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Browns D's confidence never wavered in final, dramatic moments of win over Ravens

Myles Garrett’s game-changing, record-setting play in the second quarter gave the Browns the boost they needed — both on the scoreboard and on the sidelines

Myles Garrett looked at Jadeveon Clowney on the Browns sideline and smiled.

Garrett, the fifth-year defensive end veteran, was probably the only person in a Browns uniform at FirstEnergy Stadium that had a grin at that moment. Cleveland had just failed to recover an onside kick against the Ravens with 1 minute left as the Browns held onto a two-point lead, and the defense, which had just left the field after a 4-minute Ravens touchdown drive, was needed to save the game.

That wasn't going to be a problem in Garrett's mind. He and Clowney, who had both recorded sacks earlier in the game, were full of confidence even though the Ravens were one drive away from stealing a lead the Browns had built since the first quarter.

"I wanted the game in my hands," Garrett said. "I wanted to be able to make the play, so I looked at (Clowney) and said, 'We've got to do it.'"

Two plays into the pivotal series, Clowney delivered a thunderous hit to Ravens QB Tyler Huntley for a sack. The play was created from the heavy attention the Ravens devoted to both Clowney and Garrett, who was double-teamed, thus allowing Clowney to face only one blocker and track down Huntley.

Baltimore wasn't able to pass the first-down marker on its next two plays, which secured the Browns' 24-22 win — one they desperately needed to keep their playoff hopes alive and generate momentum toward a playoff run in the final four regular season games.

"When we went out there, I just knew that we needed to make a play," Clowney said. "I knew we were going to do it."

Check out photos of the Browns against the Ravens in Week 14

That confidence could've been hard to keep in those final minutes. 

The Browns had surrendered 19 unanswered points in the second half after Huntley, who replaced Lamar Jackson in the second quarter when Jackson suffered an ankle injury, danced around tackles and delivered timely throws to keep Baltimore in it. Those plays set Baltimore up for an 8-yard touchdown pass to TE Mark Andrews in the final 2 minutes to cut the Browns' lead to two points. 

But the defense didn't panic. Not after some of the other big plays it had made earlier in the game.

The biggest came from Garrett. 

He recorded his 15th sack of the season, a franchise single-season record, in the second quarter when he strip-sacked Huntley and picked it up himself. No Ravens player was around Garrett, so the stadium erupted in cheers as Garrett raised his arm with the football and jogged 15 yards into the end zone for a touchdown, the first of his career.

Clowney, actually, had a chance to pick up the ball first but bobbled it in the air. Garrett arrived right as it hit the ground, and by the time he picked it up, no one could stop him.

"I was looking at (Clowney) bobbling the ball and was like, 'I'll take it,'" Garrett said with another grin.

The score was one of three Browns touchdowns that gave them a 24-6 lead at halftime, but the work wasn't over. 

Even as the Ravens led their second-half charge, Clowney and Garrett continued to push to the pocket and pressure Huntley, but his quickness often allowed him to escape and avoid trouble. Those plays allowed the Ravens to reach Browns territory twice in the fourth quarter, and both drives resulted in touchdowns. 

Add in three field goals from kicker Justin Tucker — all of them were from distances longer than 40 yards — and the Ravens were suddenly another field goal away from taking the lead. A successful onside kick made it only more difficult for the Browns to hold on.

Losing never crossed Garrett's mind. 

All it produced was a smile to Clowney.

"He agreed, and we went out there," Garrett said. "I went low, he went high, and we made the play."

The trouble wasn't officially shut down until CB Denzel Ward tackled WR Rashod Bateman short of the first-down marker on fourth down, but the collective effort from the Browns defense turned the nerves inside FirstEnergy Stadium into joy.

And there was no question about who was leading the charge.


"That's the type of player he is," Ward said. "He's a leader for our team, and that's what he's got to do. He challenged us, and when he challenges us, he's going to come in and back it up as well."

Garrett's mission, though, is far from over. The Browns advanced their record to 7-6, and they might need wins in each of their final four games to control their playoff destiny. Garrett, of course, is committed to making more plays to help them get there.

But the Browns certainly appear to be in a better position to continue a playoff run after Sunday's performance. The defense, which had held opponents to 22 points or fewer in six of the last seven games, is one reason why.

The Browns are getting better. Garrett can feel it, and that's why he had a smile on his face as he led the defense on the field for one final stand.

"The standard is being set, and we have to be consistent," he said. "We're reaching the height of our abilities and talent. We cannot just be paper champs. We have to prove it on the field."

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