After the Browns loss to the Steelers on Sunday, T.J. Ward let out some of his frustration publicly. It is not something the team would want to have happen, but at the same time, it serves a purpose given the circumstances of the past two weeks. The defense has had the game taken out of its hands before it really had a chance. They played well and gave up little but hard to notice that when the offense and special teams had already lost the game. Ward’s comments are important because it shows the defense cares, but the timing of them coming after the Steelers game is notable because it demonstrates how important that game is to him and the rest of the defense.
The past two weeks have been a spectacular failure by the offense and special teams in the case of the Bengals game. Against the Steelers, the Browns offense gave them a touchdown in the form of Brandon Weeden throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown. A fumble on the hit that injured Jason Campbell was returned to the 4 yard line and ultimately went in for a touchdown. That is already 14 points that the defense had virtually no part; the offense only scored 11 points in the game. The defense could have been flawless the entire game outside of a 4 yard pass play and they still lose the game, unless they are able to score points for the offense.
The Browns defense did score points for the offense in the game against the Bengals as Joe Haden had a pair of interceptions; one of which he was able to score himself and one which put the offense on the doorstep and the offense was unable to get into the end zone. They settled for a field goal. The Browns defense spotted them a 10 point lead and the offense and special teams melted down in historic fashion in the second quarter.
It started with a tipped interception that put the Bengals on the Browns 12 yard line. The next possession was followed up with a tipped punt that put the Bengals on the Browns 38 yard line. Then, the Bengals score on a blocked punt followed by a fumble return for a touchdown. The offense scored 10 points, which is exactly how much the defense scored for them.
The Browns defense has not been perfect. They are not going to be perfect. Ward is not perfect and needs to continue toget better. Nevertheless, teams are going to score some points. However, in the past two weeks, the offense and special teams have lost the game before the defense has had a chance to get on the field, even in a game where the defense scored points for the offense. It has to be incredibly frustrating for the defense to have the game over before they have a chance to do anything.
In some respects, Ward’s frustration has the feel of a lawyer making an outburst in court knowing it will be held against them just to get it in the minds of the jury. Ward was wrong in the sense that he should not have made the comments publicly but right in the sense that he got the frustration on the record. It shows the defense cares and the timing of doing it after two weeks when the defense was completely screwed as well as playing two division opponents in a row. The timing of it being after the Pittsburgh game is key to this as well. It would not mean as much after a game with Jacksonville. It carries more weight with Pittsburgh. This also cannot be something that happens often. It has an impact when it happens once at a time like this one. It loses its significance if this becomes a monthly or weekly occurrence.
The Browns defense gets criticized too much for what has been a great year. The offense has been so bad, the margin of error for the defense has been almost nil and in the past two weeks, has been out of the game before they had a chance. This team’s offense has been a disaster. It already underlines what was already clear; the front office is going to have to make the right moves to get a franchise quarterback and build a legitimate offense to pair with a talented defense. The defense is trying to establish an identity and become a presence within the league. For the most part, they have done that but it makes it difficult to do that when the offense is as impotent as it has been.