BEREA — The parade of elite level quarterbacks continues this week for the Browns defense.
After seeing Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Patrick Mahomes with the Kansas City Chiefs the past two games — both losses — it doesn’t get much easier for the Browns' defense with the arrival of Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons into FirstEnergy Stadium at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Defensive lineman Emmanuel Ogbah sees some similarities between the Falcons and the Chiefs’ dynamic offense.
"They've got Julio Jones. They've got [Calvin] Ridley, the rookie from 'Bama,” Ogbah said. “Their whole offense, they like to go fast. We've got to be in great shape this week and we have to do a good job affecting them.”
It’s an opinion defensive end Myles Garrett shares.
“He’s talented, just like all the others. You know he can make throws anywhere on the field,” Garrett said. “And he can be hot and cold sometimes. So just have to make sure we keep him off his game, keep him frustrated, get pressure on him.”
Ryan, however, orchestrates that offense and the league’s No. 2 passing attack as if he were leading the New York Philharmonic.
“I have been in the division with him in his formative years and playing him twice a year back in those years when I was at the Saints,” Browns interim coach Gregg Williams said. “I have seen him grow and grow and grow and have seen him be in charge of his improvement. I see him on how he has balanced his way through different coordinators, different likes and dislikes of what he likes to do.”
A former Most Valuable Player, Ryan brings the same type of credentials as those aforementioned quarterbacks.
This season, he’s produced only two games when his quarterback rating sank below 100. The first came in an opening day loss against the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles and the other — a rating of 99.1 — came in a lopsided loss to the Steelers.
This season, he can easily be ranked among the quarterbacking elite in the NFL. Ryan’s completed 213-of-301 passes for 2,635 yards, 19 touchdowns and three interceptions. His completion percentage stands at 70.8 percent and his quarterback rating is 115.1, ranking fifth in the NFL.
“He’s very comfortable within the system that they run,” Browns cornerback T.J. Carrie said. “And those are the quarterbacks and teams that you have to worry about the most, because there’s not really much you can fool him with and he knows where he wants to go even knowing the defense that you’re in.”
More notably, he arrives having led the Falcons on a three-game winning streak that coincides with three of his better games of the season. The Browns' defense will have to get into his head, including disguising coverages.
"Yeah, for sure, but he's seen it all. But that's the goal, try to disguise, but also get after him,” Ogbah said. “Don't give him time in the pocket. That's our main goal.”
Ryan is very aware of the Browns’ defense, even if the bloom has fallen off the rose in recent weeks. The Browns give up 285 passing yards per game and have allowed 14 passing touchdowns. They rank 29th in overall defense but they lead the league in takeaways with 23 (13 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries).
“I think they’ve done a good job in the secondary of making plays and passing the ball in the air and coming up with interceptions,” Ryan said to Atlanta beat writers this week. “I think they’ve also done a nice job of forcing fumbles and they’re aggressive when they tackle of trying to knock the ball out. I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen from them on film.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByGeorgeThomas.