CLEVELAND — The Browns defense kicked immense pressure in the jaw with a Joe Schobert interception, a Trevon Coley sack and a Terrance Mitchell pick that sealed a 21-17 victory over the New York Jets.
These people turned Big Ben into a turnover machine. That pinball wizard from The Big Easy does 400 yards in his sleep, but against the Browns, Drew Brees was well south of 300.
After convincing games against Canton-bound QBs, the Browns defense seriously needed to get busy against the underaged rookie Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Who knew the older quarterback 21-year-old Sam Darnold would be dueling would be 23-year-old Baker Mayfield, that the expansion era would be flashing before Browns fans' eyes in one telling night?
The defense started fast, rewarding a stoked crowd with crisp play and three quick stops that should have set a tone. The Browns offense was going so poorly behind Tyrod Taylor, though, that the stadium mood dozed off.
Components that could make the Browns a muscle defense showed up. On the Jets' second play, draft star Denzel Ward blew up tight end Chris Herndon for an 8-yard loss on a misdirection pass Gregg Williams' people seemed to know was coming.
On Darnold's second series, he ran for his life to avoid Myles Garrett and a safety.
The king-sized question resurfaced: Is Taylor enough quarterback? He wasn't throughout the first half, drawing boos.
But after defensive tackle Chris Smith, seeming faster than Darnold, chased the rookie to the sideline, the Jets stalled and punted a third consecutive time.
The crowd was into it. The defense was into it. The offense was O-F-F.
When the offense stalled again and the Jets blocked a punt, the defense blinked. It shows promise. It isn't the '85 Chicago Bears.
A short field and a smart third-and-long screen pass took the Jets to a 7-0 lead. Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates knocked Williams' scheme off balance with some effective runs that set up another damaging screen.
The crowd got quiet. Favored by 3, the Browns trailed 14-0.
No one wanted to see the respected captain Taylor disappear into the medical tent. But when he did, he was 4-of-14 for 19 yards with three sacks. The Browns couldn't afford to see more of that.
They saw plenty from Mayfield to get everyone's attention. After he got the offense going, it was on the defense to resume getting busy.
Midway through the third quarter, the Jets' fear of the Browns hitting Darnold led to two false starts, after which Ward (the team's other first-round pick) stripped receiver Robby Anderson and returned the ball to the 8. It turned into a field goal gift-wrapped by the D. The deficit shrank to 14-6.
Now it was spark on spark. The defense made a second consecutive stop to open the second half. Mayfield drove the offense to a touchdown and a successful two-point try for a 14-all tie heading to the fourth quarter.
Williams was a high school head coach when he was in his 20s who broke into the NFL at 31 and, at 60, has seen it all and expects injuries.
On Thursday, he was down a captain, linebacker Christian Kirksey. Williams has spent most of his Browns experience without Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah playing the two end spots at the same time. No one knows if Ogbah will ever be worth the No. 32 overall pick spent on him in 2016. Garrett is making himself known.
With the Browns leading 21-17 heading into the final two minutes, Schobert and Mitchell each made interceptions to finally give them their first win since 2016.
A good defense stopped a kid quarterback The No. 1 pick of the 2018 draft beat the No. 3 pick. Perhaps this is as it should be. But when did that ever make a difference in the expansion era? This was cause for major celebration.