The Browns entered Thursday's night game with multiple starters out due to injury, most notably Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Jack Conklin, and Kareem Hunt on offense. Given that, it was to be expected that the Browns probably weren't going to score a lot of points. However, they got to 17, and on their final drive, they were able to run out the clock and win the game. The Browns defense played well, and D'Ernest Johnson is being heralded as the hero of the game. However, the Browns offensive line was the real heroes of the night. In today's film session, we'll examine how the Browns set the tone for the game on their first drive and how they help seal the deal on the final drive.
In the first play below, the Browns hit on a well-designed TE screen play and three of their offensive linemen upfront leading the way. The Browns offensive line has a reputation for being physical maulers that just overpower teams all the time, but their upfront guys can move, they block well in space, and that was on display in this play.
The Browns are running zone left in this next play, and it works great. They created a great alley for Johnson to run through between Bitonio and Teller. Then, Tretter made a key block at the second level and gets the LB pinned and turned back towards the
Play three looks like counter left, and Teller was the star of this play. Bitonio gives up some penetration on the left side which interferes with Teller's pull track. But what's significant is the adjustment he makes to essentially turn it into a fold block technique, and he cuts behind Tretter to get to the 2nd level and still gets the guy he should've blocked. The freeze-frame shows the wall setup that allowed Johnson to get loose. They literally have six Broncos defenders blocked in a straight line that spans about eight yards.
The next play went for a four-yard TD run. The Browns were running zone split, and that is ideally what teams want it to look like around the redzone. The Browns offensive line simply used the Broncos pursuit against them, and washed them down to create a giant backside alley for Johnson to cutback through and get into the endzone.
The next four plays are from the final drive in which the Browns iced the game. The Broncos were selling out to stop the run during the entire final drive, and the Browns still ran it well. The play below at first glance looks like it might not get much. Johnson approaches the LOS of there are no ideal running lanes. However, the Browns do a good job of staying engaged with blocks and getting pushed. That accomplishes two things on this type of play. A. it gives the RB extra time to find a running lane or bounce it, and B. they cause defensive lineman to get in the way of defenders at the 2nd level which is how Johnson was able to bounce this run without being touched for over 10 yards.
In the next play below, Bitonio is pulling, and he makes a key block at the 2nd level that allows Johnson to squeeze through a tight hole and power through for a six-yard game.
In the third play, the Browns take advantage of the Broncos run-stop first approach and hit them with play action. I don't know why the corner was playing with outside leverage given Landry is a guy that specializes on running shallow in-breaking routes, but he got beat inside, and with the rest of the box near the LOS or rushing the passer, Keenum had a very large window to throw that slant, and the Browns picked up the first. Also noticeable is how much time Keenum had to throw. He released the ball about three seconds after the snap and still would've had plenty more time to throw had Landry not uncovered.
The last play was the play that won the game and allowed the Browns to get in victory formation. It's counter left again, just out of a different formation, but they get a similar result as an earlier play we looked at. Ideally, the Browns would want this run to hit off the TE's but with Teller kicking the end out. However, the edge guy did a good job of not getting up the field and squeezing down into the running lane which keeps Teller from kicking him out and forces Johnson to bounce it. Teller also does a good job of adjusting, getting around him, and pinning him further inside which narrows the path that Johnson has to bounce. That allowed him to get downhill quicker and pick up the first down.