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Documenting the Defense

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Browns D 'moving in the right direction' after no TDs allowed in Week 15

Cleveland’s defense has been able to bounce back from tough games all season, and their win Sunday in New York was no exception

The Browns defense played arguably its best game of the season Sunday against the Giants.

It's true — the six points allowed were the fewest the Browns have given up in a game this season. The Giants' 288 total yards were the third-fewest allowed in a game by Cleveland and the defense made a crucial fourth-down stop in the red zone early in the second quarter that changed the flow of the game.

That performance was exactly what the Browns needed after coming off a short week that started with a gut-wrenching 47-42 loss to the Ravens.

But the defense rebounded and shut down the Giants, who didn't score a touchdown, to grab a massive win No. 10. The resiliency to recover certainly didn't go unnoticed from defensive coordinator Joe Woods.

"After playing that game, it feels like we are moving in the right direction," he said. "It was good to play a game like that. Week to week, you never know what is going to happen. Being prideful, you do not want to give up a lot of points, and we have this year at times."

Yes, the Browns defense has dealt with difficult results on a few occasions this season, but they've proven multiple times that they're able to bounce back. 

After surrendering 381 yards and 38 points in Week 1, they shut down the Bengals run game and only allowed 68 rushing yards for a win in Week 2. In Week 4 at Dallas, the Browns allowed a season-high 566 total yards. Then, they followed a much cleaner performance against the Colts that included two massive turnovers, a safety and another terrific output of 68 rushing yards allowed.

The defense has mastered being able to move on from any result and focus on the next week. That approach, of course, has been preached from coach Kevin Stefanski all season, and the defense has embraced the message.

"You just work. You work every single day," LB B.J. Goodson said. "You try to get better at your craft. You try to get better at something. It does not matter what it is. If it is your extra work that you are doing, watching film or picking up on something, just finding something in a way to get better on this stretch is very, very important. You just have to keep getting better. You can't be content with anything."

The defense has found new ways to bounce back and help the Browns win all season. 

The first half of the year was defined by takeaways, which the defense accumulated at a torrid pace — they had 14 of them by their Week 9 bye week and were among the league leaders. They've forced six in the second half and have still contributed heavily to the Browns' +6 turnover differential, which is tied for sixth in the league.

"I'm still definitely proud of the takeaways because initially, that is the most critical stat," Woods said. "The team that normally wins the turnover margin wins the game. I still feel very prideful and I feel like the guys have done a great job of that, and we work on it every week."

On Sunday, though, they won the game in a new way: red zone stops.

The Giants had three trips to the red zone and failed to score a touchdown in all of them. The third-down defense was performing at peak efficiency at the most crucial times, and even though the Browns didn't record a turnover, they still found a way to get the ball back into the offense's hands. 

"It's about bend, don't break," defensive end Myles Garrett said. "They got some yardage, but we're trying to keep them off the board. At the end of the day, we are trying to have more points than they do. Whatever we have to do to get a W in that win column, we're going to do it."

They certainly did enough to get a win Sunday, and they've found ways to do it despite battling through difficult results all season. 

That's all that Woods can ask for. 

"I just like the guys' fight," he said. "They show up every week … and they fight for 60 minutes. Whenever you have a defense that does that, you're always going to give yourself a chance to win, and we proved that throughout the year."

Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the New York Jets

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