In the past five games, the Browns have won twice, but they were knocking on the door in losses vs. Baltimore and at Indianapolis and Dallas. One reason why Cleveland has put together such a competitive stretch: its defense has stepped up its play in a major way, with an eight-takeaway performance in Sunday's win at Pittsburgh especially impressive.
Overall, opponents have averaged just 286.0 yards in Cleveland’s last five games. It’s not as if the Browns’ defense has been full strength throughout these five games, either. DTs Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin have each missed multiple games in this stretch, and CB Joe Haden — perhaps the most important player on defense — missed the Week 11 loss at Dallas.
The defense struggled early in the season, and especially in a four-game stretch without Haden (suspension) in September and October. Of late, though, it has been an asset, not a liability, much like a season ago, when the Browns finished fifth in points and 10thin yards allowed. The defense’s progress reflects well on coordinator Dick Jauron. This is a young group, with 17 players having three years or less of service, but it is getting better.