Browns using Nick Chubb more in the first three games, and why not?

The Steelers knew Nick Chubb would be an important part of the Browns' game plan and they couldn't stop him.  (Cleveland Browns)

The Steelers knew Nick Chubb would be an important part of the Browns’ game plan and they couldn’t stop him. (Cleveland Browns)


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Editor’s Note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.

Reflections on the Browns’ 29-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers…


1. Through three games, the Browns scored 26, 30 and 29 points for a total of 85. Granted, six points were a late-game gift from Pittsburgh on a desperate botched lateral play by the Steelers. But 85 points is on par with what the Browns scored in three games in the first two seasons of the Kevin Stefanski era. They had 86 in 2021 and 75 in 2020. The difference is that previous teams had quarterback Baker Mayfield and receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and this one currently has Jacoby Brissett, Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones in those roles. There were legitimate questions before the season about how Brissett and the receivers would hold up during Deshaun Watson’s 11-game suspension. Without a doubt, Brissett is exceeding most expectations. He has been more than a game manager at quarterback and has gotten better with each game. What is evident, however, is that the Browns’ creative and powerful running game is operating at a higher level. The Browns’ 572 rushing yards are the most in franchise history in three games since 1958. The Browns had 524 and 499 rushing yards in three games the previous two years. The five rushing touchdowns also top the pace of four from the previous two years. If you dig into the rushed numbers, the biggest difference this year is that Stefanski calls Nick Chubb more. Chubb has 62 rushes compared to 48 in 2021 and 51 in 2020. While Chubb’s 5.5-yard rushing average is consistent with his career numbers, his 341 yards through three games is his most by far in three games. . Prior to this season, Chubb averaged 16.2 career attempts per game. This year the figure is 20.6. After the game, Pittsburgh safety Minkah Fitzpatrick said, “If you can’t stop Chubb, you can’t beat this group. They did what they wanted. Run the ball, do tricks and stuff like that. They did what they wanted to do and we couldn’t stop it.”


2. During the Amazon Prime broadcast of the game, Al Michaels noted that Brissett has “the best percentage in the league right now” of converting third-and-1s and fourth-and-1s into quarterback plays. After Brissett’s first conversion, Michael said Brissett was 29 for 30 in such situations. He raised that number to 31-for-32 late in the game, which included a sneaky 6-yard pass inside the Steelers 10-yard line on the Browns’ final drive of the game. After the game, Stefanski downplayed this facet of Brissett’s game. “Quarterback sneaks aren’t complicated,” Stefanski said. “It’s all about our guys getting down and off the ball, and he has a good feeling.” The Browns had essentially the same offensive line the previous two seasons against Mayfield, with the exception of 320-pound center Ethan Pocic, but Mayfield wasn’t nearly as effective as Brissett has been in his career with two different teams before. the Browns. Brissett’s physical stature (6-4, 235 pounds) has a lot to do with it, of course. Which may be part of the reason the Browns loaded up with bigger, more athletic QBs this year. Mayfield (6-1, 215) has 32 fumbles in 62 games over his career, including all plays, not just sneaks. Brissett is 24 in 63.


3. The Browns lost starting linebackers Anthony Walker (quad) and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (groin) on the Steelers’ first offensive possession of the second half. Jacob Phillips and Sione Takitaki filled in for them, and the Browns proceeded to record three consecutive three-and-out defensive stops to take control of the game. Phillips had a sack of Mitch Trubisky in the last one. With Walker on season-ending injured reserve due to his serious injury, Phillips will now take over as the starting middle linebacker and be the man in the middle to receive and relay Joe Woods’ defensive calls to the rest of the defense. The speedy Phillips ended up leading all linebackers with 46 defensive snaps in the game and led the defense with seven tackles and Trubisky’s only sack. Phillips also had a key breakup of a pass to tight end Pat Freiermuth on third-and-5 after the two-minute warning that forced the Steelers to kick a field goal rather than proceed to a touchdown, which would have tightened the screws. in the browns. “The two plays that he made at the end of the game with the blitz and the capture and then the PBU were outstanding,” Stefanski said. “I was proud of Jacob because you wish you could put 12 guys on defense. We included him as a starter with Anthony from the beginning because those guys … they’re both capable of being starters. Now, with Anthony probably gone, Jacob walks in there, and we have a lot of confidence in him. He plays like he played last night, I think he can really affect the game.” Now it’s up to Phillips to stay healthy. He missed the 2020 games with a knee injury and 2021 with a torn biceps tendon. Walker’s injury reduces the margin of error for future injuries in the position group.


4. Since Cade York and Carolina’s game-winning 58-yard field goal in Game 1, the Browns’ special teams have: 1. allowed a false punt conversion for a first down; 2. had a partially blocked clearance due to a protection failure; 3. allowed a key 16-yard punt return and three kickoff returns beyond the 30-yard line; 4. missed a punt and short kickoff; 5. returned a kickoff from minus-3 to the 15-yard line; 6. missed two PATs; 7. has been penalized for 12 on the field on a Pittsburgh field goal; 8. failed to retrieve a side kick; 9. Caused heart palpitations by nearly missing another.


5. Ironman of the game: Not only did Jack Conklin return to the field 10 months after tearing his patellar tendon on Nov. 28, the right tackle played all 72 snaps on offense. Conklin’s toughness and durability were needed because the Browns were without sixth man Chris Hubbard and lost left tackle Jedrick Wills for six snaps. James Hudson, the only other active tackle for the game, replaced Wills. If Conklin hadn’t made it through the game, the Browns would have had to move Michael Dunn to emergency tackle, which would have taken him out of his emerging role as sixth offensive lineman and third tight end. He played 14 effective snaps at those spots.


6. Second assumption: Improved Stefanski’s time management at the end of the game. After a third-down move in the final minute fell short, Stefanski called a timeout with 14 seconds left at the Steelers 37-yard line. A 55-yard field goal attempt was out of the question in the closed wind tunnel. Instead of trying to convert 4-and-1 and end the game, Stefanski chose to punt. Corey Bojorquez capped off a standout night with a coffin-corner punt that bounced out of bounds at the Steelers 4-yard line. From there, the Steelers’ Keystone Cops’ side game ended in a fumble recovered in the end zone by Denzel Ward for the final points. Stefanski appears to have confidence in Bojorquez and is willing to accept the punt as a useful weapon at times. It’s okay.

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