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Browns defense shines in preseason loss to Bills

CLEVELAND — The Browns' starting defense dominated and the team's run game flashed promise in a 19-17 preseason loss to the Bills on Friday night…

What happened?

— The Browns defense, at least on paper, could be one of the league's better units, and it showed against the Bills. Cleveland's first-team unit was lights out in limited action; the group allowed 22 yards in four drives and applied plenty of pressure on Bills quarterback AJ McCarron, who passed for 12 yards on 3-of-6 throws. Second-year defensive end Myles Garrett seemed unblockable at times, and second-year defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi delivered a big sack on third down.

— Cleveland took an early lead behind a run game that generally struggled in last week's win over the Giants. In front of the home crowd, Cleveland rolled up 99 yards on the ground in just the first quarter behind Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde, who capped the team's opening drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. In all, the Browns finished with 164 yards rushing on 32 attempts.

— Facing his former team, Browns starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor completed 4-of-7 passes for 22 yards in limited action. Taylor, who was traded to Cleveland by Buffalo following three seasons, helped the Bills snap a 17-year playoff drought last season.

— Taylor's understudy, rookie Baker Mayfield, continued to show poise and patience in the pocket, completing 7-of-13 throws for 75 yards and two touchdown passes that were overturned. Mayfield, the first-overall pick in the draft, engineered a nine-play, 65-yard drive that gave Cleveland a 17-13 lead early in the fourth quarter.

— Rookie Nick Chubb scored his first NFL touchdown, rushing for 53 yards on 11 carries. The former Georgia running back was the 35th overall pick in the draft.

Cleveland plays Buffalo Friday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Player of the game: Hyde. The former Ohio State star showed a combination of burst and power on nine carries for 64 yards and a touchdown. Hyde, who signed with the team in free agency, is coming off back-to-back seasons of at least 1,000 all-purpose yards with the San Francisco 49ers.

Key moment: Hyde ripped off a 26-yard run on his third carry of the night and leveled Bills (and former Browns) safety Jordan Poyer with a thunderous stiff-arm down the sideline. The play sparked Cleveland's first touchdown drive and set the tone for the rest of the evening.

What it means: The Browns fell to 5-1 in preseason games dating back to 2017. More importantly, Cleveland's run game was far more efficient than last week's opener and its defense — headlined by Garrett, Christian Kirksey, Damarious Randall, Jamie Collins and Denzel Ward — flashed stretches of legitimate dominance Friday night.

Who's next? The Browns host the Eagles on Thursday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

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