsome traded up to land Jackson with the 32nd pick of the 2018 draft.
Jackson has been the best regular-season QB of the five. Some comparisons:
Record as a starter: Jackson is 41-15, Allen is 35-19, Mayfield 28-28, Darnold is 17-30, Rosen is 3-13.
Career passer rating: Jackson 100.3, Allen 92.5, Mayfield 89.4, Darnold 77.1, Rosen 61.1.
Yards per passing attempt: Jackson 7.6, Mayfield 7.5, Allen 7.2, Darnold 6.6, Rosen 5.6.
Rushing: Jackson 3,545 yards, 21 TDs; Allen, 1,945 yards, 28 TDs; Darnold, 602 yards, 10 TDs; Mayfield 525 yards, five TDs; Rosen 151 yards, no TDs.
The postseason has been another story. Jackson is 1-3, taking 19 sacks and throwing five interceptions, with a passer rating of 68.3.
Sunday night’s game wasn’t postseason. Cleveland’s offense woke up in time to cut a deficit to 13-10. John Johnson III made a spectacular interception, taking the ball away from Andrews.
The offense went back in a hole. It became a night when stop after stop was needed.
Clowney, who tore around all night, tipped a pass to force a punt. But Baltimore got the ball back and drove.
The defense played fairly well but was not good enough to carry the Browns all night long.
Reach Steve at [email protected]
On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP
This article originally appeared on The Repository: Cleveland Browns defense intercepts Ravens’ Lamar Jackson four times