CLEVELAND, Ohio — With about seven minutes left in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 23-17 overtime victory over the Bucs, Myles Garrett was drilled hard in his already bad left shoulder by an offensive lineman, ran to the sideline in excruciating pain, and slammed his helmet down.
He winced in agony on the bench, but wasn’t about to give up with the Bucs clinging to a 17-10 lead and the Browns struggling to score.
“It hurt really bad,” said Garrett, still favoring the arm and in great pain during his postgame press conference.
“I almost thought I broke something initially, but just in my head there is no tomorrow. I can’t be focused on ‘I’ll get better tomorrow or let’s focus on the next game.’ There’s just the next play, and that’s all that’s in my mind. I have to continue playing regardless of how much pain I was feeling pain — pain I am feeling. There’s only one opportunity for greatness. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. I just wanted it really bad. I wanted it bad for us.”
With his left arm hanging limply at his side — the same one he initially hurt when he flipped his Porsche multiple times on Sept. 26 — Garrett dug deep and combined with Jadeveon Clowney to drop Tom Brady for a 7-yard loss on third down.
That forced a three-and-out with 2:21 left and the Bucs clinging to their 17-10 lead.
EARLY SIGN-UP BONUS
The sack was so big when Jacoby Brissett marched the Browns 46 yards downfield and hit David Njoku in the back of the end zone with the 12-yard game-tying touchdown pass with 32 seconds left in regulation.
Garrett came up huge again in overtime, pressuring Brady into an incompletion on third and 14 to blow up their first drive, and dropping him for a 4-yard loss on third and 9 in Tampa territory to thwart the second.
The Browns seized the moment, marching 71 yards in six plays — including a 46-yard strike to Amari Cooper — capped by Nick Chubb’s game-winning touchdown run with 19 seconds left.
“It’s the kind of standard I hold myself to and it’s the kind of plays that you always see yourself as making,” Garrett said. “If you’re that guy, you see yourself making those kind of plays in those moments against that kind of competitor, someone who’s achieved greatness day in and day out like that. It’s no better feeling, and this one was really special to me.”
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Garrett got the inspiration he needed to continue from his good friend and sack partner Clowney while he was writhing on the bench.
“I just told him, ‘We need you,'” Clowney said. “You know it’s part of the game, getting beat up, getting hit, we all go through it. We told him before the game, I was beat up, but they count on us every week to come out here and play well and play at a high level. And we’re counting on him.
“‘Just do what you can do, you know we need you. So come out here and do your thing.’ For him to go out there and get a sack in that situation, that moment was big for the team, for us going forward.”
Clowney’s message was just what Garrett needed to overcome the pain and produce.
“Man, it’s an awesome feeling,” he said. “That’s what the team is really about. That’s what family’s all been about. Grabbing an older guy that you believe in, that you want to see succeed on this team, and no matter if he’s a first-string guy, a third-string guy, he’s just getting his first start or his first rep, grabbing a hold of him and saying, ‘Look, I believe in you. It’s time to make a play.’ From me to him or me to another guy, that kind of thing inspires guys to make big plays, I know with that confidence he has in me, it made me feel like it was my time.”
Shutting it down never went through Garrett’s head, even as he slammed the helmet.
“I slammed it really out of just pain,” he said. “I was in so much pain. I just wanted to get my helmet off me and just needed a second to breathe. I just needed some air, and I just knew that at the end of the day, this pain will come and go, but that pain of losing, that feeling that comes with losing, that that’ll never dissipate. So I just wanted to be able to be out there for my team and do what I had to do.”
He explained, “I was doing a spin move on the tackle, and I beat him, but the guard (Nick Leverett) came in full head of steam and got me right on my shoulder.”
Garrett was also inspired to keep going by the servicemen who attended the game as part of the NFL’s Salute to Service initiative. After Njoku’s TD catch and Chubb’s game-winning run, the servicemen dropped and did pushups.
