CB Denzel Ward had one of his best performances this season against the Cardinals at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The two-time pro bowler completely shut down the Cardinals' best wide receiver, Marquise Brown.
"I take every challenge personally," Ward said. "This week, the game plan was for me to follow Brown, so I took it personally. The goal was to take him away to help the team come out with the win."
Brown was held to four catches for 24 yards, the lowest number of yards he has had in a game this season. Brown only had two catches for four yards before catching two passes for 20 yards in the fourth quarter when the Browns were already up 27-0.
Ward caught his second interception this season guarding Brown in the second quarter. Cardinals QB Clayton Tune tried to connect with Brown on a slant route, but he was intercepted by Ward, who was in zone coverage. Yet, he kept his eyes on Brown the entire time.
DC Jim Schwartz dialed up a scheme in practice this past week to put his defensive backs in the right places to make plays and confuse Tune, who played in his first game.
"We knew we wanted to do a lot of disguises this game going against a rookie quarterback," CB Martin Emerson Jr. said. "We played zone visual and man the whole game. Then, in the next play, we might switch it up again to make it confusing for a quarterback. Ward's interception was a product of the schemes we were in, plus his great instincts. He honestly should have had two interceptions."
The Browns celebrate after a win over the Arizona Cardinals on November 5, 2023 at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
On third-and-5 with 5:33 left in the third quarter, Ward almost came away with his second interception on the day. He jumped a slant that Brown was running, and his hands touched the ball but didn't secure the catch. It appeared as if he dropped the pass, but Brown knocked the ball out of Ward's hands. Throughout the game, Brown was targeted eight times and only caught two passes where Ward was guarding him. Ward made it difficult all evening for him to find separation.
Ward, in his sixth year with the Browns, has not only been a good leader on the field, but he has been one at practice for the younger defensive backs.
"Denzel comes to work every day," S Grant Delpit said. "He doesn't say much. He just goes to work. You see it in his technique and work ethic. I take a lot from his game. I try to get some press work with him to improve my feet. He's a technician out there for sure."
Ward finished Sunday's game with three tackles, two pass deflections, and an interception. After getting his second interception, Ward became one of only two NFL players alongside Denver's Justin Simmons to record at least two interceptions each season since 2018. Ward has an impressive 15 career interceptions since joining the Browns as a first-round pick in 2018.
This interception put him on par with Emerson, who has the most interceptions on the team. The defensive backs have a friendly competition to see who will end up with the most interceptions this season.
"When you compete amongst each other, it's always great because that means you're trying to get better," S Juan Thornhill said. "If one guy is trying to up the next, then the turnovers will continue."