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We’re breaking down the biggest storylines from inside the locker room after Cleveland’s 41-24 victory over the Dolphins.
1. ‘Scho Money!’ Joe Schobert shows off his hands with 2 more picks to lead Browns defense
Joe Schobert was trying to do a post-game interview, but some of his teammates weren’t having it after his second straight game with multiple interceptions.
“Scho Money! Back-to-back games!”
T.J. Carrie and others nearby couldn’t help but shower praise on the rock in the middle of the Browns’ defense, the stability Cleveland needed on a day like Sunday, when the team had just five of its 11 season-opening starters. Schobert’s fourth season has been his best, and it’s gone beyond the four interceptions he’s collected in the past two games.
“You know I will tell you, I thought he had his best game — I know since I have been here — last week,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said. “I would have to see everything, but I thought he was pretty damn good today. I think Joe is playing real well.”
The interceptions have been huge, but they don’t tell the full story of Schobert’s importance.
In a season full of injuries, unexpected roster moves and suspensions, the Browns defense hasn’t been whole since Week 1. Since Week 3, the Browns have had a maximum of nine of their 11 season-opening starters available for games. On Sunday, it was five, as Schobert looked forward at a defensive line missing its best pass rusher for the rest of the season and two other starters for Sunday’s game; to his side with a steadily improving rookie Mack Wilson, who has filled in for veteran Christian Kirksey since Week 3 and behind to a secondary that’s lost three safeties since Week 8.
Schobert, though, has remained in place as the nerve center of the entire operation, helping align the likes of Porter Gustin and Bryan Cox, who were called upon for significant snaps in their respective Browns debuts.
“The guys on the field understood what their role was,” Schobert said. “We preached the whole week just be hyper-focused and do your job and we’ll accomplish what we need to on defense, and I think you saw that today.”
The interceptions, at least on this level, aren’t required for Schobert to be able to say he did his job on a given week. The opportunities have simply presented themselves in ways they haven’t since Schobert was a three-sport star at West High in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
“It’s great,” Schobert said. “It shows hard work pays off. You have to be in the right spot at the right time sometimes. You just have to take advantage of it. It feels good.”
Kareem Hunt cracked a smile when he was asked about the defense. He had to pay tribute to Scho Money.
“Joe, man, turnover machine,” Hunt said. “Don’t throw the ball around him.”
2. Not your ordinary TD for Kareem Hunt
Hunt had the ball at the ready when a reporter asked if he was able to corral it following his first touchdown as a Cleveland Brown.
Jarvis Landry made sure Hunt had the keepsake after he jumped into the FirstEnergy Stadium stands following his 6-yard touchdown late in the second quarter. Baker Mayfield tried to intervene, Hunt joked, but this ball was going home with him.
“I think Baker wanted to keep using it,” Hunt said. “He said, ‘I’ll give it to you after the game.’”
Hunt has used the phrase “a dream come true” a lot since he made his Browns debut three weeks ago. He brought it up again with the touchdown — a score made even sweeter by the final numbers on the scoreboard.
“It’s a milestone,” Hunt said. “When I was a young kid, I always dreamed of coming out here and playing for the Cleveland Browns. A big thing happened today: I got into the end zone wearing brown and orange.”
There’s been a lot more touchdowns and quality red zone possessions since Hunt joined the offense following his eight-game suspension to start the season. He posted one of the most modest stat lines of his career — eight carries, 37 yards; two receptions for 9 yards — but the threat he’s presented alongside Nick Chubb has seemed to open things up for a Cleveland offense that labored through the first half of the season.
Chubb has rushed for 314 yards over the past three games. Mayfield has thrown seven touchdowns to just one interception.
“He is a true team guy,” Mayfield said. “He doesn’t care what happens. He just wants to win. Him being in there and him being that explosive player and that hungry guy adds a whole dynamic to our offense that we really need.”
3. Mayfield’s streak ends, but ‘really good’ play continues
Mayfield’s streak of passes without an interception came to an end in Sunday’s third quarter, but not after he’d already amassed a season-high three touchdowns in what turned out to be his most efficient performance of the year.
Mayfield finished 24-of-34 for 327 yards with the three touchdowns and an interception that ended a stretch of 157 consecutive passes without a pick — the sixth-longest streak in Browns history.
Mayfield’s improved performance since the bye has gone beyond the lack of interceptions, but that’s certainly been a big part of it. Over his past four games, Mayfield’s numbers have looked a lot like what they did throughout his dazzling rookie season: 94-of-146 (64.3 completion percentage) for 1,031 yards with eight touchdowns and an interception.
What made Sunday’s performance arguably his best of the year was the way he consistently found his top two playmakers, Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., who combined for 16 receptions (21 targets), 232 yards and three touchdowns.
“I thought Baker knew exactly what he was doing all day,” Kitchens said. “He was efficient. He knew exactly what he wanted to do. I thought we handled the no-huddle situation very good and got down there and then stalled out a little bit. No-huddle went well. He was good. He was really good.”