The Browns are 1-0 to start the regular season as they beat the Bengals 24-3 on Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Here are three main takeaways from the season opener.
Stellar showing from DC Jim Schwartz and Browns' defense
The Browns' new defensive scheme lived up the hype in their season-opener as they limited the Bengals to just a field goal in the third quarter. They limited Bengals QB Joe Burrow to 14-of-31 for 82 yards and sacked him twice. Burrow finished with a 52.2 passer rating on Sunday.
HC Kevin Stefanski rewarded the stellar defensive performance by highlighting Schwartz in his postgame press conference.
"The story of the day is our defense," Stefanski said. "And I just gave Coach (Jim) Schwartz the game ball because that defense was outstanding. To hold that offense – and I have a ton of respect for that team and that offense and that whole team in general – but to hold them to 143 yards, two of 15 on third down was very impressive. So very proud of Jim and his staff, the defensive staff and the players."
There was a noticeable increased level of aggression up front on the defensive line, and more man coverage on the back end. In the first half, they forced the Bengals to punt seven times on seven possessions, five of which were three and outs. They kept the Bengals scoreless in the first half, and only gave up a field goal in the third quarter.
DE Myles Garrett said the defensive scheme and game plan went according to plan. While the Bengals threw some adjustments that they weren't exactly expecting, Garrett felt like they adapted on the fly to those changes and executed the scheme properly.
Up front on the defensive line, they were able to send different looks at the Bengals' offense and keep them off balance. Then, on the back end, they were able to make big plays on some of the 50-50 balls to help get the Browns' defense off the field.
"It was a hell of a dress rehearsal with these guys," Garrett said. "They have a very explosive offense, and they have very skilled players in each position. So, this was a big one for us to see where we're at and we really showed what we can do and we set the bar high, and this is the standard we got to continue to improve from here."
The Browns celebrate after a win over the Cincinnati Bengals on September 10, 2023 at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Dustin Hopkins with a strong first showing in Cleveland
The Browns saw just what K Dustin Hopkins is capable of in Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sunday. He finished 3-for-3 on field goal attempts, as well as 2-for-2 extra points. Stefanski was pleased with Hopkins' performance, especially with the weather conditions. Hopkins knows that weather, especially in the AFC North can play a factor on kicking. So, his goal is each week to try and hit the best ball. Hopkins also attributed his success on Sunday to LS Charley Hughlett and H Cory Bojorquez, who gave him great looks at the ball, as well as the line protection.
Yet, it does leave a great feeling to see the ball go through the uprights like it did on Sunday.
"Any time you're new to a team, I think it helps to get to know guys to perform well, at least to start. Then hopefully guys get behind you that way. There's no question that feels good, but at the same time, like I mentioned, not too high, not too low, regardless of results. I try to stay process-oriented and just trust that if I put myself in a position to be successful and I'm constantly working to be the best version of myself on and off the field, the results are going to come."
Nick Chubb and the Browns' run game
The Browns turned to the run game in Sunday's matchup, as the slickness of the ball created some struggles in the passing game. They finished with 206 rushing yards on 40 carries and a rushing touchdown by QB Deshaun Watson.
Nick Chubb led the Browns in the run game, as he rushed for 106 yards on Sunday on 18 carries. His longest run was for 17 yards. Chubb continues to play a pivotal role in the run game for the Browns, and Stefanski was not surprised by Chubb's output on Sunday, as they tried to hand the ball to him as well as throw it to him. Neither was Watson.
"It's Nick Chubb," Watson said. "He's the best in the world, best in the league. And he's going to continue to plug, he's going to continue to run hard. First game for him, so I know he was a little bit winded, but he kept doing what he needed to do, and he ended up getting over 100 yards. I wish he could have gotten the end zone a couple of times but he's going to have more opportunities for us."