Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns Defense All Over Marcus Mariota

The Browns defense swarmed all over rookie Marcus Mariota, sacking him 7 times and hitting him 11 times, forcing two lost fumbles

CLEVELAND—After having virtually no pass rush against the Jets in the season opener, the Browns turned up the heat on rookie Marcus Mariota.

The defense held the Titans scoreless until only 1:36 remained in the third quarter when Mariota was able to hit tight end Anthony Fasano for a 19-yard touchdown. 

The Browns were relentless attacking Mariota in the win. They finished with seven sacks, 11 quarterback hits and forced the rookie to lose two fumbles. A third fumble on Mariota was taken away as the Titans were called for delay of game after Tramon Williams picked up a loose ball from Mariota.

Mike Pettine was pleased with the way the defense got after the young quarterback.

“I think it was a good mix,” Pettine said. “I think Jimmy O (defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil) did a really good job mixing pressure with straight rush. We got to him a lot with just straight four man rush. Not just the sacks, I think there was also a cumulative effect with that we hit him a bunch too. We did a good job of there were a lot of pass plays, I look back, he’s picking himself up off the ground. Anytime you can do that to a quarterback, not just get the production with the sacks but affect him, you like to think that that has a cumulative effect over the course of a game.”

 Tashaun Gipson was asked if this was a bounce back game for the defense.

“Absolutely, I wouldn’t even call this a statement game,” he said. “This is just us wanting to come back out and say this is how we know how to play football. I think the defense went out and played well. I think that the front seven plays lights out. I tip my hat to those guys. 

“They made my job a whole lot easier, especially in the pass game. We definitely tip our hats to those guys,” he said. “They got after the quarterback and we played some good football today.”

Armonty Bryant had 2.5 sacks to lead the Browns, followed by John Hughes, who had 1.5 sacks. Bryant also forced a fumble, as did Hughes. Jamie Meder had his first NFL sack and K’Waun Williams added one on a blitz. Donte Whitner and Paul Kruger collaborated on another. 

Besides the sacks, Bryant had three quarterback hits, with Desmond Bryant adding three, as well.

Karlos Dansby led the Browns with nine tackles, followed by Gipson and Whitner, who each had eight.

Joe Haden, Christian Kirksey and Randy Starks recovered fumbles for the Browns. Jordan Poyer had an interception called back due to a penalty.

The Titans did rush for 166 yards on 30 attempts (5.5 avg.) with scat back Dexter McCluster leading the way with 98 yards on 10 attempts, including a long of 44 yards. Bishop Sankey added 42 yards.

Pettine said there is still room for improvement on the defensive side of the ball.

“There is definitely some things to get cleaned up, but overall anytime you hold an offense down for that long you are going to be successful,” Pettine said. “When you get to the quarterback seven times and you get some takeaways. You are going to win a heck of a lot more games than when you don’t. That group took the challenge. I think the whole team did. You heard it from talking to guys in the week Whitner especially – embarrassed or whatever it was that we didn’t go out there with our best effort and we let the circumstances the way the Jets game went, get to us a little bit. 

“I thought the sideline did a great job,” he said. “The energy was up even though the third quarter went the way it did with us not generating much offense. Overall I felt it was a great team win. We got a contribution from special teams. The (offense) did some good things to get us the lead and obviously close the game for us. Defensive they were solid throughout.”

 Extra Points

Crow Leads: The Browns rushed for over 100 yards with RB Isaiah Crowell leading the way with 72 yards (4.8 avg.) on 15 attempts and an 11-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Rookie  RB Duke Johnson had 43 yards (3.6 avg.) on 12 carries with a long run of 20 yards.

“I just felt the mindset was different,” Crowell said. “We were all very focused this week at practice. I felt like we just went out there and played our game.”

Mingo Hurt: LB Barkevious Mingo was injured, but Pettine said that was the only one to note.

“On an injury front couple of bumps and bruises. Mingo’s knee is a little bit sore, we’ll see how that is,” Pettine said. “Des (Bryant) was a game time decision with the shoulder, we’ll see how he came out of it.”  

Receiving End: Besides WR Travis Benjamin’s 115 receiving yards on three catches, WR Andrew Hawkins had three receptions for 43 yards. The only other two receptions were by TE Gary Barnidge for 17 yards and WR Taylor Gabriel for -3 yards.

Bowe Active, About It: WR Dwayne Bowe was active but was rarely on the field. He had no passes thrown his way in the first half and had one pass overthrown to him from Manziel in the second half. Bowe turns 31 on Monday. 

Inactive for the Browns are Josh McCown, Justin Gilbert, Robert Turbin, Ibraheim Campbell, Scott Solomon, E.J. Gibbs and Xavier Cooper. For the Titans: QB Charlie Whitehurst, RB Antonio Andrews, CB Jason McCourty, CB Cody Riggs, G Quinton Spain, TE Delanie Walker and NT Sammie Hill.

T West Struggles: Former Browns RB Terrance West fumbled on his first carry against his former team after being hit by LB Karlos Dansby and DB Joe Haden recovered at the 50. West finished with three carries for just 10 yards. 

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