CLEVELAND -- It’s no secret that the defense carried the Miami Dolphins Sunday during a 23-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns. The only question is whether Miami can have this same dominant performance consistently for 16 games.
The Dolphins swarmed, battered and confused Cleveland for four quarters. Miami recorded three interceptions, six sacks and kept the Browns out the end zone with the exception of a last-second score before halftime.
It’s too early to label Miami's defense as "elite." But the Dolphins' defense certainly showed some early shades of dominance against Cleveland.
“In an ideal world, you would like that every game,” Dolphins cornerback Dimitri Patterson said. “But we all know there's guys over there getting paid, too. But that’s our purpose. That’s what we want to do. That's the reputation that we want to have coming out this year. No doubt about it."
Miami started the game with three interceptions in the first half. Patterson (two) and cornerback Nolan Carroll combined to pick off Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden three times. Still, the Dolphins trailed the Browns, 7-6, at halftime.
Instead of getting frustrated, the Dolphins’ defense kept pressuring Cleveland until the offense finally woke up in the second half. Miami had four different players who recorded sacks. Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake led the team with 2.5 sacks and had a field day against Browns second-year right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.
"[The pass rush] was awesome -- that's the key anytime to stopping an opposing team,” Dolphins corner Brent Grimes said. “If you can get after their quarterback, and don’t let them sit back there comfortable, a lot of things can happen as you can see.”
Miami held Browns running back Trent Richardson to 47 yards on 13 carries. The Dolphins also made it an extremely tough day for Weeden. He threw three picks -- two of which came off dropped passes -- and endured an astounding 16 quarterback hits.
“I told you guys during the week, that’s a good front,” Weeden said. “They get after the passer. They create havoc and they played well.”
The Dolphins were ranked 21st in total defense last year. Miami went out and added speed and playmaking ability by signing faster linebackers (Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler), an athletic cornerback (Grimes) and drafted No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan, who recorded his first career sack against the Browns. All of those new parts paid early dividends on Sunday.
Miami's first offering on defense showed a lot of potential for this group, which may have to carry the offense until that side of the ball gets fully up to speed.