An extremely angry Cleveland Browns run defense will have had a week and a half to boil and focus on the Detroit Lions. The members of the Browns defense were reported to be incensed over their performance against the Buffalo Bills when it came to stopping the run. The Browns have been one of the best run defenses in the NFL, but the Bills were able to run for 155 yards on 31 carries at 5 yards per carry and score 3 touchdowns. This could be extremely bad news for the Detroit Lions and their 22nd ranked rushing offense this coming Sunday, but this whole situation is actually good news in the long run because the Browns have enough pride in what they are doing defensively and have the ability that being angry actually means something.
The Browns have established an identity on defense that starts with that front seven and their ability to stop the run. The players on the Browns have embraced this and taken pride in what they are able to do. D’Qwell Jackson came out and said that no one could run on them leading up to the Bills game. The Bills did run on them and ran on them with more success than any other team they have played by far. The Bills were able to almost double the average per carry that the Browns had given up in the first month of the season. Their three rushing touchdowns were the most the Browns have given up and the 155 yards were more than the Vikings were able to accumulate at 134. 46 of those yards were from Christian Ponder, which some may try to dismiss because they were largely on scrambles, but they still count.
In the case of the Bills and those 155 yards, only 14 were from quarterback E.J. Manuel. That means 141 yards were just running straight at them, including a 54 yard run from C.J. Spiller that was beautifully executed by the Bills. That total and that play in particular get under the skin of the Browns.
Coming into the game, the Bills were the second best run offense in the league. Behind a huge offensive line and having three backs that can gain yardage as well as a quarterback who could scramble and pick up yardage, made for a potent attack. The Browns had an opportunity to really put a stamp on what they had done up to that point in the season and while they won the game, the run defense was not what they wanted it to be.
The good news is the Lions have the 22nd ranked rushing offense. While Reggie Bush and Joique Bell can make plays and certainly cannot be taken lightly, a pissed off Browns defense looking to take their frustrations out on them combined with the fact the Lions are not great at running the football should result in a frustrating day for the Lions on the ground. And with injuries to Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson that make them both question marks for the game, the Browns should be able to put that much more focus on stopping the run.
As frustrating as the Bills game was for the rushing defense, it is important that the Browns take so much pride in that aspect of the game. Jackson’s quotes were ill-fated in hindsight, but he had reason to be able to puff up his chest and make that type of statement without feeling cheap and a means of trying to encourage bravado. He is not someone who is throwing out meaningless guarantees. The defense is legitimately good, is developing an attitude and a culture where they should expect to be good and when they are not, they take it personally. This is the first time a Browns team has been able to do that in any unit of the team other than special teams since they have come back in 1999.
The Lions do have something to be worried about in their preparation for the Browns this Sunday. The Browns defense is legitimately good and now they are angry and focused with a week and a half to prepare. How that ultimately shakes out is left to be determined but in addition to the overall matchup, this extra ingredient makes it hard to imagine the Lions will be able to eclipse the 100 yard mark. The Browns may not be able to shut them down like they did the Miami Dolphins but they are certainly going to make Matthew Stafford beat them with his arm, especially if they are missing wide receivers. As frustrating as it is for the Browns to get gashed the way they did, they are angry and motivated to come out this week and are able to be angry while also coming off of a win. The fact they are angry and not just content with the win, but looking to continue to improve and hit some goals while they win is an important step in the development of this team and should breed a lot of confidence in where this organization is ultimately headed in the future.