After losing consecutive games for the first time this season, the Cleveland Browns returned home and knocked off the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars 31-27. The team is now 8-5 on the season and improved to 6-1 at home, the second-best mark in the NFL. As the standings currently sit, the Browns own the fifth seed and are a game up on a bevy of teams logjammed at 7-6.
The officiating across the NFL has been poor far too many times this season. On Sunday, the ref crew was not all that great, or even consistent. Unlike Patrick Mahomes, Myles Garrett was frustrated with the officials, and for good reason.
Regardless of the officiating, or that Cleveland continues to pile on the injury list, this team persevered and found a way to go 1-0 for the week. This speaks volumes to how Kevin Stefanski has weathered the countless, sometimes seemingly never-ending storms, and how this team has bought into their head coach.
Here is how the defense of the Browns graded in the Week 14 victory over the Jaguars.
Cleveland Browns Defensive Line
Coming into the game against Jacksonville, the Browns struggled to bring down the opposing quarterbacks in their previous two games, both of which were on the road. Getting that home cooking seemingly energized this unit as it was able to frustrate Jags' QB Trevor Lawrence and sack him four times.
Getting in on the sack party were Grant Delpit, Ogbo Okoronkwo, Maurice Hurst, and Za'Darius Smith. Myles Garrett also had a sack, however, it did not count as it came on a two-point attempt. Garrett was consistently in the Jacksonville backfield and had three of the Browns' 12 quarterback hits. Hurst continues to be one of the more underrated free agent signings general manager Andrew Berry made in the offseason. Belly rubs for all.
After the game, Smith said that the defensive line "got chewed out at the beginning of the week" for the lack of sacks and not a lot of big plays. Whatever was said in those meetings sure worked as the Browns just continued to come right at Lawrence for the majority of the game. The Jaguars struggled to run the ball, rushing for 58 yards on 20 carries (2.9 yards per carry).
Cleveland Browns Secondary
Despite missing Denzel Ward for the third-straight game, the secondary continued to play well in his absence, none more noticeably than Martin Emerson Jr. For the first time in his career, Emerson had a multi-pick game as he was able to come down with two Lawrence passes. Emerson also had three pass breakups and four solo tackles. After the game, he said his first pick felt good, but the second one was defining.
Emerson is making a strong case for Pro Bowl considerations and putting the league on notice. Greg Newsome II also picked off Lawrence, but the buck didn't stop there as he had four pass breakups and five solo tackles. That is one heck of a tandem and that doesn't add to the fact they'll get Ward back soon.
As aforementioned, Delpit had yet another pick on a blitz, something that happens quite frequently for him this season. Five of his six tackles were solo and one was for a loss. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah continues to excel in Jim Schwartz's defense and he led the team with eight tackles, all solo, and two for a loss. He was all over the field on Sunday.
Lawrence finished the game 28/50 for 257 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions. While that is an impressive game, there is also nuance. Since the defensive front made it difficult for the Jags to run the rock, they were forced to pass the ball more. The Cleveland secondary limited Lawrence to 4.4 yards per pass and Jacksonville trailed for much of the game.