By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor
We all know the excruciating manner in which the Browns lost. And because of that, we could easily overlook everything else that took place up to the point that a botched snap resulted in Phil Dawson missing a 22-yard field goal that would have put the Browns in excellent position to score their first victory in three weeks.
The fact is the Browns did actually perform well in multiple areas. On offense, there was Colt McCoy’s best passing performance of the season, Chris Ogbonnaya’s best rushing output, and Pat Shurmur’s most imaginative game plan of his first year as head coach.
Yet, the one area from Sunday’s game where the Browns are the most deserving of recognition is their defense.
For one thing, it was the primary reason the Browns had a chance to win the game despite an offense that consisted of four Dawson field goals.
For another it made a dramatic improvement over what it did – or, to be more precise, what it didn’t do – in a 30-12 loss at Houston in Week 9. And what it didn’t do in that game was come remotely close to stopping the run.
Make no mistake. The Rams did do a solid job of running the ball. Steven Jackson finished with a strong 128 yards and averaged a healthy 4.7 yards per carry. But Jackson didn’t dominate the Browns’ defense the way Arian Foster and Ben Tate did a week earlier in helping the Texans pile up 261 yards.
Despite missing one of the NFL’s best run-support safeties in T.J. Ward, the Browns prevented the Rams from ever taking control of the game on the ground the way Houston did.
The Browns’ defensive line also had one of its better outings of the season. It generated consistent pressure on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, with rookie tackle Phil Taylor registering a sack and two other quarterback hits.
The Browns’ linebackers also were solid, with Scott Fujita intercepting a pass that he deflected, and knocking down two others, and Chris Gocong forcing and recovering a fumble.
In general, the Browns’ defense pretty much was able to stay a step ahead of Bradford and the rest of the Rams’ offense. The obvious reason? Browns coach Pat Shurmur spent the past two seasons as the Rams’ offensive coordinator, and knows all about the vulnerabilities of their offense.
And last season, while guiding Bradford to rookie-of-the-year honors, Shurmur learned plenty about the quarterback, and used that knowledge to the benefit of the Browns’ defense on Sunday.
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