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Cleveland Browns defensive backs take extra pleasure in silencing Bengals: Takeaways

CLEVELAND − The message was sent loud and clear to the newest member of the Browns secondary. It didn't take long for rookie cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. to understand what facing the Cincinnati Bengals meant to his fellow defensive backs.

"Coming into the week, I know [cornerback] Greg Newsome, he told me it was going to kind of feel like the Super Bowl, because they have a great group of receivers," Emerson told the Beacon Journal. "I feel like our group, we thrive off of competition."

Those Browns defensive backs did just that against the Bengals. That's a big reason why the Browns were able to snap a four-game losing streak on Monday night with a 32-13 win over the Bengals.

The tone may have been set for Emerson earlier in the week. For guys like Newsome, it came well before.

The Bengals receivers, specifically Ja'Marr Chase, spent the summer directing some pointed comments towards the Browns' secondary, specifically Newsome and Denzel Ward. Newsome denied that added motivation to the game in the week leading up to Monday night.

Once the victory was secured, though, Newsome acknowledged there was much more to the game than your run-of-the-mill NFL matchup.

"When you call us out and say it's on sight, it's always going to be on our mind," Newsome said. "That was a game that I circled, honestly, from the beginning of the season. So to come out here and do what we did today, I'm proud of us."

Both the Browns secondary and Bengals receivers were missing key players. Ward has been out since Oct. 9 with a concussion, and Chase sustained a hip injury that will sideline him for multiple weeks.

That didn't lessen the intensity of the matchup. It merely changed the characters involved in the matchup.

Exit Ward, enter A.J. Green. A second-year pro, Green was one of three cornerbacks to start for the Browns, who came out in the nickel against the wide-open Bengals offense.

Green came up with the first of many big plays for the Browns when he snuffed out the Bengals' first drive by intercepting a pass deflected by Myles Garrett.

"[Defensive coordinator] Joe Woods with a great call," said Green, who had played just a handful of defensive snaps prior to Monday. "Just like a 2-to-1 read. I'm in on my guy, Myles with a great deflection and then have to end up with the ball at that point."

The Browns didn't get to every pass thrown by Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, who completed 25 of 32 passes for 232 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns. They did, however, get to more than enough that they took a shutout into the fourth quarter.

Burrow found Tyler Boyd on the second play of the fourth quarter for a 13-yard touchdown to break up the shutout, pulling the Bengals to within 25-6. He found Tee Higgins − who simply outjumped Greedy Williams, who missed most of the first half due to illness − for a 41-yard touchdown with 6:40 remaining to get the Bengals back to within 19 points.

The Bengals got no closer, giving the Browns' defensive backs the final word. At least, that is, until they meet again on Dec. 11 in Cincinnati.

"It’s just like talk is cheap," Williams said. "You’ve got to come out and play. When it’s time to play, all that talk goes away. We don’t really listen to the outside, we just kinda focus on ourselves and go out and ball."

Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett continues to find deep throws

The Browns aren't necessarily going to ask Jacoby Brissett to air it out deep on a consistent basis. However, there's no question they do need the quarterback to be able to hit some shots in order to keep defenses honest.

The past couple of weeks, that's what Brissett is starting to do a little bit more. It started with the Oct. 23 loss at the Baltimore Ravens, when he connected on both passes of more than 20 yards, and nearly had a third if not for an offensive pass interference call against Amari Cooper.

Against the Bengals, Brissett again maximized some throws deep against a Bengals secondary missing some players. He had five completions of at least 26 yards, including a big 53-yard strike to Cooper to set up the Browns' final touchdown.

Three of Cooper's five catches were for at least 27 yards, helping him finish with 131 yards in the game. Donovan Peoples-Jones, who had 81 yards on four catches, had catches of 26 and 37 yards.

"It felt great," Peoples-Jones said. "Jacoby had a great game."

Browns get creative with James Hudson III to make up for David Njoku's absence

David Njoku watched from the sidelines as he recovered from an ankle injury. The Browns tight end's absence, though, led to some creative ways for the offensive coaches to replace him.

Harrison Bryant, typically the No. 2 tight end, moved up one spot and did not have a catch. Neither did either Pharaoh Brown or Miller Forristall, the other two tight ends active for the game.

No worries, because on this night, tight end might as well have been an extra offensive lineman. In fact, that's exactly what it was.

Browns running back D'Ernest Johnson runs for a second-half first down past Bengals cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, in Cleveland.
Browns running back D'Ernest Johnson runs for a second-half first down past Bengals cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, in Cleveland.

Offensive lineman Michael Dunn got heavy usage as a tackle-eligible. He was in on 22 plays as the extra tight end.

However, they got even more creative on a handful of plays, running both Dunn and tackle James Hudson III out as eligible receivers. That occurred on both of Nick Chubb's touchdown runs, a 3-yard run in the second quarter and an 11-yard run in the fourth.

“That was fun," coach Kevin Stefanski said. "We knew without Dave, other guys were going to have to step up – Harry [Bryant] and Pharaoh for sure. Then felt that we could get big at times with Michael and even James Hudson. It is always really game-plan specific with what you do, but those guys gave us some really good reps.”

Contact Chris at ceasterling@thebeaconjournal.com.

On Twitter: @ceasterling ABJ

Browns at Dolphins

Time: 1 p.m. Nov. 13

TV: CBS

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: How the Browns silenced Joe Burrow and the Bengals