There's no magic solution to shutting down Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. If there was, he wouldn't be performing at such a high level in his fourth NFL season.
The Browns, though, will be tasked with slowing down the dual-threat signal-caller enough to come out of Baltimore with what would be a massive division victory. Cleveland's had mixed results in its previous meetings against the former MVP, who can evade a defense even when it does everything right.
That's why the focus has centered on sound, responsible football for all 60 minutes of Sunday's primetime showdown. One slip-up is all it takes for Jackson to change a game.
"Everybody has to execute their job," defensive coordinator Joe Woods said. "There are a lot of things they do just in terms of misdirection, but the main thing with their offense is they really play with 11 because the quarterback runs it, so you have to play with 11. There are a couple things we can do, but we are going to have to use all of them to slow him down."
Over the past month, the Bengals and Dolphins did what it took to limit Jackson's effectiveness and emerge victorious.
Miami was, perhaps, the most successful, as Jackson threw for 238 yards, a touchdown and an interception while rushing for just 39 yards — his second-lowest total of the season — and taking four sacks. Baltimore scored a season-low 10 points and was on the wrong end of a double-digit stunner in Miami, which entered the game with just two wins. Jackson put up better stats against the Bengals — 257 passing yards, 88 rushing yards — but took five sacks and simply couldn't keep up with Cincinnati's offense in a 41-17 rout.
"Even the games they have lost, he has done pretty well sometimes," DE Myles Garrett said. "We have to go with the games that teams have actually had a solid plan for him and were able to execute it. Whether we have to blitz him 35 times like the Dolphins did or just have great containment like the Bengals did, we have to find what suits us the best."
The Browns have been among the best in the NFL at stopping the run, but Jackson, understandably, poses a unique threat as a dangerous runner who can also uncork deep touchdown passes. That's why it'll truly take all 11 defenders to play a part in limiting his production.
"All 11 guys have to be in the frame when the film stops," LB Anthony Walker said, "and that is what we are going to work on at practice."
Check out exclusive photos from the practice fields at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus of the Browns preparing for their Week 12 game against the Baltimore Ravens
Ward's Big Plays
Pro Bowl CB Denzel Ward is always one of the most reliable cornerbacks in the NFL, but his presence in the defense's highlight reel has increased over the past few weeks.
Ward nabbed his first interception of the season Week 9 against the Bengals, a 99-yard pick-six that set the tone for a dominant day in Cincinnati. This past week, Ward intercepted Lions QB Tim Boyle on his only deep pass attempt of the game, as he ran stride for stride with Josh Reynolds and wrestled the ball away in the end.
Woods said the big plays are a byproduct of Ward settling down and not trying to make a game-changing play on every snap.
"We have playmakers at all three levels of our defense," Woods said. "You just have to do your job and make the plays you are supposed to make. When they come your way, if you play proper technique, then you will make those plays."
Rookie CB Greg Newsome II's hard work in training camp paid off Week 11, when the Browns needed him to play a number of snaps in the slot.
Newsome, who typically plays on the outside, helped Cleveland overcome the loss of Troy Hill, who was out with a neck injury. When Newsome moved to the slot, Greedy Williams played on the outside, and the Browns didn't miss a beat.
"We trained him from the first time he got here from the offseason on of just being a versatile corner," Woods said. "We had visions of him playing either inside nickel or if we want to put four corners on the field, go with our quarter package. He has done a nice job. I think it was big for him just in terms of a confidence booster playing inside last week and doing a nice job."
Faith in Chase
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer made it clear Friday he hasn't lost any confidence in K Chase McLaughlin, who had an extra point blocked and missed a 46-yard field goal attempt in last week's win over the Lions.
On the season, McLaughlin is 13-of-16 on field goals with six of his makes coming from 40+ yards. He's 25-of-26 on extra points.
"He is a very mentally tough young man," Priefer said. "He has a lot of confidence in himself in a good way. He is not overconfident. He is not cocky. I just think he comes to work everyday expecting to make every kick, and when he does not, he is kind of surprised. 'OK, what happened? Let's fix it. Let's move on.' He is a very confident young man."