After the Browns defense put up a terrific performance against the Titans in which they allowed three points the entire game, the defense went out to celebrate together for S Grant Delpit and CB MJ Emerson's birthdays.
The unit has been bonding with each other since training camp and credits their relationships off the field as one of the reasons they are in sync on the field.
"OTAs were a little slow when we first came together just because we had to learn the defense and get to know our teammates," CB Juan Thornhill said. "But we've been doing an outstanding job, like hanging outside the facility. That's what's allowing us to play so much better because we know our teammates. It makes you want to play better for the guy next to you when he's your brother and not just a teammate."
The Browns defense can make a strong case for being one of the best in the NFL. The defense's ability to prevent scoring opportunities is unmatched, contributing significantly to the team's success in holding opponents to an average of 6.67 points over three games. They currently lead the league in efficiency; the secondary has allowed 136 yards per game and the run defense allowed 156 rushing yards – 52 rush yards per game.
They have the best third-down defense in the league, allowing a conversion only 36 percent of the time. The Browns defense has also only given up one touchdown through three games. They've held both the Bengals and the Titans to under 150 net yards.
The Browns new defense, led by DC Jim Schwartz, is living up to the preseason expectations through three games.
"Well, I think the credit goes to everybody," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "I think to play at the level that we're playing at right now takes everybody, players, coaches. Obviously, Jim's doing a great job, I think, leading that defensive side, including with the defensive coaches. I think Jim does a great job of coaching the coaches, but I think it's everybody."
Sunday's defensive dominance against the Titans was the latest example. The Browns sacked QB Ryan Tannehill five times and held the Titans to 94 net yards of total offense. DE Myles Garrett contributed 3.5 sacks to the team's total of five sacks, bringing his season total to 4.5.
According to Pro Football Focus, in Week 3, Garrett had the best pass rush grade with 93.2. He also had the best pass rush win rate with 34.6.
"The guy's a freak," Thornhill said. "If you have to have two guys protect him, then it's hard to stop him. His IQ is at another level."
It's still early, but Garrett and the Browns defense certainly are at the top of the league in best defenses. Their next tests will come in upcoming matchups against the Ravens and the 49ers, but they have shown they can compete with anyone on any given Sunday.
"Just seeing the talent that we have and it's finally coming together, and the world is starting to see it," Thornhill said. "Guys are making a lot of plays, and everyone is starting to recognize what we're really capable of."