“The Salute to Service, as much as it means a lot to the fans, it means a lot to the players as well,” Garrett said. “And I have a lot of family members that have served and my paw-paw (Charles Garrett) passed away beginning of the year, and he was a service member. I remember my dad just telling me to play this year for him, and I knew there was no better game to just find a way to win, find a way to turn it on, regardless of the adversity.
“I know that he had been through everything, and I just kept that in my mind that no matter what, you’re gonna stick through it, you’re gonna keep on fighting ’cause that’s what he would do.”
Garrett’s heroic effort came after a week in which he lamented the Browns not having a sense of urgency in getting takeaways in practice. He doubled down on that on Friday, and even though he didn’t separate Brady from the ball, he put him on the ground in the game’s biggest moments. When he didn’t get home, he still got Brady off his mark.
“He affects the game,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. “He affects the passer even when he doesn’t get him on the ground. He’s around the quarterback, maybe he gets the quarterback off his first read and those types of things. To apply the pressure that he did against a quarterback doesn’t [take a lot of pressure] and that gets the ball out of his hand was really impressive.”
Garrett, who’s excelled with his devastating spin move this season, acknowledged that he’s evolved into a leader on the field, one who straps the game on his back and delivers in the clutch..
“I have confidence in young Myles being able to find a way to win,” he said. “But I feel like I’ve grown into a smart savage, someone who can out-slick the slicksters and be able to be strong enough to deal with the tougher guys. So knowing that I’m hampered here, I’ve got to make up a different plan. I don’t think I was as good as setting people up or baiting them or setting up traps, and they were having a plan for me all day on the right side. So just finding a way to win, taking my shots and regardless of the outcome, just come off full speed and really try to just set the tone.”
He believes the victory, which improved the Browns to 4-7 with six games left, can be a launching point with Deshaun Watson being reinstated on Monday.
“I do,” he said. “We have to see it as that. We have to carry that energy that we did that fourth quarter and overtime, that confidence into the next game and into the next game. It was all about being 1-0, all about keep swinging, keep doing your job, and we’re going to like when we come out at the end of the thing. So, no, I think everybody fell into line with that.”
With playoff hopes still flickering, Garrett is eager for Watson to return Sunday in Houston and play at his elite level down the stretch.
“That’s what we’re looking forward to – him being able to press the gas on this thing and give us a little bit more variety as far as the offense,” he said. “Not to take away from anything that Jacob’s been doing. He’s been doing an excellent job. He’s outplayed many of the expectations that you all have had in here. But looking at what he does in practice, looking what he has, he has done this season, he’s definitely deserved all the praise that he’s gotten.”
Garrett and the rest of the Browns have never stopped believing they had a chance, even when they lost 6-of-7 to fall to 3-7. They’ll have to run the table to have a shot, but the confidence level in the locker room is high.
“It’s 0-0 right now,” he said. “Anybody can get punched in the mouth whether you’re undefeated or you’re winless. You have nothing to lose. That’s how you have to play every week. 4-7 – that’s not how we’re looking at. We’re looking at is as an opportunity, and why not us? Kevin was talking to us. He said a setback is really just an opportunity for a comeback, and that’s how we’re looking at it. This is a comeback in the making that we’re trying to start, and it takes one game at a time.”
He has no plans to have surgery — at least not during the season, and will keep working with the medical staff and his personal physical therapist to get through the season “to make sure that I’m able to play through this and make those plays that y’all know me for. Like I’ve said all throughout the season, I’m gonna keep playing until they take me out.”
He looked for Brady after the game to compliment him on all he’s done for the game, but he was already in the locker room.
“I’ve always looked up to him,” he said. “I respect him as a competitor, as a ball player, and I appreciate everything that you’ve given to the game and the sacrifices that you’ve made to really pave the way for a lot of these guys, to inspire pretty much a entire generation. It’s really unbelievable how long he’s done it and at the level at which he’s done it and just nothing but respect for him.”
It makes sacking the GOAT all that much sweeter.
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