Week 1 Browns vs. Bengals – Post-Game Summary Report and Game Balls With Andy B. and Tony C.

September 14, 2023

Andy Billman Tony Camino

A look back at the Browns victory over the Bengals 24-3

1 – How good can this Browns defense be in 2023?


The Browns in 2022 had the talent with cornerbacks Denzel Ward, Marvin Emerson, and Greg Newsome and with safety Grant Delpit but were unable to put it together with confusing schemes, and outside of star defensive end Myles Garrett, the defensive line gave no real threat.

It is incredible what a few changes can do to a loaded secondary.  The current 2023 Browns play with an edge, they play fast, and they have both defensive fronts covered with the defensive line and secondary.  They also are playing with an attitude and confidence, almost like the 1995 Indians.

Give Browns GM Andrew Berry credit, he saw the issue with the personnel and credit should go to Head Coach Kevin Stefanski as well for adding new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.  Both were needed as the new defensive plan has given a swagger to the Browns. Along with the additions of Za’Darius Smith, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, and Dalvin Tomlinson, and at safety with Juan Thornhill and Rodney McLeod, the Browns have become a real force at defense.

The defense can get better, much better.  They will be making turnovers at some point, sack totals will rise, and I believe as the season goes on, they will gel even more as a unit, as it has only been one game.  With time and success, the ceiling is very high with the Browns’ defensive unit.


Week one gave us a glimpse of what this defense can be and how they can single-handedly take over games. The players are 100% bought into the defensive scheme and are playing more loosely than I have ever seen. Jim Schwartz has brought swag to the Browns’ defense, but it’s his creative use of his players that leads to dominating games.

The defensive line is one of, if not the best front in the entire league. Pass-rushing duos don’t get much better than Za’Darius Smith and Myles Garrett but don’t forget about Ogbo Okoronkwo, who makes the third-down front a nightmare for offensive lines. Interior linemen Dalvin Tomlinson and Shelby Harris made immediate impacts and kept the Bengals’ running game in check. They are the most important part of this defense and have the ability to make everyone else’s life much easier.

The secondary communication from a year ago to now is a remarkable transformation. Players are constantly talking about presnap, which is normal for defenses. Corners and safeties look way more confident and sure in the scheme than last year, knowing it’s going to work if they do their jobs. Last year, the secondary looked out of sorts and didn’t seem to be on the same page. The Browns have three excellent man-to-man cornerbacks, and the emergence of Grant Delpit next to Juan Thornhill makes this secondary a deep unit. The combination of elite pressure from the line with blanketed coverage from the secondary makes me think this should be a top-ten unit without a doubt.

2 – Overall thoughts on Deshaun Watson’s performance against the Bengals.


He wasn’t perfect by any means, but it’s tough to get a true read on his performance with the constant light rain that came down for four quarters. Joe Burrow was clearly affected by it, throwing for a career-low in passing yards. Sometimes, it seemed Deshaun Watson struggled with gripping the ball, but at other times, it just looked like his excitement for the first game was out of control. Many times, his upper half and arm were coming through way before the rest of his body, causing the throws to be short. Hopefully, it’s something that gets corrected in better weather, and we see more efficient passing days.

Watson didn’t play like his old self in this one, but he still performed at a level that can allow this Browns team to win. Leaning on Nick Chubb and completing enough passes to keep the defense out of the box is sometimes all that’s needed to win a game. The upside Watson provides in the rushing department was evident, creating a whole new wrinkle for the Kevin Stefanski offense.

There is definitely room for improvement, and we will need to see that improvement if this team wants to truly contend for a Super Bowl. However, the plays he did make were timely and enough to secure a big week one win. It’s a long season, and there will be plenty of opportunities for Watson to continue to improve and make strides in the right direction.


Here’s the one thing to remember about Deshaun Watson in regard to game one, it was a very wet day, and the Browns won the game.  Winning cures everything!  Watson had a good game on Sunday, it was not perfect and there’s some cleanup that needs to be done, but overall, he was good and is showing signs of improvement.

