Briean Boddy-Calhoun knows the stat hovering over the Browns defense from a season ago: minus-28
The Browns were minus-28 in turnover margin last season, dead last in the league. But Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium, they put that stat behind them. Cleveland's defense was relentless and dominant. The starting defense forced the Super Bowl champion Eagles into four first-half turnovers — one of which was an interception from Boddy-Calhoun — in the Browns 5-0 victory.
"You have got to be hungry," Boddy-Calhoun said of forcing turnovers. "If you want to win in this game, you have got to take the ball away and keep them in check on offense. Every single day in practice we emphasize this. In the secondary, we try to get at least two to three (turnovers) a day, so we know that the key to winning is taking the ball away."
Boddy-Calhoun, Larry Ogunjobi, Emmanuel Ogbah and Jamie Collins all took home footballs following the low-scoring game because they each were on the receiving end of a turnover. First it was Ogbah, who recovered a Nick Foles fumble after he was stripped by rookie linebacker Genard Avery. Then came Boddy-Calhoun's interception, which came on a deep ball from Foles. The ball appeared to be tipped at the line of scrimmage and floated through the air for some time before landing in Boddy-Calhoun's arms.
Collins' interception was arguably the most crucial. Philadelphia seemed to be finally putting an offensive drive together and had already gone 66 yards, but Foles threw a pass inside the 5-yard line directly into Collins' chest, preserving the Cleveland shutout.
Ogunjobi was in the right place at the right time after Terrence Mitchell stripped Matt Jones clean of the ball after a completion. Sometimes, that is a perk of playing with the first-team defense. Ogunjobi began playing as a starter against Buffalo last week, and he continues to make progress as a starting defensive tackle. But he's not satisfied with just being a starter.
"I could have two sacks and still feel like I could play better," Ogunjobi said. "Because that's just always the person I've been. I feel like there's always something you could work on. I'll go back, I'll look at the film, I'll see what I need to work on and I'll correct it."
One of the fumbles were forced, of course, by pressure on Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, who had little to no time to throw most of the night. Myles Garrett camped out in the Eagles backfield and was a headache all night for Philadelphia left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Garrett had two sacks, a number of quarterback pressures and plenty of attention from the Eagles offensive line.
If not for Garrett's pressure, Avery might not have stripped Foles on a drop-back. Avery got there first, but Garrett wasn't far behind at all. Ogbah was there to scoop up the loose ball.
"(Garrett) is one of those guys who kind of makes everybody elevate their game," Ogunjobi said. "A lot of opportunities are now open because you have somebody rushing and then you got pressure up the middle. There's not anywhere for the quarterbacks to go."
Ogunjobi admits that sometimes in the film room, he admires Garrett's ability to get to the quarterback quickly. "He's healthy" is the only difference Ogunjobi sees in Garrett this season compared to last, which was filled with injuries.
Whether it's pressure off the edge, blanket coverage in the secondary or right-place, right-time moments, Boddy-Calhoun is ready to put the turnover struggles in the past, and the defensive showing against the Eagles was progress. Being able to contribute to that is huge for Boddy-Calhoun, who didn't have an interception last season after compiling three in 2016.
"Even though it was tough last year, we just had to hang in there, stick the course and try to grind it out," Boddy-Calhoun said. "Getting four today did definitely (help)."