Olivier Vernon has played a big presence on the Browns defense throughout the second half of the season, and Sunday's effort was just another example of how important he's been.
Vernon never came off the field, playing all 72 defensive snaps. That was vital and necessary for the Browns, who dressed just three defensive ends for a game in which the team deployed five defensive linemen for stretches at a time. One week earlier in Jacksonville, Vernon played all but two snaps. The previous week, he won AFC Defensive Player of the Week after collecting three sacks against the Texans.
Vernon is second on the team with five sacks. All five have come since Week 8.
"He knew that it was going to be a full day's effort," Stefanski said. "I can't say enough about him from a standpoint of just constantly going. He is out there, and he is going. He is a very, very smart player, probably one of our smartest players. He understands how to rush. He understands what the defense is trying to do. We put him in some different spots yesterday, and he just kept coming and coming.
"I really think that speaks to obviously he is a pro's pro, but he takes really good care of his body. He works hard and gets extra in because he knows this is a long season."
Vernon and the rest of Cleveland's defensive line, buoyed by the return of Myles Garrett, played a pivotal role in limiting NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry to 60 yards, his second-lowest output of the season. Henry managed just 15 in the first half while the Browns built a 31-point lead.
The effort was even more rewarding for a Browns defense that had struggled of late to contain opposing running backs.
"We try to find a way to win that game that week, and just felt like there were some different things we could do from a front standpoint yesterday," Stefanski said. "I think it helped us, but to say that we are going to do that again is maybe not the case, but we will see. We will see what is necessary to get the win this week. That is kind of the evolution of our game plans, making sure that we have enough wrinkles so that we are both difficult to defend and we can go attack the offense."
Check out photos of the Browns against the Titans
LB Mack Wilson did not suffer a concussion, Stefanski said. Wilson was evaluated for a potential concussion during Sunday's second half but has since been cleared.
Stefanski said CB Denzel Ward (calf) and WR KhaDarel Hodge (hamstring) are "day to day." Ward has missed the past two games while Hodge suffered his injury at a practice last week.
DE Porter Gustin, the team's lone player on the reserve/COVID-19 list, is "making good progress" and could return this week.
WR Taywan Taylor (neck) is out.
Big Man Touchdown
JC Tretter couldn't help but smile as he watched T Kendall Lamm catch a touchdown pass in Sunday's second quarter.
Lamm reported as an eligible receiver for his one and only snap Sunday, found space in the end zone after a fake handoff to Nick Chubb and caught Baker Mayfield’s pass like he'd been doing it for years. The touchdown catch was the first of Lamm's career and the first by a Browns offensive lineman since 2001 (Shaun O'Hara).
"That is something you can never take away from a guy. It is something he can tell his grandkids. That is just awesome," Tretter said. "Scoring an NFL touchdown, you join a really elite class. Not many people are able to say that. We have known that play and other plays have been in in the past where he has gone out on routes and we have always hoped as an offensive line we will get a big man touchdown. So we were really excited when we saw the ball floating his way."
The Browns have an extra day to prepare for the Ravens, whom they'll host for Monday Night Football at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Cleveland will begin its official work week Thursday as opposed to Wednesday but will still use Wednesday to get better as a team.
"When the players walk in the building on Thursday, we will start our work week like it is a Sunday game," Stefanski said. "I told the coaches when they walk in the building on Thursday, it is Wednesday and they can't convince me of anything otherwise."