No matter what happens this season, Ravens linebacker Patrick Onwuasor will still have one negative play etched into his memory.
After the Ravens pulled to just six points down in the fourth quarter, Browns running back Nick Chubb took the next play from scrimmage 88 yards to the end zone – plunging a dagger into the Ravens' defense.
"It ate at us for a while and I feel like it's still eating at us," Onwuasor said. "I feel like going out there and knocking out the run will put us over the top, but we're always going to think about that big run in the back of our heads."
In Week 4, on Sept. 29, Cleveland put up 40 points and 530 offensive yards, including 193 on the ground. It was a humbling day for Baltimore's proud defense, which tumbled to No. 27 in the league.
Since that day, the Ravens have the top defense in the NFL. They have made widespread changes and, quite simply, played a lot better. Now, Baltimore's defense again looks championship worthy.
But Head Coach John Harbaugh and his players aren't looking for kudos on their defensive turnaround – not until they make amends this Sunday in Cleveland.
"The rest of the story isn't written, yet," Harbaugh said. "As you guys have pointed out two different times, [the Browns] scorched us last game. So, we have to stop these guys before we start talking about who deserves credit for anything."
Chubb has gone on this season to prove he is definitely legit. The second-year back is the NFL's leading rusher with 1,408 yards. He's averaging more than 100 rushing yards per game.
Harbaugh said earlier this week that he really liked Chubb in last year's draft. The Browns grabbed the Georgia product with the third pick in the second round, behind three other backs.
"He's really special," Harbaugh said. "He's really fast. He's really big. And he can accelerate with the best of them. He's a tackle-breaker. He has good one cut ability, laterally, to make a guy miss, and he can lower his pads. So, I really do believe he's one of the best backs in football."
The Ravens added inside linebackers Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort in the days after the loss to Cleveland, settling down the unit as a whole and allowing Onwuasor to move from middle linebacker to his more natural position at weakside linebacker.
Baltimore later added defensive tackle Domata Peko and defensive end Jihad Ward. All that additional beef up front has made a big difference.
The play of run-stuffing defensive tackle Brandon Williams has also helped Baltimore become one of the best rushing defenses in the league (ranked No. 5 overall). Williams didn't play in that Browns game because of a knee injury that made him a late addition to the injury report.
"At the end of the day, it all starts with stopping the run," Bynes said.
Cleveland's rushing attack has improved too. Pro Bowl running back Kareem Hunt has joined Chubb in the backfield after starting the season with an eight-game suspension. Hunt is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and especially been a receiving weapon with 30 catches for 220 yards and a touchdown.
The Browns now use a lot of two-back formations, often splitting Hunt out wide as a slot receiver. With he and Chubb often flanked to either side of Baker Mayfield, it's tougher to diagnose the Browns' rushing lanes.
"Kareem Hunt complements him really well, very talented. He's another starting-level back," Harbaugh said. "They're a little different in their style and they use them accordingly. So we'll have to have all hands on deck to stop those two guys."