CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward showed a penchant for making plays on the ball and creating turnovers during his rookie season in 2018, so much so that he earned a Pro Bowl spot, but there was one thing missing: converting those takeaways into points.
That drought, however, came to an end in the first installment of “The Battle of Ohio” in 2019, as Ward took back a first-quarter interception of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton all the way to the house for the “Pick Six” and spurred a rally that gave the Browns a 27-19 victory over their in-state rivals.
“Sometimes, the ball just comes to you, and that was one of those plays where we got the tip and my guys did a good job of blocking to get me into the end zone,” Ward said following the win.
On third-and-23 from the Cincinnati 48-yard line, Dalton took the snap in the shotgun formation, looked right and overthrew wide receiver Tyler Boyd on a deep slant route.
Boyd could not reach back and make the catch, and Ward was there to catch his first interception (and second takeaway) of the season, and the Northeast Ohio native hustled down the Cincinnati sideline untouched on the way to the end zone.
Ward’s defensive touchdown, and the ensuing extra point from Austin Seibert, gave the Browns a 7-3 lead over the Bengals with 5:36 to play in the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
“I think it was huge because we were up 7-6, and also, the defense did a good job of stopping them down there and making them kick a field goal one other time,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said of Ward’s interception.
“I think they had first-and-goal inside the 10, and they stopped them and made them kick a field goal. That whole sequence of events in the first half was very crucial. They kind of shut the door when they had to. Then, we were able to start moving the ball a little bit and scored. Then, in the second half, up front, we kind of played real well in the second half.”
During the first quarter against the Bengals, Ward registered one tackle, a solo effort, with two passes defended and the interception return for a touchdown. Ward finished the game against Cincinnati with five total tackles, including four solo stops, the two passes defended and interception.
On the season, which was marred by a hamstring injury that cost him four games early in the year, Ward has registered 32 total tackles, including 26 solo stops and six assists, with nine passes defended, one forced fumble and an interception.
“I think Denzel tries to play hard every week,” Kitchens said. “I think he did a good job this week. I do not know if it is because I challenged him or not. I think he tries to challenge himself, and I think that is what he did.”
Ward added, “I took it as a challenge, and I wanted to go out there and make plays to help my team win.”
Making impactful plays is something Ward will work to continue doing over the final three weeks of the season because the Browns remain mathematically alive in the race for a postseason berth.
“We need to stay focused and keep having everyone do their jobs,” Ward said. “We have to come in focused and pull out another win next week.”
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