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Assessing the Browns defense mid-way through the season

Browns top-ranked defense is still struggling in red zone

Def mid way point

With under two minutes remaining, the Browns top-ranked defense faced off against the developing Seahawks offense in a Week 8 showdown with the score 20-17. Seattle marched down the field on a five-play drive to take the lead and win 24-20, despite the Seahawks needing 57 yards for a touchdown and the Browns defense being expected to stop them.

"We didn't execute the coverage," LB Anthony Walker Jr. said. "We didn't tackle the ball carrier down, give up a huge chunk play in two minutes you can't really do, and then we just got to execute, get off the field. However, that is, whatever that looks like, however we get it done, we got to do it."

Before that play, the Browns offense committed a turnover to put the defense in that position. This has been a theme this season, however; DC Jim Schwartz mentioned after the Browns Week 4 loss to the Ravens that the defense needed to stop opposing teams after turnovers or hold them to a field goal.

"We took the field after the turnover, and we had a missed assignment, and we gave up a touchdown on the very first play," Schwartz said about Lamar Jackson running for an 8-yard touchdown. "And I think that's probably the biggest disappointment. You had a rookie at quarterback. We needed to have his back. We needed to hold that to a field goal right there."

Since Week 4, the Browns defense has allowed five touchdowns after a turnover. Schwartz wants his defense to be able to go on the field and stop any offense from scoring a touchdown, no matter the bad field position they are in. 

The Browns defense is currently ranked 29th in red zone defense, allowing teams to score 66.7 percent of the time. This is the defense's biggest concern because it is the only stat where they struggle.

After Jackson scored the first touchdown, the game's momentum shifted to the Ravens. The 8-yard touchdown run put the Browns down and they were never able to recover, eventually losing 28-3. Again, in Week 6 against the 49ers in the fourth quarter, the 49ers scored a touchdown after the Browns offense gave up an interception. The touchdown put the 49ers up 17-13. Finally, against the Seahawks with the game on the line, the defense failed to stop the Seahawks from scoring a game-winning touchdown.

Despite the one flaw the Browns defense must fix if they expect to help the team go far, they have performed well in every other area. The team has now forced 10 turnovers, up from just three before the Week 5 bye.

They also have a total of 20 sacks and have allowed a total of 1,143 passing yards this season. They are still number one at stopping opponents from getting a first down at 25.9 percent. They also have the lowest opponent completion percentage, with 55.4 percent.

In the first three games, the Browns defense only allowed one offensive touchdown; in the last four games, the Browns have given up 14. They still showed signs of their early dominance by stopping the Seahawks on third down seven consecutive times last Sunday.

No defense is perfect and will have bad games, but the Browns have set a high standard for themselves and strive to exceed it. During practice this week, the team will focus on maintaining their gaps and attacking the ball carrier. In addition, they will emphasize the importance of fundamentals and proper technique to improve their overall performance.

"We know what this defense is made of," Walker said. "We know what we can do. The belief in and trust in the players, in the system and the coaches and everything like that is at a high time level, as it's always been."

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