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Defense sees vast potential of offense, which looks to build on strong showing vs. Titans

The defense has shown up all year. When the passing offense finally arrived last week, not only did the combination make for a comfortable 27-3 win over the Titans, the performance provided a look at the Browns’ potential.

Members of the defense said that’s what they expected all along.

Deshaun Watson listed as questionable, expects to face Ravens despite sore throwing shoulder

“They’re too dynamic on that side of the ball to not do so,” end Myles Garrett said. “The offensive line is great. Skill players are great. We have so much talent on that side of the ball. It’s just fun to watch, and it’s just a matter of when.”

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Deshaun Watson had his best game with the Browns, going 27-for-33 (82 percent) for 289 yards, two touchdowns and a 123.4 passer rating. Receiver Amari Cooper caught seven passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Elijah Moore caught nine passes for 49 yards. Running back Jerome Ford scored touchdowns in the air and on the ground.

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The hope is the progression will continue Sunday vs. the Ravens at Cleveland Browns Stadium in a matchup of 2-1 teams battling for at least a share of first place in the AFC North.

“When you compete against the offense for the whole training camp and offseason, I always said that they were going to be really good,” linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. said. “And we always know that sometimes defenses just are way ahead of offenses to start a season. Obviously they took a step in a positive direction last week. But when they catch their stride, it’s going to be scary to see.”

The full fright for opponents might not arrive until closer to Halloween, especially with Watson dealing with a sore throwing shoulder. He’s expected to play vs. the Ravens but didn’t throw much in practice and was listed as questionable.

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He threw with much greater accuracy vs. the Titans and said he did a better job handling his emotions compared with the Monday night loss to the Steelers, which included him getting penalized twice for grabbing a face mask.

“He just played confident,” coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. “I thought he had owned the plan across the board, knew exactly what we were trying to get done and made great decisions throughout the whole game. To have six incompletions and two of those be throwaways, that’s a really good day.

“So that’s the blueprint moving forward. It’s not always going to go that smoothly, we know that. But that was a really strong day of decision-making, accuracy, everything that comes with quarterback play.”

The bruise on Watson’s shoulder isn’t expected to linger, but the offense may have to lean on the defense vs. Lamar Jackson and a Baltimore team missing several key pieces with injuries. The defense has shown what it’s capable of — leading the league in points (10.7), yards (164) and first downs (seven) allowed per game — and is striving to stay at that level.

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“We got to put our eyes on the next opponent and not what we’ve done in the past and not what we’re going to do a month from now or two months from now,” coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “Let’s live in the moment, let’s practice hard, let’s meet well, let’s prepare well and let’s go out and perform well on a Sunday and just keep doing that and we can keep stacking those.

“I think that you can get derailed a little bit in this league. Sometimes success is harder to deal with than failure. A lot of guys can bounce back really quickly from failure. There’s a human nature to your pride and you get beat and you want to come back and you want to correct that. But sometimes it’s hardest when you are experiencing success to not get off track. My job is to make sure that we stay focused on what we have to do in that moment as opposed to what our stats are and everything else.”

Schwartz said the true stat is “2-1.” That goes for offense, defense and special teams.

“Let’s just try to win a football game,” he said. “Let’s keep the score down. Let’s try to set our offense up. Let’s bring some passion to the game. Let’s get our fans excited. Let’s get our home field going and make it hard for opponents to play here. I think if we do those things, then we’ll be successful.”

The Browns, who have a bye next week, are 2-0 at home to start the year, outscoring the Bengals and Titans 51-6. They’re 18-9 at home since Stefanski was hired in 2020.

“Oh my God, the energy is second to none,” tight end David Njoku said Wednesday. He was added to the injury report Saturday as questionable after burning his face and arm lighting a firepit at home Friday. “The Dawg Pound brings it every time. I’ve been here for seven years, I’ve seen ups and downs and just seeing them always supporting, it means the world to us.”

“Definitely take a lot of pride in playing at home and defending our stadium in front of our fans,” cornerback Denzel Ward said. “Just the competitiveness out of our fans, the loudness that has been on those third downs and on those stops.”

David Njoku questionable after suffering burns to face, arm lighting firepit at home

Since the schedule came out in the spring, the focus was on the first month that included games against all three AFC North rivals. A win over the Ravens would give the Browns a leg up at 2-1 inside the division.

The key vs. Baltimore and moving forward is the defense staying dominant and getting support from the offense and special teams.

“That’s the way the game is supposed to be played,” Cooper said. “Complementary football, that’s what all great teams do, and great players feed off of each other.”

Njoku didn’t need the win over the Titans to feel optimistic.

“It was very encouraging, but mind you, I was here during camp, so I’ve seen the great things that we can do,” he said. “I really feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface because we have so much potential on offense, defense being rated No. 1. We have a really, really good thing going on and we got to just keep rolling.”

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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