This is the very definition of the post you don't want to have to write after witnessing how bad the Cleveland Browns' run defense was this past Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. I went through the game again and found the top five defensive plays for the Browns, but a play here and there doesn't make up for pretty much getting slaughtered. Here is the list defensive plays that stood out to me from the game, in the order in which they took place during the game.
1. Blow By Special for Sheard: The Ravens' first four runs went for 30, 7, 2, and 12 yards in the first quarter. On the next play, defensive end Jabaal Sheard would have no more of that. He blew right by his man at the line and single-handedly stuffed backup running back Ricky Williams for a loss of four yards. It eventually set up the situation for the Browns to make a fourth down stop (see after the jump).
2. Another "Short Yardage" Stand: The reason the Browns were in this game for so long? The opening short-yardage stand against Ray Rice. Facing a 4th-and-1 from the 26 on Baltimore's first drive of the game, the Ravens opted to go for it. The Browns' defensive front came through as Phil Taylor and Chris Gocong combined to stuff Rice before he could gain any yards. Cleveland has put up several nice short-yardage stops the past several weeks, but now it's time that they start getting stops in general.
3. Pushing the End Around Back Inside: If one thing didn't hurt the Browns, it was the speed of Torrey Smith. The Ravens tried to get him involved at the end of the first quarter with an end around. Once again, Sheard did a good job of recognizing it and cut off Smith's path wide. Smith angled back in before being tackled by Jayme Mitchell for a loss of three yards.
4. Haden Breaks Up the Slant to Evans: Just before the half with the Ravens facing a 3rd-and-goal from the 3, Joe Flacco fired a quick slant pass to Lee Evans with Joe Haden in coverage. Haden appeared to get his hand in on the ball to prevent Evans from making the catch, forcing Baltimore to settle for a field goal.
5. Sheard Sack+Fumble Again: This guy is a beast; I might as well re-name these weekly features to "the Jabaal Sheard Chronicles." Mid-way through the third quarter, Sheard used hustle to run around his man and strip Joe Flacco from behind, allowing Mitchell to scoop up the loose football. After the big pass to Peyton Hillis, it seemed like Sheard's strip was going to lead to a touchdown for the second week in a row. Instead, it only led to a field goal after the Browns failed to execute.