Message sent: The Cleveland Browns’ defense wants to make teams one-dimensional and take away the run.
Message received by: The Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, and Minnesota Vikings.
The Browns have limited those three teams to 253 yards on 90 carries, an average of 2.8 yards per attempt. In last week’s 31-27 victory at the Minnesota Vikings, the Browns limited the reigning NFL MVP, Adrian Peterson, to 88 yards on 25 carries.
“We’re sending a message to the whole league,” safety T.J. Ward said. “We have a good defense. We want to let everybody know it, and our play speaks for itself. We’re going to continue to play that way, and it’s nothing personal against any team. It’s about how we want to be perceived and what our identity is. That’s what we’re going to continue to do.”
According to defensive coordinator Ray Horton, the Browns’ success against opposing running backs is something he expected based on what he saw while studying his players and watching them work through training camp.
“Coming in early, when I watched all of last year’s film, and really, when I got here and watched them practice, there were two plays from last year, one was against Denver and one was against Washington,” Horton said. “I saw how the big men ran. It really pleased me that they run from the middle of the field to the sideline, so I assumed we’d be pretty good in run defense.”
Bengals running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie Giovani Bernard have combined for 239 yards and four touchdowns on 68 carries. Bernard has rushed for 110 yards and two scores on just 22 carries.
“They’re dynamic, and I think they complement each other very well,” Horton said. “Mr. Green-Ellis is a downhill runner, one-cut type, and Benard is multiple-cut. It’s kind of like Ray Rice and Adrian in one back. They’re both potent running backs, but different styles. We’ll call a game depending on who’s in the game, what they do and how they feature people.
“The young kid is earning more playing time. I think that’s evident, and I’m sure it’s evident down there. I think he’s both. He’s averaging five yards a rush. He’s leading the team in rush, but he is dynamic. You saw the Pittsburgh game, and he caught a little flair crossing route and turned it into a 37-yard touchdown run. He’s dynamic. We understand that. I don’t view him just as a third-down back. I view him as a complete back.”