The Cleveland Browns lost their 11th game of the season on Sunday, falling to the Cincinnati Bengals 30-16. The Browns had their usual struggles with mental mistakes, penalties, redzone problems and a list of other culprits that have negated any chances of a win so far this season. But, one area on the Browns saw a resurgence of sorts against the Bengals, the run game.
The Browns were able to run the ball well versus the Bengals defense. The Browns rushed 31 times for 169 yards, which is a 5.5 yards per rush average. Running back Isaiah Crowell led the way with 16 carries for 95 yards, while quarterback DeShone Kizer had nine carries for 39 yards and a touchdown and running back Duke Johnson rushed six times for 35 yards. There were multiple reasons for the uptick in the run game. But, the three biggest reasons were: the execution of the running game as a whole, the individual blocking from the additional blockers and the runners making plays.
In today’s Browns film room, I will take a look at the run game versus the Bengals, showcasing these three reasons being the main causes for the success of the run game. So, let’s roll the tape!
Execution of the running game as a whole
The main reason for the improved run game versus the Bengals was the execution of the entire run game as a whole. In these plays, it was not one person that made the play successful. The play was successful because of the blocking from the offensive line, the blocking of the additional blockers and the ability of the rusher. Here are some examples of these types of plays where the entire run game execution was on point.
Q1 11:58- RB Isaiah Crowell rush for 10 yards
The Browns call a zone run to the right with two tight ends lined up on the end of the left side of the offensive line and a tight end motioning to the right to be a lead blocker. Running back Isaiah Crowell takes the handoff and begins to run to the right behind lead blocker tight end Seth DeValve, but Crowell then spots an unblocked linebacker start to fill in that hole. So, Crowell cuts back to the left and finds a hole, which is about to be opened for him. On the left side of the hole, the combination of left tackle Spencer Drango and left guard Joel Bitonio have the defensive lineman in the left B gap walled off. On the right side of the wall, center J.C. Tretter is able to drive the defensive lineman, who was lined up in the right A gap, to the right and out of the play. The final key block is right guard Kevin Zeitler. Zeitler begins by combining with Tretter to block the defensive lineman, but the right guard then slips off that block and goes to the second level to block the linebacker that was trying to fill in the hole. With the hole open, Crowell goes through for a ten yard gain.
Q1 4:38- RB Isaiah Crowell rush for nine yards
For this power run play, the Browns are in an I-formation with a tight end lined up on the left end of the offensive line. Running back Isaiah Crowell takes the handoff to the left. The first key block comes from the combination of left tackle Spencer Drango and left guard Joel Bitonio taking on the defensive lineman in the left B gap. Then, center J.C. Tretter does a great job of turning the defensive lineman in the right A gap to the right and into the backfield, ultimately taking him out of the play. Tight end Randall Telfer takes care of the defensive end lined over him. Fullback Danny Vitale leads Crowell in the hole and takes the care of the closing linebacker in the hole. But, Crowell has to do his part and he does. Crowell begins to follow by following Vitale, but when he sees the hole taken up by the closing linebacker, he sidesteps that hole and goes to the right of Bitonio to the hole formed with the help of Tretter taking out the defensive lineman in that area. To extend the run for nine yards, Crowell is aided by the strong block by right guard Kevin Zeitler on the linebacker, who could have filled that hole and the slight block by Drango, who slipped off the double team and got contact with the middle linebacker. The middle linebacker could have been in position to slow Crowell down earlier.
Q3 9:36- RB Isaiah Crowell rush 11 yards
For this zone run play, the Browns line up in a shotgun with a tight end at the left slotback and running back Isaiah Crowell to the right of quarterback DeShone Kizer. Crowell receives the handoff and takes a step to the left, but stops when he sees the blocking set up on the right side of the line. Right guard Kevin Zeitler completely drives the defensive lineman in the right A gap out of the play to the right. Left guard Joel Bitonio is able to turn the defensive lineman in the left B gap to shield him from getting to the right side of the line. One of the biggest blocks in the play is tight end David Njoku. Njoku crosses the entire line and takes on the edge rusher on the right end of the line. When Crowell gets to the line of scrimmage, that right edge rusher crashes down and is right in front of Crowell. But, Crowell and Njoku takes advantage of the rushers aggressiveness. Crowell cuts to the right and Njoku pins the rusher the left, walling him off from getting to the running back. The final key block is from center J.C. Tretter. Tretter comes off the line and immediately gets to the second level to take on the linebacker who was in a spot to possibly fill the hole. Tretter takes care of the linebacker and drives him to the right. Crowell then goes through the hole formed by the blocks of Njoku and Tretter and gains 11 yards on the play.
