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Browns defense owns up to Week 14 mistakes, aims for big improvements vs. Giants

A short week of preparation meant the Browns didn’t have time to wallow over what went wrong in their Monday night loss

Joe Woods wasn't afraid to own up to the mistakes his defense made Monday night versus the Ravens.

The Browns allowed 385 total yards, 231 of which came on the ground. The Ravens' last two drives ended with a touchdown and a field goal, and five previous Baltimore touchdowns put Cleveland in a two-possession hole on two occasions. Even though the Browns battled back, the defense struggled to sustain the momentum, and the Ravens prevailed, 47-42, in one of the most thrilling NFL games of the season.

Woods didn't want to watch the tape. But he had to. So did the rest of the defense. They pointed out plenty of mistakes, and they're ready to move on.

"It was disappointing to be honest with you because we felt good about the game plan and I felt comfortable calling it," he said. "Even throughout the game, when you go back and watch it, we were just off a little bit at the wrong time."

Woods didn't back away from answering questions about what went wrong in his media interview Thursday with local reporters. He pointed out several plays where things simply broke down. He said the execution wasn't always on par, and he wishes he had made better play calls.

No play was more important than the Ravens' fourth-and-5 from Cleveland's 44. Just under 2 minutes were left on the clock, and if the defense could make a stop against quarterback Lamar Jackson — who had returned to the field for Baltimore's biggest play seconds after spending the entire quarter in the locker room to treat cramps — then Cleveland would get the ball back and drain the clock for a potential win.

But the play broke down as soon as the ball was snapped. Woods rushed six defenders hoping to frazzle Jackson and prevent him from gaining the first down with his legs. Two defenders in coverage collided, however, and that sprung Ravens receiver Marquise Brown for an easy, non-contested catch and clear path to the end zone. 

"We did not align correctly," Woods said. "We should have not bumped into each other. We did not execute the pressure correctly. I take full responsibility for that because that was a critical, game-changing play. We have to be better with our preparation during the week with everything we are doing."

But Monday is in the past. It's been irrelevant since the first few hours of Tuesday morning, when the Browns started their short week to prepare for their next battle against the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football.

The Giants won't have a quarterback as versatile and dynamic as Jackson. In fact, they don't know who their quarterback will be yet. Second-year starter Daniel Jones was listed as questionable as he deals with two injuries — he injured his hamstring and did not play in Week 13 and suffered an ankle injury last week.

That might lead to 10-year veteran Colt McCoy earning his second start of the season. McCoy has gone 21-of-35 for 154 yards with one touchdown and an interception this season and started in place of Jones when the Giants upset the Seattle Seahawks in Week 13.

Cleveland has done its homework on both quarterbacks.

"We're aware of that because it was part of our breakdown anyway," Woods said. "We're prepared either way with the slight difference with either quarterback."

The potential switch won't just be at quarterback either. Former Browns head coach and current Giants tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens will conduct play-calling duties for New York after offensive coordinator Jason Garrett tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.

Browns players and coaches, however, are not concerned about any edge Kitchens might have in his familiarity with the defense. The Browns have new terminology and a different defensive coordinator, after all, and their focus is on each of their individual player battles, not the play calls from Kitchens.

"I'm not going against Freddie Kitchens," defensive end Myles Garrett said. "I'm going against an offensive line, a quarterback and everybody else they have on offense."

The Browns believe that focus will help them bounce back after a turbulent performance from Monday. They're determined to ensure that loss won't detract them from finishing the season strong, and each win will be a monumental step toward clinching Cleveland's first playoff berth since 2002.

That's where the focus is. The Giants are up next. Everything else is in the past.

"We understand what style of play they want to play, and that is the type of game it is going to be," Woods said. "We are going to have to show up and be at our best."

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