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Browns defense looking to replicate 2021 turnaround game vs. Ravens 

The Browns defense did a serviceable job of limiting QB Lamar Jackson in Baltimore last season, and it’s imperative for them to do it again after three straight losses


Players on the Browns defense haven't forgotten about what happened the last time they were in Baltimore.

With a season-high four takeaways, all which were interceptions, the Browns made life difficult for QB Lamar Jackson in Week 12 last season and limited the Ravens to 16 points. The performance was one of the best the defense built last year and suggested that their turnaround from an inconsistent first half was legit — and it was, as the Browns limited opponents to 26 or less points in their remaining five games.

The only problem with that game, of course, was that the Browns didn't win. The offense posted 10 points, but the defense still left the game feeling as though they were trending in the right direction.

"That is the level that we want to play at," safety John Johnson III said. "We did a lot of good things, so you definitely want to take note of some of those things and try to replicate it this week."

Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Patriots yesterday by the Browns photo team

With a 2-4 record this season, the Browns need to depart Baltimore on Sunday with a win and snap a three-game losing streak that has dug an early hole to the top of the AFC North. Doing so will likely require a similar turnaround game for the defense, which has struggled in several areas in the first six games but has the talent to flip a switch.

Cleveland ranks 31st in the league with 27.2 points per game and has surrendered at least 30 points in their last two games. They showed improvements against the run last week against the Patriots by holding top running back Rhamondre Stevenson to 76 yards, but they allowed Bailey Zappe, a fourth-round rookie QB, to pass for 309 yards and two touchdowns.

New problems have emerged for the defense just about every week, and they have to stop that trend against a mobile QB like Jackson, who can beat a team with his arm or his legs. 

"He makes up for like 80 percent of their yards, really," LB Jacob Phillips said. "It's going to be a big factor for us. It's a divisional game, so we're used to it, seeing him two times a year. It's going to be one of those games where we have to limit him as best we can."

The Browns proved they can stop Jackson last season — in addition to the takeaways, they held him to a season-low 165 passing yards and 68 rushing yards on 17 attempts.

They also held his top receiving target in check, too.

TE Mark Andrews was limited to four catches for 65 yards. He still leveled some damage against the defense with a 39-yard one-handed catch and a 13-yard touchdown, a play made possible by Jackson's elusiveness in the pocket as he scrambled backwards and heaved the ball to Andrews. Overall, however, the Browns did a quality job of keeping Andrews quiet.

For the Browns to repeat their success against Jackson, it'll almost certainly have to come by preventing big plays from Andrews, who is a safe bet to lead the Ravens in targets if top wideout Rashod Bateman misses his third consecutive game with a foot injury.

"We went over the targets and the numbers he had on us last year, and they were clear as day that they want to get him the ball," Johnson said. "It has to be like a 'spidey-sense' of where he is and know that they want to get him the ball. I think we understood that last year."

An understanding not only in covering Andrews but playing fundamentally sound defense has to return Sunday for the Browns to avoid another costly loss.

The Ravens are the first of two divisional opponents the Browns will play before their Week 9 bye week. After Baltimore, they'll return home for a Week 8 matchup against the Bengals on Monday Night Football. 

Win both games, and the Browns are certain to still be in the playoff race after the bye. Win one, and those hopes still likely stay alive. Lose both, and a climb back into the playoff race will become extremely difficult.

The Browns, though, are keeping their focus on their next game — and the defense knows from last season they can handle business against the opponent.

"Obviously, we want to be the best," Johnson said. "We're far from that right now, but what's most important is winning. We have two games coming up, division games. I think if we win both, we'll be in first place. 

"As bad as we're playing, that's the big picture, and that is what we are trying to focus on."

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