The Cleveland Browns entered Sunday’s game on a mission to prove that they can win without Nick Chubb.
Cleveland Browns Stars Step Up in Dominant Win
Seldom have the Browns stars shown as brightly as they did in Cleveland today. Embattled quarterback Deshaun Watson played his first complete game as a Brown. Edge rusher Myles Garrett delivered a super-human performance, and the Cleveland Browns defense dominated all day, leading the team to a convincing 27-3 win over the Tennesee Titans.
The Cleveland Browns are now 2-1 in the most difficult part of their schedule, which lightens up considerably after mid-October.
The Titans offense couldn’t get anything going against what looks like one of the most dominant defenses in the NFL through three weeks. The Cleveland Browns held all-world rusher Derrick Henry to 20 yards on 11 carries throughout the day. Garrett sacked Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill 3.5 times, pacing the Browns’ five sacks on the day. Garrett also added three tackles for loss and five total QB hits.
Through three games, the Cleveland Browns defense has allowed exactly one touchdown and only a pair of field goals at home. Moreover, for a unit that was so poor against the run in 2022, the 2023 edition has stuffed some of the league’s best backs. In their three games thus far, the Cleveland Browns have faced Joe Mixon (56 yards), Najee Harris (43 yards), and Derrick Henry (20 yards), stiffing them for an anemic 2.8 yards per carry.
While Garrett is on pace for 25.5 sacks this season, cornerback Denzel Ward looks like a man possessed in the backfield. Ward was everywhere, playing a large part in limiting Titans WR DeAndre Hopkins to three catches on seven targets and Tennesse’s passing game to just eight yards a throw. Garrett and the defense line also played a large part in that, with eight QB hits, and holding the Titans to just six first downs.
In all, the Cleveland Browns defense held the Titans to just 94 yards on 45 plays.
The dominant defense wasn’t the only story of the day. Watson played – by far – his best game as a member of the Cleveland Browns, completing over 80 percent of his passes for 289 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Cleveland Browns opened the game, seemingly determined to show they could still run the ball. Head Coach Kevin Stefanski dug deep into his playbook, calling a mixture of traditional runs, a trio of end-arounds, and a couple designed for Watson as well. The Titans, who boast one of the league’s best run defenses, held the Browns rushing game in check most of the day, even though Cleveland had seven players with at least one rushing attempt. They dared the Browns to beat them through the air.
Deshaun Watson accepted that challenge.
Watson looked lighter and more comfortable from the opening play. But as the game went on, Stefanski let Watson play in the shotgun more and more. Watson prefers to play from the shotgun: In Houston, 80% of his plays came from the gun in his last two seasons. Watson’s passes were largely on point all day. His top target, Amari Cooper, snagged seven on eight targets for 116 yards and one touchdown. Cooper would’ve had more if not for a horrific mistake by an official late in the second quarter. Cooper was called out of bounds on a deep catch that likely would have gone for a touchdown. But the replays showed he didn’t even come within a foot of the sideline.
What’s Next for the Cleveland Browns
Next week, the Cleveland Browns face their third division in as many weeks when the Baltimore Ravens come to town. The Ravens lost a heartbreaker at home to the Indianapolis Colts at home Sunday and will be looking for redemption. But Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson will likely have nightmares after watching what Garrett and the Browns defense did to Tannehill this week.
Chubb’s Injury Not as Bad as Feared
The NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint. But the Cleveland Browns and their fans will certainly be breathing a sigh of relief after this one for more reasons than one. Chubb, still the team’s superstar and perhaps its heart and soul, might not be done after all. It was feared that Chubb’s injury might be career-ending, and it looked awful. But doctors now believe that Chubb only tore his MCL and damaged his ACL. So, his timeline is now 6-8 months instead of a potential year-long recovery. Meaning he has plenty of time to be ready for 2024.
But for this season anyway, the Cleveland Browns proved that there is, in fact, life after Nick Chubb.
Main Photo Credit: Andrew Nelles The Tennessean USA Today