The Browns' defense thrived on turnovers and big-time plays in big moments throughout the 2020 season.
That stretched into the postseason, too, and served as the backbone for Cleveland's first playoff victory since 1994.
The Browns posted 21 takeaways during the 2020 regular season and added five big ones in their Wild Card triumph over the Steelers. Despite dealing with a slew of injuries all throughout the season and into the playoffs, Cleveland finished with a plus-5 turnover margin, the eighth-best mark in franchise history and a huge improvement from the minus-8 it posted in 2019.
And for the Browns, perhaps more than any team in the NFL, turnovers translated directly into victories. Cleveland went 10-0 in games in which it won the turnover battle, winning just once (Week 12 at Jacksonville) when it was on the wrong side of the margin.
Some of these takeaways were flashier than others. Some were more consequential. Many of them are featured in the video at the top of the page.
Only two have been chosen by Andrew Gribble and Nathan Zegura as the Browns' defensive play of the year.
Gribble: Wild Card Round at Steelers - Karl Joseph recovers fumble in end zone for TD on game's 1st play
Joseph has made more impressive plays throughout his NFL career. This just so happened to be the most significant and foreshadowing. We all remember where we were when the play occurred — some of us may not have even turned on the TV yet! On the very first play of the Browns' biggest game in 18 years, Joseph and a crowd of Browns defensive players sprinted toward the end zone when a wayward Steelers snap went tumbling 15 yards over the head of QB Ben Roethlisberger. The ball squirted further and further backward as players sprawled toward it. Ultimately, it was Joseph who secured it, staking Cleveland to a 7-0 lead just 15 seconds into the game. It'd be a lead the Browns would not relinquish as they went on to score 28 unanswered points in an unforgettable first quarter. Joseph's touchdown was the Browns' first defensive score in a playoff game since 1988 (Frank Minniefield vs. Colts) and the first defensive touchdown on the first play of a playoff game since 1965. There's simply no topping this moment.
Zegura: Week 3 vs. Washington - Myles Garrett calls game with strip sack followed by fumble recovery
Garrett had a dominant season in 2020, finishing with 12 sacks en route to becoming the first player in Browns history to record double-digit sacks in three consecutive seasons. On four of his 12 sacks, Garrett got the big prize with a sack-strip-fumble. His four forced fumbles ranked third in the NFL, and early in the season he had the sack-strip-fumble in three consecutive games from Week 2 to Week 4. The one that occurred Week 3 against the Washington Football Team was my favorite of Garrett's sacks because it was the one that saw him complete the trifecta by making the sack, forcing the fumble and recovering it himself. With the Browns up 31-20 with 6:47 to play and the Football Team driving near mid-field, Garrett decided to call "game." Garrett blew past the left tackle, used his trademark bend to get to the quarterback and chopped the ball down and out of the quarterback's hands as he threw him to the ground. The ball bounced right off the turf, and Garrett grabbed it out of the air, saying "Gimme that" to effectively end the game and seal the win for the Browns.
Check out the best 100 photos from this season by the Browns photo team