Not many cornerbacks around the NFL had a better month of November than Denzel Ward.
Ward, a four-year veteran, secured his third interception of the month Sunday night in Baltimore when he caught a tipped pass from Lamar Jackson. Ward was in the right place at the right time, and an athletic dive before the ball hit the ground helped him snag the first of four interceptions Jackson tossed in the game.
Ward's three interceptions this season matches his career high from his rookie year. He also has eight passes defensed and has helped the Browns secondary find some consistency as they head into the bye week, but as Ward discussed the state of his game and the rest of the Browns defense after a 16-10 loss at M&T Bank Stadium, he stressed there's plenty of work to be done.
"This is the ultimate team game, and we have to play as a team and complement one another," Ward said. "We just didn't do enough to get the win today, and that's really the biggest thing."
Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Ravens yesterday by the Browns photo team
Ward's interception was one of the Browns' biggest plays of the night, but he also took blame on one of the defense's biggest letdowns.
Baltimore scored its only touchdown of the game on a 13-yard pass from Jackson to TE Mark Andrews, who had no defenders around him as Jackson scrambled 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage, set his feet and heaved a pass up as DE Myles Garrett delivered a hit.
Andrews took a few steps forward in the end zone and caught the pass without any trouble, even though the ball was in the air for a good second or two. The look was a bad one for the defense, and Ward said the missed coverage was on him.
"Because we were in zero coverage, and I was driving on it," he said. "I thought the ball would come out quick, but I saw something else opening up, so I swung back to help make a play, and then he threw it up the middle, and I wasn't there.
"It got away from me. I was looking to make a play somewhere else."
The mistake was one of the few errors the defense committed against the Ravens, but the group was still hard on itself due to the result. The loss further shrunk the Browns' margin for error in their last five games, and an argument can be made that Cleveland will have to win all of them to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Ward's month of November was a strong one, but he knows he'll need to keep it up to help the Browns salvage their season.
"I believe we can (make the playoffs)," he said. "We need to take it a game at a time, and everything will take care of itself at the end of the year."
Luckily, the Browns have a full two weeks to recuperate and watch the film from Sunday to prepare for a rematch against the Ravens in Week 14. The bye week has finally arrived after 12 games, and the Browns certainly need it after they've spent most of the season working through injuries. They had 16 players on their injury report last week, while several others have been playing through injuries since training camp.
All of that is normal and expected on an NFL team. It doesn't mean that a bye week isn't needed and could be a huge boost for the Browns as they attempt a late reset to their season.
"I just need to get some rest this bye week and really just figure out how to get a win the next game," Ward said. "I just think guys need to rest up and get their mind right and come back stronger."