Browns Defense Refuses to Admit it May be ‘Burning Out’ During Stretch Run

Myles Garrett, leader of the Browns defense

Getty Myles Garrett takes the field before a Cleveland Browns game

Allowing 36 points to the Los Angeles Rams wasn’t exactly confidence-inspiring for the Cleveland Browns, especially on the heels of a 29-12 loss to the Denver Broncos.

All of a sudden, a dominant defense looks far more vulnerable.

Though the Browns still boast the NFL’s best defense by yardage allowed, giving up 260.5 yards per game, they’ve not-so-slowly been trending in the wrong direction.

They’ve allowed 303.4 yards per game since departing on a stretch of five road contests in seven weeks that kicked off with a 39-38 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, and that includes a stellar performance against a lackluster Arizona Cardinals offense in which Clayton Tune could only lead his troops to 58 total yards and a goose egg on the scoreboard. They’ve recorded just seven sacks over the last four weeks and forced a single turnover (a Russell Wilson fumble on a fourth-down scramble) in the last three.

But the Browns defense has too much pride to allow for even the possibility of a long-term decline.

Cleveland Doesn’t Feel Like ‘Burning Out’ is an Explanation

Spending nine days on the road is tiring. So, too, is playing so many road games over a relatively prolonged stretch, especially given some of the lackluster results in recent weeks.

As safety Juan Thornhill admitted after the loss to the Rams, per’s Ashley Bastock, “It’s always harder to play on the road, honestly. I mean, you don’t have the energy, you don’t have your fans, but you have to find a way to bring your own energy. So you can’t use that as an excuse. We’ve got to find a way to play better on the road for sure.”

Through 12 outings, Cleveland has given up 30.7 points and 346.3 yards per game on the road, compared to just 10.2 and 296.0 within the friendly confines of Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Perhaps that’s why panic isn’t setting in.

Instead, key players are cognizant of the schedule-related difficulties—having the earliest possible bye week in Week 5, facing the prolonged stretch of heavy travel later in the season and not even receiving a mini-bye after a Thursday Night Football contest.

“There is no such thing as burning out,” defensive end Ogbo Okoronkwo explained, per Bastock. “This defense, the way we play, it’s embedded in us. It’s ingrained in us. It’s who we are, so I don’t see us burning out. I think teams are—after 12 weeks, there’s a lot of film out there. I think we just got to keep getting back to work and keep sharpening and fine-tuning what we do.”

Several Factors Bode Well for the Cleveland Defense

Getting back to work is a lot easier from your home base, and Cleveland won’t have to depart from it with nearly as much frequency for the remainder of the regular season.

First comes a Week 14 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who may be without star quarterback Trevor Lawrence after he suffered a high-ankle sprain late in an overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Then comes a home game against the Chicago Bears before Cleveland closes out its schedule with road trips to Houston and Cincinnati sandwiching a home outing against the New York Jets.

Jacksonville ranks ninth in scoring offense but is now operating without Christian Kirk and possibly without Lawrence, and it’s been the most potent offense left on the Browns’ schedule. Chicago (No. 21), New York (No. 30) and Cincinnati (No. 20) have all been good for juicing their opponents’ defensive metrics, and Houston (No. 10) is dealing with major injuries that could put a damper on C.J. Stroud’s phenomenal rookie season.

Plus, the Browns themselves are getting healthier on the point-preventing side.

Ace pass-rusher Myles Garrett may as well have suited up against the Rams with only one fully functional shoulder. Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward is nearing a return from his own shoulder injury.

At the conclusion of the regular season, perhaps Browns defenders will be answering questions about burning brightly rather than burning out.

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