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Analyzing the Browns defensive performance against the Cardinals

Cleveland is No. 1 in passing defense and No. 6 in rushing defense this season


No defense in the NFL has been better than the Browns defense this season. On Sunday, they showcased their dominance in a 27-0 shutout against the Cardinals.

In Sunday's game, the Browns defense held the Cardinals to zero points. Arizona only averaged 1.2 yards per play, and the Browns forced minus 25 yards rushing before contact. It was the first time the Browns defense shut out a team since 2007.

The defense forced Cardinals QB Clayton Tune to a 20.8 passer rating, which was the worst rating by a quarterback in Week 9. Tune was sacked seven times and hurried nine times.

"The word we use is disruptive," HC Kevin Stefanski said. "That's what we're trying to do. It's really kind of how our defense is built. And obviously, everything, as you know, starts up front. So, with our line, with the ends and the tackles, getting off the ball, being aggressive in how we play, that filters its way through our entire defense."

The defense also forced three turnovers Sunday, with an interception by CB Denzel Ward, an interception by LB Sione Takitaki and a forced fumble by DT Shelby Harris – which was recovered by DE Myles Garrett.

Ward's interception came in the second quarter. Tune tried to connect with WR Marquise Brown on a slant route, but he was intercepted by Ward, who was in zone coverage.

Takitaki's interception came in the third quarter when Tune didn't see him dropping back underneath TE Trey McBride who was running an out route. Takitaki finished the day with a 93.3 grade from Pro Football Focus, which was the highest grade by a Browns player.

In the third quarter, Harris made a huge play by sacking Tune and stripping the ball for a loss of eight yards. Garrett then recovered the ball for the Browns, leading to a quick 11-yard touchdown drive for their offense in just three plays.

In Sunday's victory, nearly every Browns defender who participated in multiple snaps made a valuable contribution towards the win. Garrett, Harris and DE Za'Darius Smith each recorded a sack, while DT Dalvin Tomlinson finished with 2.5 sacks and S Grant Delpit was credited a half sack.

"We came off probably not one of our best games, but guys responded very well," S Juan Thornhill said. "Guys clicked together. And that's what I think played a huge role in us being able to shut this offense down and allow only like 58 yards, and that's unheard of."

The Browns defense has been historic this season. In Sunday's game, they allowed only 58 net yards to their opponents. This marks the third-fewest net yards allowed in a game in franchise history. 

The 58 net yards are the fewest number of net yards allowed in a game this season. The Browns also hold the second and third fewest this season with 94 net yards in Week 3 against the Titans and 142 net yards against the Bengals. 

The Browns this season had two other performances in which they held their opponents to just 142 net yards in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals and 94 yards in Week 3 against the Tennessee Titans. 

They have allowed 1,878 total yards this season, which is the best in franchise history through nine weeks. The Browns also give up a league-best 234.8 yards per game. They are first in passing defense – holding opposing quarterbacks to a 55.4 completion percentage – and sixth in rushing defense – holding rushers to 3.7 yards per carry.

"We've had good defenses over the past, but I feel like this has definitely been one of the best," Takitaki said. "Just really happy. As a defensive player, you always want to be part of a unit that's towards the top and I feel like I'm just excited to be a part of it wherever I can help."