Browns Notes: Olivier Vernon fills Myles Garrett’s shoes with sack hat trick, safety

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The loss of Myles Garrett to the reserve/COVID-19 list could’ve been catastrophic Sunday against the Eagles.

With questions about who would – or could – step up to apply the pressure to Carson Wentz, defensive end Olivier Vernon answered the bell.

Vernon went out and recorded a sack hat trick, including a safety in Sunday’s 22-17 win over Philadelphia.

“We all missed Myles,” Vernon said. “We wish he could have been out here playing. At the end of the day, everybody played as a team, made the stops when we had to and made the big plays when we had to. I am glad we are sitting at 7-3 right now.”

The last Brown to bag a QB three times in a game? Garrett in Week 2 last year.

In all, the Browns brought Wentz down five times with Adrian Clayborn registering 1.5 sacks and Larry Ogunjobi credited with half a sack.

“The defense set the tempo in that game,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said.

“With Myles out, we were counting on those guys to step up. OV, he did it today. He was defeating his blockers in run game. Like you mentioned, he was getting to the quarterback. We are counting on him. I told him that. He knows that. We are counting on him to continue to affect the passer in the pass game and make big plays in the run game.”

Vernon’s first sack came on a third-and-3 at the Cleveland 43 to force a punt. Vernon ended the Eagles first possession of the third quarter, again on third down, with his second sack.

The third came when he dropped Wentz for a safety to extend the Browns lead to 12-7 with 3:11 left in the third quarter.

Takeaways – Vernon wasn’t the only defender to step up Sunday.

Sione Takitaki broke the deadlock by stepping in front of a Wentz pass and taking it 50 yards the other way up the far sideline for a 7-0 Browns lead in the second quarter.

“I would not say I was tired, but I was kind of like, ‘I am actually going to score,’” Takitaki said. “I felt like I should have sprinting a little bit, but it was a great feeling – a feeling you want to feel every time you step on that field. I was not tired. It was more exciting for me.”

In the first quarter defensive end Cameron Malveaux, elevated from the practice squad Saturday, stripped Eagles running back Miles Sanders and safety Karl Joseph fell on the football.

Cornerback Denzel Ward, who pressured Wentz on Takitaki’s pick 6, snuffed out the Eagles hopes at a comeback with an interception, which came moments after he was flagged for pass interference.

“That has been our team all year just stepping up,” Ward said. “Guys going down and next man in. A lot of guys have been stepping up making plays, and we needed that today, especially with Myles being out.”

Leap of Faith – Kareem Hunt’s touchdown run Sunday will be on the end of season highlight reel.

On a second-and-goal at the 5, Hunt took the handoff from Baker Mayfield and went left. He slipped an attempted tackle by Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards at the 9 then hurdled safety Jalen Mills at the 3 before crashing through the corner of the end zone as he landed for the score and a 19-10 advantage

“It was amazing,” running back Nick Chubb, who set the score up with a 54-yard run and had 114 yards rushing, said. “I’m pretty sure he jumped from the 5-yard line and landed in the endzone. He is a great athlete and a great player. That is what you can expect when he is out there on the field.”

Hunt struggled to find his footing in the mud rushing for just 11 yards on 13 carries, but the 5-yard TD was an eye popper.

Chubb and Hunt are one of only two pairs of teammates in the league this season with at least 575 rushing yards joining Arizona’s Kyler Murray and Kenyan Drake.

Lucky Charms – When Hunt or Chubb score, the Browns win this year.

With Hunt’s TD, the Browns improved to 7-0 when either of their star running backs score this season.

Since Hunt joined the Browns, when he puts up 6, they are 8-1

Good Start – The Browns are off to their best start in the expansion era and best since going 8-2 to begin the 1994 season. They are also 5-1 at home for the first time since 2007.

Stefanski’s 7-3 record is the best among new head coaches in 2020. It is also the best start to a season by first-year Browns head coach since Bud Carson (7-3) in 1989.

Stefanski is also the first first-time head coach of the Browns to start 5-1 at home since Paul Brown, who also started 5-1 at home, in the franchise’s inaugural season of 1946.

Playoff picture – If the playoffs were to start next weekend, the Browns are in. Pending the outcome of Sunday night’s Chiefs at Raiders game, they’d be the sixth or seventh seed – sixth with a KC win, seventh if Vegas is victorious.  

Injury Report – S Ronnie Harrison Jr suffered a knee injury and did not return.