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3 Big Takeaways: Defense delivers its 6th sub-20 point performance of 2021

Cleveland needed its defense to rebound, and it certainly did Sunday

We're drying off after a rainy afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium. It's easier to do after a victory, and that's what the Browns collected Sunday against a feisty Lions team.

We're beginning our Takeaways on defense, where the Browns, yet again, were able to hold an opponent below 20 points.

1. Defense delivers its 6th sub-20 point performance of 2021

The Browns held their opponents below 20 points on four occasions in 2020. Three of those games came in consecutive fashion in brutal weather conditions at FirstEnergy Stadium when the Browns, themselves, cleared 20 points just once.

On Sunday, the Browns made it six times out of 11 in 2021. It was necessary, just like it was in Week 7 against Denver and Week 4 in Minnesota, in order for the Browns to come away with a much-needed, 13-10 victory.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said he thought the unit was "particularly great," which was a major step in the right direction after surrendering a season-worst 45 points in a lopsided loss at New England. It was a much-needed performance for the defense, in general, and for the team as a whole on a weather-affected day in which the offense got all of its points in a 13-point second quarter.

The Browns did it Sunday by completely shutting down Lions QB Tim Boyle, who made his NFL starting debut in unsavory conditions. He finished 15-of-23 for 77 yards with two interceptions. The lone blemish on the day was a 57-yard touchdown run by D'Andre Swift in the third quarter, which broke the shutout and put the Lions within a possession. The Browns allowed just two other plays of more than 20 yards.

One week after allowing the Patriots to convert 7-of-9 third downs, the Browns limited the Lions to a 3-of-11 success rate.

"Seeing the conditions out there, they weren't great. We knew it was going to be a ground-and-pound defensive game," CB Greg Newsome II said. "When conditions are like that, the defense has to step up and aid the offense. It's going to be tough to throw the ball and do things when it's raining like that. We pride ourselves on being able to do that, and we stepped up today."

Holding a team below 20 is typically enough to win a game in the modern NFL, and that's been the case for the Browns in all but one of their six efforts this season. Consider it a reversal of sorts from last year, when the Browns won four of the seven times when they allowed 30 or more points. They've now won three times in 2021 despite scoring fewer than 17.

"At the end of the day, when you get a win, that is all that matters," DE Myles Garrett said.

Check out photos of the Browns against the Lions in Week 11

2. Injuries of note

The Browns had two key players deal with injuries in Sunday's game, one from each side of the ball.

WR Jarvis Landry was in and out of the game in the second half because of a knee injury. Landry missed four games earlier this season with a knee injury and has been noticeably battling through the pain since his return to action Week 7.

"I think it is probably the same one, but I do not know how [significant]," Stefanski said. "We will find out tomorrow what that means."

LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who missed three games with an ankle injury before returning last week in New England, exited in the third quarter with an injury to the same ankle. Owusu-Koramoah had seen his snaps increase from the previous week before going down with the injury.

3. Eyes already on Baltimore

Less than an hour after they put the finishing touches on the Lions, Browns players were already fielding questions about their upcoming opponent.

There's multiple reasons for that, of course. One, it's a big one in Baltimore, which sits atop the AFC North at 7-3 after its 16-13 victory over the Bears on Sunday. Two, it's a Ravens team the Browns will see in consecutive games with a bye sandwiched in the middle — one of the oddest quirks on the NFL schedule in 2021. 

There's just no downplaying the importance of it.

"They beat us twice last year," G Joel Bitonio said. "Again, we are taking it 1-0. We are going to go play them and then we have a week off after that. We are going to put everything out there and try and compete and do our best job. It is a huge game. It is a division game, it is the next game and it is the Baltimore Ravens. We have to be ready for that."

Said Garrett: "Moving forward, every game is important. It does not matter who it is."

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