Cleveland Browns safety Grant Delpit says mistake-prone defense needs 'killer mentality'

BEREA ‒ Grant Delpit realizes that all of the positive numbers being posted by the Browns defense are being overshadowed by one fatal flaw.

The 12.5 points per game allowed by the Browns in the fourth quarter stands last in the league, environs also inhabited by the Los Angeles Rams (11.0) and Baltimore Ravens (10.8).

“Yeah, we’re pretty bad in the fourth quarter right now. That's not what great teams do,” Delpit said.

Cleveland Browns safety Grant Delpit warms up before playing the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Atlanta.
Cleveland Browns safety Grant Delpit warms up before playing the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Atlanta.

But the third-year strong safety believes he has an answer, and it’s not just cleaning up communication and technique issues.

“Just staying locked in for 60 minutes and having that killer mentality,” Delpit said Wednesday. “We have a standard to uphold to be a top-half, No. 1 defense. We've got to stick together and play four quarters.”

Going into a matchup of 2-2 teams in Sunday’s home game against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Browns defense ranks fourth in the league in yards per game allowed (326.0), fifth in passing yards (212.8), ninth in points (23.8) and 11th in rushing yards surrendered (113.3).

But mistakes by the Browns defense proved costly in both losses. They allowed 13 points, including a 5-yard TD run by practice squad elevated-running back Caleb Huntley, in the final quarter of Sunday’s 23-20 setback at Atlanta. A 42-yard completion from Marcus Mariota to Olamide Zaccheaus on what Browns coach Kevin Stefanski described as a technique error set up the Falcons’ game-winning field goal.

“I believe that was like a Cover 3, everyone has a zone underneath,” Browns free safety John Johnson III said of the pass to Zaccheaus. “You’ve just got to find eyes to your coverage. It was like a two-man route, so we've got to find the guy that was missing. He snuck behind the linebackers, and we've just got to find him.”

Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson (84) runs against Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson (84) runs against Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

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Asked if the Falcons’ emphasis on running the ball pulled the linebackers up, Johnson said, “That could be a possibility.”

In a 31-30 collapse against the New York Jets, the Browns allowed 17 fourth-quarter points, including two touchdowns in the final 1:22. The first, a 66-yard Joe Flacco pass to Corey Davis was followed by a successful onside kick and a 15-yard scoring toss to Garrett Wilson with 22 seconds remaining.

The issues started in the opener at Carolina on Sept. 11, when the Browns survived 26-24 on a 58-yard Cade York field goal. They also allowed 17 points in the fourth, including Baker Mayfield’s 75-yard TD pass to Robbie Anderson.

"I think we have gone a long way in working on those type of things," Stefanski said Wednesday. "We just have to continue to play sound football, get lined up, play the defense and execute.”

Johnson didn’t have a good answer for the final quarter failures.

“I can't really put my finger on it,” he said. “You're going to get the team's best effort in the fourth quarter and we've got to match that intensity, so I think we've just got to put an emphasis on it.”

It’s possible the Browns’ focus slips, especially when they get a lead.

“I can't really speak about all that about other people. I know I try to do my part for four quarters,” Delpit said. “Just gotta have a heightened awareness for four quarters. That's when you go win the game, so that's what we have to do.”

Stefanski didn’t acknowledge that was part of the issue.

“What we try to do always is letting our team know that you have to lock in for 60 minutes,” he said. “It is a prerequisite when you are playing NFL football because you just don’t know when that play is going to turn the tide is going to occur.”

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Browns cornerback Greedy Williams, activated from injured reserve Wednesday after missing four games, sounded like he believes more pregame preparation is required.

“Everybody’s just got to be dialed in in time and locked in and taking notes, going over your notes, go through your playbook,” Williams said of coverage breakdowns. “Let’s start there….”

Delpit said the Browns have the “killer mentality," but have to show it the whole game.

“Every time we step on the field we want to make a statement. We want to play to the best of our abilities,” he said. “Sometimes plays don’t go our way, sometimes they do, but we just gotta stay locked in.”

Stefanski doesn’t care if it’s called a “killer mentality” or a “finishing mentality,” but realizes its importance as the Browns’ strength of schedule ramps up.

Williams agreed with a suggestion that Browns defenders should remind each other of that.

“Sure. That’s kinda what I’ve been talking to them about,” Williams said. “Like, how do we finish the fourth quarter? We’re going to find our ways and we need to find it real soon.”

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Browns defense last in the NFL in fourth-quarter scoring