The Cleveland Browns are known as a running team and Nick Chubb is one of the best running backs in the NFL. The last time these two teams met, Chubb ran for over 100 yards as he and his teammates combined 172 yards on the ground.
This time around, Chubb had a mere 34 yards, which still made him his team’s leading rusher vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. Chubb averaged less than two-and-a-half yards-per-attempt, and the Browns had 101 fewer rushing yards this time around.
Let’s take a look at how the Bengals’ defense conquered the Browns’ ruckus rushing attack.
DJ Reader penetrates— Matt (@CoachMinich) December 13, 2022
Sam Hubbard and Jalen Davis come screaming off the edges pic.twitter.com/CKeu6dztXM
The Browns put together a nice opening drive and were on the doorstep of the red zone on this 3rd and 1 play.
Defensive linemen Trey Hendrickson (91) and B.J. Hill (92) do a good job of stuffing their gaps, and D.J. Reader (98) tears right through his. With Sam Hubbard (94) and defensive back Jalen Davis (35) closing in from the edges, the play has nowhere to go.
This was a great play all around, particularly by Reader, who was absent in the first matchup. The Browns went for it on fourth down, but failed to convert.
Wall pic.twitter.com/pNEkAVpuEh— Matt (@CoachMinich) December 14, 2022
The Browns are known for running the zone scream. With a gap scheme, the running back will usually follow a lead blocker or pulling lineman, and the play is designed to hit in a certain gap. The zone scheme is different because it gives the running back options. The running back reads the blocks in front of him and cuts into whatever gap opens up.
On this play, the Bengals did a great job of filling their gaps and not allowing Chubb to cut back.
It doesn’t look pretty, but Joseph Ossai (58) does enough on the edge to keep the run contained. Hill (92) does a great job of maintaining his gap as well and is able to disengage and get involved in the tackle. The real star of this play is Reader.
As the play develops, center Hjalte Froholdt (72) works a combo block from Hill to Germaine Pratt (57). This makes the A gap that Reader is responsible for even bigger. Right guard Wyatt Teller (77) tries to reach him, but Reader keeps working down the line and makes the diving tackle. This is a phenomenal play by both of the Bengals defensive tackles.
Another player who impresses on this play is Cam Taylor-Britt. When Donovan Peoples-Jones (11) cracks on Vonn Bell (24), Taylor-Britt (29) replaces Bell in the gap. Taylor-Britt was right there to make the play if Hill had not been able to get off of his block.
Nowhere to run pic.twitter.com/LNr7YLXtyq— Matt (@CoachMinich) December 14, 2022
This play is another good example of the defense fitting up their gaps perfectly verses the zone scheme.
Hubbard (94), Josh Tupou (68), Hill (92), and Hendrickson (91) all maintain their gaps without giving up much ground. Hendrickson, in fact, penetrates the backfield, making it impossible for the play to hit off-tackle. Pratt (57) and Logan Wilson (55) fill the remaining gaps. Bell (24) sits on the backside for the cutback, and Mike Hilton (21) is outside of Hendrickson in case the running back bounces dramatically to the outside.
They have nowhere to run.
Nice try pic.twitter.com/z42u14zdkc— Matt (@CoachMinich) December 14, 2022
On this play, pulled their center and had left guard Joel Bitonio (75) attempt to reach and cut Reader (98). It didn’t work out too well for him.
Reader defeats the cut block, and the 327-pound defensive tackle runs down Chubb from behind.
This is an elite play.
BJ Hill pic.twitter.com/By42BR09TV— Matt (@CoachMinich) December 14, 2022
Here is another play that involves pulling lineman. This time, the Browns try to replace the puller by having left tackle Jedrick Wills (71) block down on Hill (92).
Hill is far too quick and flies into the backfield to make the tackle before the blocker can do anything about it.
CTB Force pic.twitter.com/dOllAF3pcX— Matt (@CoachMinich) December 15, 2022
Not only did the Browns use a puller on this play, they used two tight ends to create two extra gaps on the play side. This forced Hendrickson (91) to play the gap inside of Harrison Bryant (88) which meant that Taylor-Britt (29) was responsible for forcing the play to the inside.
The play design called for the pulling guard, Teller (77), to kick out on rookie cornerback Taylor-Britt. Teller outweighs Taylor-Britt by 119 pounds. Which is roughly the size of a fulling grown male Irish wolfhound.
Despite the mismatch, Taylor-Britt does a fantastic job of forcing the play inside, and Pratt (57) gets in the gap and makes the play.
The triumphant return of D.J. Reader certainly played no small part in the Bengals’ defensive dominance against the Browns, but he did not do it alone. The Bengals have a fantastic defensive unit with depth on the defensive front and defensive backs who are willing to get down and dirty.