Joe Woods hopes Browns' turnover success 'a trend' that continues against Bengals

Cleveland Browns celebrate an interception by Browns safety John Johnson III during the first half of an NFL football game between the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans in Houston, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022,. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Cleveland Browns celebrate an interception by Browns safety John Johnson III during the first half of an NFL football game between the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans in Houston, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022,. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

BEREA − There were a lot of individuals around the Browns who were waiting for a game like last Sunday. None, maybe, more than defensive coordinator Joe Woods.

“Oh yeah, definitely," Woods said Thursday. "Feels good when you get those type of games or you are playing those type of games.”

Those types of game Woods is referring to are the ones where the Browns defense is able to finally, after a season-long struggle at it, create the kind of game-changing takeaways like they had in the win over the Houston Texans. In one game, the Browns created four takeaways, and nearly had a chance at a couple of others.

It's a one-game showing, admittedly against a bad Texans offense. However, for a defense which was seemingly unable to get turnovers for the first 11 games, it was a welcomed performance.

What Woods hopes is that it can have the same effect as turning on a spigot. It certainly had that effect for at least one Sunday, where one turnover seemed to lead to another.

“They do," Woods said of the impact of stacking takeaways in one game. "Sometimes you get in a groove and you feel like every call you make is going to work. It was just that feeling. So it was a good job by the guys.”

Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) is congratulated by Greg Newsome II (20) after Ward recovered a Texan fumble to score during the second half of an NFL football game between the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans in Houston, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) is congratulated by Greg Newsome II (20) after Ward recovered a Texan fumble to score during the second half of an NFL football game between the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans in Houston, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

The Browns forced a pair of fumbles, one of which came on a punt return, while also intercepting Houston quarterback Kyle Allen twice. Three of the takeaways came in the second half, which directly helped them turn a 7-5 halftime lead into a 27-8 lead in the fourth quarter.

The Browns totaled just eight takeaways their first 11 games.

The only other time they had taken the ball away from an opponent multiple times in a game came back in Week 8 when they had a pair in a win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Now, as the Browns prepare to travel to Cincinnati for Sunday's rematch with the Bengals, Woods hopes what happened in Houston can have a carryover.

“I have to believe that because we need more," Woods said. "You see what happens when we get the takeaways. For whatever reason, they weren’t coming our way early in the season. Hopefully, what we did really the last couple of weeks is a trend and it continues.”

Cincinnati comes into Sunday's game having turned the ball over 12 times this season. The Bengals have thrown eight interceptions, while they've lost four fumbles.

The Cleveland Browns' Denzel Ward intercepts a pass from Joe Burrow before his 99-yard return for a touchdown Sunday in Cincinnati.
The Cleveland Browns' Denzel Ward intercepts a pass from Joe Burrow before his 99-yard return for a touchdown Sunday in Cincinnati.

While Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is second in the league is completion percentage, he's tied for 22nd in interceptions and 15th in interception percentage. Against the Browns, he's thrown four picks in the last three games he played against them, including one on the opening drive of each of those games.

That means there could be opportunities for the Browns to get their hands on passes if they're in the right spot. While there's a level of "turnover luck" involved in some ways − see Tony Fields II's pick-six off a deflected pass − there's also a level of preparedness involved to be in the right position to make the play when it's presented to the defense.

"We want to play our technique," safety John Johnson III said. "We wanna play our football the whole game regardless. But anytime you turn the ball over, I mean anytime you get a takeaway on the first drive, it does kind of set the tone and a spark for that defense, because everyone else wants one. Once the first guy gets one, I gotta get one."

The Browns weren't doing that over the three games previous to last Sunday. They went from the 3:25 mark of the second quarter in Week 8 until six seconds into the Texans game, a span of more than 14 quarters, without one until Johnson's first-play interception.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow fumbles the ball while being hit by Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki, right, during the first half in Cleveland, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow fumbles the ball while being hit by Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki, right, during the first half in Cleveland, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022.

The lack of takeaways was such an issue that defensive end Myles Garrett brought it up in the postgame following the Week 11 loss to Buffalo. To Garrett, what it had done was allow opponents to find a rhythm on offense because their drives weren't being stopped before they could get started.

Garrett's words rang true against Houston. Two turnovers came on the first play of drives, a second came on the second play and the final one, on the punt, ended a possession before it even got started.

“Yeah, we knew we were going to have some opportunities," Garrett said after the Texans game. "We just had to make the most of it, being able to stay tight in coverage. We felt if we got some pressure in his face, we were going to be able to get (Allen) off the spot, get him some errant throws and get him to make some plays through the air, and we were able to do that. Especially them forcing some fumbles as well, that came up big. I know I said something last week and received that response.”

Contact Chris at ceasterling@thebeaconjournal.com.

On Twitter: @ceasterlingABJ

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Cleveland Browns defense looks to carry takeaway success to Cincinnati