More importantly, he led the key drive at the end of the 1st half that put the Browns in a comfortable position for the rest of the game.  At the Bengal’s 48-yard line 3rd and 10 with 45 seconds left before half, Watson made a throw to Amari Cooper for a first down and then on the very next play made another big throw in a tight window to Donavan Peoples-Jones for another first down.  Later in the drive inside the red zone, Watson made a call at the line to run it himself, which was the correct call ending with a Watson touchdown.  That is what quarterbacks are supposed to do, lead when the moment calls for it and Watson did so.

Watson played better than what is being reported, he had a good game and when the team needed him most at the end of the first half to gain control of the game, he did exceptionally well.  Watson needs to clean up some throws and he will need to do a better job of trying not to do too much, but that will come I believe in time during the season.

3 – Key Moment In the Game

Andy – The drive to end the first half.

See above and see below what Tony wrote, the ending drive at the end of the first half was crucial and the throw to Cooper was the key play of the game.  The throw to DPJ and Watson calling the run play at the line were also all crucial moments.

For a runner-up, it should go to the Myles Garrett sack in the 4th quarter, which even before the final touchdown felt like the game was in hand once Garrett brought down Burrow. 

One more honorable mention was the missed kick by Evan McPherson.  That kick goes in, it feels like a different game and puts pressure on Watson to lead the team back down the field, instead, the miss gave the ball to the Browns with good field position leading to another field goal by Dustin Hopkins.

Tony – Touchdown drive to end the first half

After a sloppy first half all-around, thanks to rain and first-game jitters, the Browns had the ball to end the half at their own 33-yard line with under two minutes to go, leading 3-0. Knowing we would receive the second-half kick, ensuring that this was the last drive of the half was crucial game management by the coaches, regardless of whether it ended in a score or not.

On 3rd and 10 with under a minute to go at midfield, Watson found Amari Cooper for a massive conversion, ensuring the Browns would control the ball for the rest of the half. The Browns continued to convert plays after that, ending the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run by Watson with just 17 seconds left in the half. The Browns were now up 10-0 and would receive the second-half kick, giving them complete control of the game.

After winning the opening coin toss and choosing to kick, having the ability to dominate those drives right before and right after halftime is what the best teams do to win games. A 10-0 lead in this game was much larger than the scoreboard showed, and this was a perfectly executed strategy by the Browns heading into halftime. If they can continue to manage the clock like this and execute plays to score additional touchdowns, they will be a tough team to beat.

4 – Game ball

Tony – Grant Delpit

Despite a day dominated by the defensive line, I would give the game ball to safety Grant Delpit, who had the best game of his career. Delpit showcased his versatility in this game, with 20 snaps in the box, 20 at free safety, and 15 in the slot. He was targeted seven times and allowed just four catches for 14 yards, even generating a QB hit on a blitz. Delpit was everywhere and excelled in every aspect on Sunday. He finished with eight tackles and recorded five “stops,” which PFF defines as a play that is a failure for the offense. Not only was Delpit making tackles, but it wasn’t solely because the front seven couldn’t make them. He imposed his will and played aggressively all over the field.

Alongside the excellent cornerbacks, the Browns have and their imposing defensive line, Delpit’s emergence can truly help solidify this defense as a top-five unit in the league. The return of veteran Juan Thornhill will only make Delpit’s life easier, and hopefully, he can continue to build on that performance as he learns all the nuances of the new defense. Overall, it was a very inspiring game from a player many had high hopes for back when he was at LSU.

Andy – Dustin Hopkins

If Tony did not mention Grant Delpit that would have been my vote as well.  He was wonderful, and so were Za’Darius Smith, Myles Garrett, and Denzel Ward. 

That said, if it does not go to a defender, it should go to Dustin Hopkins. His kicking put the Browns in a position to win and allowed no negative vibes in the game with his makes. It simply makes for such an easier game when you have confidence in your kicker.

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