How Browns Crushed the Bengals

Cleveland Browns offense
Cleveland Browns offense
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 9 - The Cleveland Browns dismantled the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday. They won 41-16 and I’m not sure it was as close as the final score. It may not seem like there’s much to analyze because it was about as lopsided as NFL games get, but when you cover offensive line play, these are some of the most fun games to watch back.

For me, the clear highlight was watching the Browns work in the running game. They created some big holes through the line of scrimmage for Nick Chubb, and he capitalized by making second- and third-level defenders miss on top of that. The Browns had success with a few different schemes, but by far their most effective run play was power.

This is single-back power to the tight end overload side. The Bengals are in a Bear front (two 3-techniques and a head-up nose tackle). There are really only two hard blocks for Cleveland here: Austin Hooper as the wide tight being singled up on the standup edge defender (Sam Hubbard, 94), and Joel Bitonio pulling across the formation and finding the play-side linebacker (Germaine Pratt, 57).

Hooper is the definition of "good enough." It’s not a great block by any means, but he stays engaged with his man and forces him to try to make an arm tackle on Chubb while being blocked. Again, Hooper isn’t great, and the Bengals coaches are probably mad at Hubbard for not making this tackle for a short gain, but the tight end does enough on this play to allow Chubb to do his thing. That’s a win for Cleveland.

The real star of the play, other than Chubb, is left guard Bitonio on the pull. Bitonio has to come all the way across the formation and then read Hooper’s block to get to the play-side linebacker. He feels Hooper start to get collapsed inside a bit and bounces it wide to the scraping linebacker. Typically he would turn it up inside of Hooper’s block, but he reads the hole like a back and bounces to the outside. Then he drives that linebacker further outside to create the hole for Chubb. This was the very first play of the game and a great way to start for the Browns.

From single-back power to traditional power from a two-back set (in this case one of the backs is actually a tight end lined up as a fullback). This is blocked so well. It hits right where it’s designed and Chubb only has the safety to beat to bust a long run.

Let’s start with the play-side double team between the tight end and left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. They don’t get a ton of movement, but they do a great job of sealing the defensive end (Trey Hendrickson, 91) inside. Tight end David Njoku shoves the defensive end completely onto Wills before climbing to the second level. When Wills feels that, he fights to get his hips upfield. Look at how he works his butt into the hole by driving his outside foot up the field. On these gap plays, you want that strong leg on the outside to get yourself between your man and the hole.

Bitonio has a tough block on this because he’s singled up with a head-up defensive tackle (Josh Tupou, 68). Like Hooper’s block on the first play, it isn’t dominant, but it’s a stalemate for the Browns and that’s enough on a play where you’re winning on the double team and from the puller. Speaking of the puller, Wyatt Teller at right guard is just about perfect here. He tracks across the formation and comes around the corner tight to pick up the linebacker (Logan Wilson, 55). This is such a pretty play from Cleveland up front and it wasn’t even their best power of the game.

Look at it. It’s beautiful. We’re back to single-back, and with the exception of right tackle Blake Hance (62) missing a cut block, everyone is just about perfect. Let’s start with Teller (77) pulling and absolutely burying a safety who’s playing make-believe and trying to be a linebacker. That’s how you need to treat defensive backs who are playing box linebacker to give the defense an advantage in the passing game. You want to punish teams for getting cute and playing guys out of position. Make that block an NFT please.

Wills Jr. (71) at left tackle is good again here. He’s on the outside of the combo block this time, so now he’s the one banging the down lineman onto his teammate before climbing (great job of attacking the down guy’s hip too). One thing that’s the same as the last play, though, is how Wills fights his hips upfield. This time Wills is doing it to a linebacker, but look at how he works that outside leg up the field to create the seal.

The guy with the hardest block is center JC Tretter (64). Like Bitonio on the previous play, he has to block a head-up down lineman without any help. He does a good job of staying square and covering him up to make sure his man doesn’t blow the play up.

This column has been about running the ball, and running power in particular, because who wouldn’t want to watch that kind of ass kicking? But the Browns were solid in pass-protection too, and took some opportunities to knock some guys around in the passing game as well.

Look, I know this is just a three-man rush, so the Browns should hold up here, but they don’t just hold up, they knock two out of the three pass-rushers down. Wills in particular comes back inside with bad intentions and wipes a defender (Tupou, 68) out. That’s the physicality all offensive line coaches salivate over. Pass-blocking doesn’t have to be passive, and when you see an offensive line knocking guys around like this in the passing game, you know they are feeling themselves.

Comments

2 comments, Last at 12 Nov 2021, 12:13pm

2 "absolutely burying a safety…

"absolutely burying a safety who’s playing make-believe and trying to be a linebacker. That’s how you need to treat defensive backs who are playing box linebacker"

Love it!  Also check out the distance Teller got on that knockback.  Looks like he threw the safety back at least 3 yards.