It was certainly a shock to the system to see the Colts score 38 points and roll up 456 yards of offense on a defense that has consistently been one of the league’s best this season. There was also the unpleasant return of the big plays and broken coverages that plagued the team the past few seasons.
There were still some bright moments as the Browns forced four turnovers, three of which they turned into scores with the biggest one coming when defensive end Myles Garrett stripped the ball from quarterback Gardner Minshew in the end zone and linebacker Tony Fields II fell on the ball for a touchdown.
Even with the issues against the Colts, Cleveland enters Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks with a defense that leads the league in total defense (243 yards per game), passing defense (149.2 yards per game) and third-down percentage (27.5).
The Browns are also tops in the league against play-action as the defense is allowing just a 53.8 percent completion rate on play-action. That should come in handy on Sunday as Seattle quarterback Geno Smith enters the game completing a league-best 80 percent of his play-action passes.
The Seahawks are not anything special on offense, but that might not matter if the Browns can’t fix the problems that cropped up against the Colts, as defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz pointed out this week (quote via a team-provided transcript):
“We didn’t stop the run very well. We couldn’t control the first and second down sticks, and mainly it was because of the run. We weren’t as firm as we needed to be on the inside. We missed some tackles and gave up some big plays. We were poor in the red zone, which continues really to be a thing. I’m really disappointed in our red zone. I thought we’d be further along in our package, and I know it’s new, and we didn’t get a lot of time on task early in the season, but we need to have urgency to better in the red zone.”
Cleveland will have to continue to rely on its defense as long as quarterback Deshaun Watson remains sidelined. They’ve pulled out wins the past two weeks with P.J. Walker running the offense, but unless things start to click for Walker in a hurry, it is going to be difficult to keep stacking victories when the offense is only scoring a touchdown on one out of every eight drives.
The game against the Colts gave Cleveland’s defense some things to work on this week. And if they hope to walk out of Seattle with a third consecutive win, those lessons had better been well learned this week.
How confident are you that the Browns can bring home the win on Sunday?