The Browns are 3-1 for the second straight season, but this Week 4 performance couldn't have been more different than last year's.
In 2020, the Browns scored their third win by scoring, scoring and scoring some more in a wild shootout with the Cowboys. On Sunday, the Browns just needed to hit double digits to come away winners in the 14-7 defensive battle with the Vikings.
That's why we're honing our focus on the defense in this edition of 3 Big Takeaways, and it starts with one of the biggest plays in Sunday's win.
1. Greedy Williams waited years for a moment like Sunday's
Greedy Williams wasn't thinking about 2020 — his lost season because of a frustrating shoulder injury — after Sunday's game.
He wasn't even thinking about 2019 — his rookie season that included 12 starts.
It was 2018 that came to mind when Williams met with reporters after the Browns' 14-7 victory. That was when Williams, the former LSU star, last had an interception. It came early that season, too, so Williams had plenty of reason to feel like he was long overdue to get the ball in his hands.
"I slept on it all night," Williams said.
Williams ended that drought at a pivotal moment in Sunday's win.
With the Browns clinging to a 14-7 lead after a Chase McLaughlin field goal, Williams gave the ball right back to the offense on the first play of Minnesota's ensuing drive. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins looked long, and Williams followed the ball from the moment Cousins released it. Williams tracked it perfectly and stepped in front of Adam Thielen to secure the pick.
Williams jogged the ball all of the way to the back of Cleveland's end zone and celebrated with his teammates, who were equally thrilled to see Williams make one of the biggest plays in the Browns' third straight win.
"It's been long, it's been long," Williams said. "This here feels amazing."
That kind of effort and play-making is what the Browns expected from Williams, who was the easy answer to replace Greg Newsome II when the rookie went down with a calf injury. Though Williams missed all of 2020, he showed so much promise as a rookie in 2019, when he beat out multiple veterans for the starting job in training camp and held his own in 12 starts alongside Pro Bowler Denzel Ward.
Williams, though, was on the wrong end of the competition in training camp this year. No matter, Williams stayed ready and embraced his role on special teams, where he was singled out as one of the team's top performers Week 3.
It's unclear if Williams will be called upon again next week when the Browns travel to Los Angeles to face the Chargers. For now, he won't soon forget Sunday — a performance that was truly years in the making.
"Getting this opportunity and taking advantage of it is kind of a blessing," Williams said. "Without my support — teammates, family, God — I wouldn't be here right now."
2. 3rd-and-20? No sweat for Kareem
The Browns looked to add points at the end of Sunday's first half when they took possession with 45 seconds to play. Then it looked like they were simply trying to run out the clock after their first two plays went backward, resulting in a third-and-20 from their own 26-yard line.
A couple of cuts and more bulldozing running from Kareem Hunt changed everything, and the Browns ultimately got the additional points they desired.
"I knew it was third-and-20, I heard the play come in and said, all right, just get what you can get," Hunt said. "Then I was like, 'let's go get the whole thing.'"
Hunt's 33-yard run on third-and-20 was a literal game-changer, as the Browns moved into field-goal range on the following play. McLaughlin nailed the kick, and Cleveland's one-point lead turned into a much more palatable four as the teams retreated to the locker room.
"It was huge," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said.
Over the past two games, Hunt has 251 yards of offense and two scores. Both games featured a run of more than 25 yards. Sunday's run was the longest play of the game by either team and yet another example of Hunt's danger to opposing defenses.
3. Chase-ing Points
The Browns don't want to have to keep settling for field goals, but McLaughlin has served as quite a weapon over the past two games.
McLaughlin is a perfect 7-for-7 on the season, and the degree of difficulty on his attempts hasn't gotten any easier. He made both of his kicks — with plenty to spare — from 48 and 53 yards to give the Browns just enough insurance in Sunday's defensive battle.
McLaughlin is the first Browns kicker to make three field goals from 50+ in a season since Phil Dawson, who had seven in 2012. McLaughlin has 13 more games to match or exceed that total, but the Browns would obviously prefer to see less of McLaughlin and more touchdowns.