The Cleveland Browns defense was one of two primary storylines for the team this offseason. The weapons on offense were the other but, due to the defense’s performance, really weren’t needed in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The pure statistics are impressive holding the vaunted Bengals offense to:
- 3 points
- 142 total net yards
- 82 yards passing
- Only one play over 12 yards
- Only four plays 10 yards or more
All of that despite not having a single takeaway.
Some credit goes to the weather but both teams had to play in the same strange sheets of rain. Some credit goes to QB Joe Burrow’s recovery from a calf issue but Cincinnati chose to play him so he must be healthy enough.
Most of the credit goes to the Browns defense under new DC Jim Schwartz. The defensive line was swarming, the linebackers had the freedom to make plays and the defensive backs didn’t back down the whole game.
EPA, which is a measure of expected points versus what actually happens, has Cleveland’s defense with the second-best performance (before Monday Night Football) in Week 1:
WE'RE BACK AND SO ARE THE COWBOYS pic.twitter.com/A7KxXJoTiN— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) September 11, 2023
If you watched any of the Dallas Cowboys versus New York Giants game on Sunday Night Football, you are not surprised that Dallas sits at the top. The game was mostly boring and was over at the end of the first quarter. The Giants didn’t score and turned the ball over three times.
While the Browns offense was below average, it wasn’t horrible mostly thanks to RB Nick Chubb.
Week 1 of the NFL season always has some interesting results. For Cleveland, Week 2 will match them up with AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. As we covered in our division review, the Steelers looked terrible and their EPA numbers prove that as well.
A bottom-10 offense could be expected with QB Kenny Pickett but to see a Pittsburgh defense near the bottom is quite shocking.
Each week we will look for data that helps us better understand or confirms the Browns performance. For Week 1 of the 2023 season, EPA proves what we all saw: Cleveland’s defense is elite.
Are you surprised by just how high the Browns defense is ranked? Surprised the offense isn’t ranked lower? Talk it out in the comment section below