Browns' Defense Dominates in Deshaun Watson's Return

Cleveland's defense stole the show from Deshaun Watson in Week 9.
The Cleveland Browns' defense turned in another dominant performance in Week 9.
The Cleveland Browns' defense turned in another dominant performance in Week 9. / Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns' defense has been arguably the best in the NFL this year, and it proved why on Sunday.

While all eyes were on Deshaun Watson in his latest return from a shoulder injury, the Browns' defense ended up stealing the show. They completely dominated the Arizona Cardinals during Week 9's 27-0 win, putting up a historic performance.

Browns Week 9 Win

As expected, Cleveland's defense absolutely feasted on Sunday. The Cardinals were doomed from the jump after trading away starting QB Josh Dobbs to the Minnesota Vikings earlier this week, leaving rookie Clayton Tune to make his first NFL start. And with Arizona's top two running backs out as well, Tune didn't have a reliable ground game to take the pressure off of him.

Not surprisingly, Tune was a disaster. The Browns' defense already led the NFL in fewest yards allowed per game coming into Week 9 (260.0), then improved that mark by yielding just 58 -- the third-fewest allowed in team history. They also racked up 7 sacks and forced 3 turnovers en route to their first shutout since 2007.

Cleveland's ferocious defense almost obscured how well Watson played. In his first full game since Week 3, Watson went 19-of-30 passing for 219 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also added 22 yards on the ground, finishing with a 107.5 Quarterback Rating -- his second-best mark of the season.

It's encouraging to see Watson look back to normal after attempting just 4 passes over the previous 5 weeks combined. The Browns will need him and their defense to both be at their best when they travel to Baltimore next week to face the AFC North-leading Ravens, who are now 7-2 (1.5 games ahead of Cleveland) after demolishing the Seattle Seahawks in Week 9.

It's going to be a tough matchup, but based on what they saw this week, Browns fans have reasons for optimism.

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