Q1 14:56- RB Isaiah Crowell rush for 14 yards
This is another great play by the entire run game. In the zone run play, the Browns have a tight end on the left end of the line and a tight end at the right slotback position. The zone blocking play motions to the right with the handoff going to the right. The first big block is from left guard Kevin Zeitler on the defensive lineman in the left B gap. The defensive lineman comes off the line and crosses the face of Zeitler. This allows Zeitler to drive the defender to the right, leaving the left side open for a possible big run. But, the hole still had a couple defenders that needed to be dealt with before the run could be successful. The first one is from tight end Seth DeValve, who cuts the left edge rusher and gets him off balance. This block allows Crowell to cut in behind Zeitler and not be faced with that edge rusher. The final block is from left tackle Spencer Drango, who slips to the second level to take on the middle linebacker. With the only two defenders on the left side of the line taken care of, Crowell is able to get a huge gain without getting touched until he was tackled for 14 yards down the field.
Individual blocking from additional blockers
Another reason for the improved run game is the blocking of the additional blockers. In some run plays, the blocking of additional blockers like tight ends or fullbacks was the key to the success of the play. This does not negate the blocking of the offensive line, but that the additional blocker sprung the play into a successful one. Here is an example of this type of play.
Q1 12:36- RB Duke Johnson rush for 12 yards
In this zone run play, the Browns line up in a shotgun formation with a tight end at the right slotback position and the running back to the left of quarterback DeShone Kizer. The blocking scheme calls for the zone blocking to motion to the right. The Browns offensive line does a good job of driving the defense to the right. But, the key blocker is tight end David Njoku. Running back Duke Johnson receives the handoff and begins to run to the right to follow the blocking. But, Johnson stops and he sees that the running lane may be too tight. So, he cuts backs to see if he can get around the left edge. This is where Njoku makes the key block. Njoku comes across the line and makes a cut block on the left edge rusher. This block opens the left edge for Johnson to run around and gain 12 yards.
Runners making plays
The last reason for uptick in the run game was the play of the runners. In these plays, the runner makes a play to either create a play out of nothing or make the play an even bigger gain. As with the previous reason, this does not negate the blocking of the entire run game. The blocking in these plays was not bad at all. But in these plays, the runners made the play even more successful than it could have been. Here are some examples of these types of run plays.
Q1 2:40- RB Duke Johnson rush for 13 yards
In this play, the Browns line up in a shotgun formation with two tight ends on the right end of the line and the running back to the right of quarterback DeShone Kizer. The play looks to be a read play by Kizer. The offensive line comes off the snap blocking to the right, giving a misdirection on the play. Kizer can either hand off the ball to running back Duke Johnson or he can keep the ball and follow the blocking to the right. Kizer decides to hand off the ball to Johnson. Johnson is running to the left and has to beat the left edge defender to gain any sort of yards on the play. Johnson makes the play successful because of his speed. The running back simply outruns the defensive end to the edge and is able to turn the corner and gain 13 yards. The play was successful mostly because of the athleticism of Johnson.
Q3 10:16- RB Isaiah Crowell rush for 27 yards
For this play, the Browns line up in an I-formation with two tight ends on the right end of the offensive line. The play call is a run to the right with two lead blockers, the fullback and a pulling guard. Running back Isaiah Crowell makes this play even possible with his athleticism. When he receives the handoff, Crowell has to outrun and break the arm tackle of the crashing left edge rusher. His ability to get away from the tackler enables the play to happen. The blocking then sets up a nice hole for him. Both tight end Randall Telfer and right tackle Shon Coleman create the inside of the hole by pushing the right edge rusher and the defensive lineman in the right B gap inside and away from the running lane. Left guard Kevin Zeitler pulls to the right edge and takes on the defensive back who is on the outside edge. The combination of tight end David Njoku and fullback Danny Vitale push the SAM linebacker to the right. Those two blocks are the outside wall of the hole. But, Crowell once again has to break a tackle attempt in the hole to extend the play. After breaking the second tackle, he is faced by the middle linebacker, who is engaged with center J.C. Tretter. Crowell quickly reacts to how Tretter is blocking the defender to his right hip. Crowell cuts to the right, allowing Tretter to be between him and the defender. With a free lane, Crowell uses his speed to pull off a 27-yard gain. The play was blocked pretty well, but Crowell broke the initial tackle that enabled the play from even happening and then broke a second tackle, followed by a good read, to extend the play into a big gain.
Highlight of the Game
The highlight of the game versus the Cincinnati Bengals was running back Isaiah Crowell. Crowell rushed 16 times for 95 yards, while catching a pass for 10 yards. Crowell had one of his best games this season on Sunday. He showed better vision than previous games, finding the holes that the offensive line was producing.
Lowlight of the Game
The lowlight of the game versus the Cincinnati Bengals was the run defense. The run defense allowed 152 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. The Browns were unable to slow down running back Joe Mixon, who rushed 23 times for 114 yards and a touchdown. The Browns run defense took a step back on Sunday.
Joe Gilbert’s 2017 Season Film Rooms
Week 1 (Run Game)
Week 2 (Ben Watson’s Big Day)
Week 3 (Q2 Big Plays vs Colts)
Week 4 (Game changing plays vs Bengals)
Week 5 (Myles Garrett’s debut)
Week 6 (What are they doing vs HOU)
Week 7 (Spencer Drango)
Week 8 (Briean Boddy-Calhoun)
Week 10 (DeShone Kizer’s Best Game)
Week 11 (What I am thankful for on the Browns)