With the news of QB Deshaun Watson's season-ending shoulder injury being announced Wednesday, the Browns defense understands what they must do to keep the success going for the team.
They have always aimed to be dominant, but they recognize the urgency and impact they must provide for the team as they make their playoff push.
"To be honest, our mentality has always been to be great, but now we know what we have to do, which is make sure we are our best self every play," CB Martin Emerson Jr. said. "If we don't give up points, we win. If we score on defense, we win. It's a tough task to ask for any defense, but I feel like it's possible with the guys we have in the locker room."
Emerson said that both S Rodney Mcleod and DC Jim Schwartz have both shared their experience with the Eagles back in 2017. During that season, the Eagles boasted a formidable defense that ranked fourth in both points allowed per game (18.4) and yards allowed per game (306.5). Despite facing multiple key injuries, none was more significant than when quarterback Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending torn ACL.
The Eagles defense, led by Schwartz at the time, was still dominant and helped lead them into the Super Bowl, which they won. Mcleod and Schwartz talked to the Browns defense about that special Eagles season and explained that great things can still happen.
"Our job is to prevent points, create turnovers and more opportunities for our offense," Mcleod said. "No matter who the quarterback is, nothing changes. This is the mindset we had in Philadelphia. The situation is very similar; both have been battled tested with injuries. For us, it is remaining together and never flinching."
Check out photos of the team working to prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers
The Browns defense will try to make things easier for QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who will get his second start of his career on Sunday against the Steelers. They will attempt not to have the offense play from behind and make early stops to gain better field position for the offense.
This season, the defense has been one of the best in the NFL. Through Week 10, they have allowed only 113 first downs, the fewest recorded since 1992 in a nine-game span. Additionally, they lead the league in passing yards allowed with just 1,360. Their defense also boasts the best completion percentage rate in the NFL at 55.5 percent.
The defense also has nine interceptions on the season. Their weak spot at the beginning of the season was that they did not take away the ball. In their first four games, the defense only had one interception. After their Week 5 bye, the defense flipped the switch. Over their last five games, they caught eight. They've scored two touchdowns this season – one from a fumble recovery in the endzone and another off a pick-six.
"Everybody believes in one another defensively," LB Anthony Walker Jr. said. "We got to control what we can control, and that's us going out there, get stops and how we feel if a team doesn't score, they don't win the game. So, we got to play elite defense like we've been trying to do every game."